We caught up with MakerBot CEO Jonathan Jaglom recently and discussed the state of affairs at MakerBot, perhaps the most well-known desktop 3D printer company.
Our chat took place at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, a massively popular event that was so crowded our chat ended up taking place on the only available space: a comfy carpeted hallway floor! Joining us was MakerBot’s VP of Marketing, Colby Dennison.
This is part two of our chat. You can read Part 1 here.
Fabbaloo: MakerBot’s 5th-Gen equipment uses PLA; the only other piece of equipment that you offer that doesn't use PLA is the old Replicator 2X. It’s about due for a replacement? Or are you not going to emphasize non-PLA material?
Jonathan Jaglom: See the trick is, I can not disclose too much. I would love to talk to you about it. But I just can't.
Colby Dennison: What we found is PLA is the easiest way to get a consistent and reliable result. And that is what we have focussed on and why we had a product that now is 2 years out is the same product that we continue to invest time and energy in to ensure the software and firmware is reliably with it.
The more products you put out, the more your ecosystem around it has to work backward compatible with everything. So I think that is where these companies that are trying to put out products every year it is going to be harder to make sure that the customers three years ago still have a great experience as you iterate software and other things.
Jonathan Jaglom: I would tap into two further things about that: the Smart Extruder, the concept of the Smart Extruder definitely invites more development on the material side because than you can retrofit to your ABS extruder. And that is one thing I would allude to. And I would say, I would recommend you look at and observe over time.
The other one is the relationship with Stratasys; it’s one of the great things that is happening now. It’s because I’ve been in that company for so long that I have seen it grow from 73 staff members to about 2,500 that it is today. I know every important guy. And not to mean just high flyers, but I know that you are the guy that I want to talk to because I know you have the experience and that you know you have been working on it for 5 years. And I want you to talk to this guy and sit and discuss and do this for me because I am Jonathan and I have been there.
Fabbaloo: You are the bridge between the two companies?
Jonathan Jaglom: You know that bridge is really important. It is really important. I will share with you, and I’ve said it before, in the last six months there has been more interaction, whether face to face, email or meetings between Stratasys and Brooklyn than ever cumulatively since the acquisition. So there is a lot of traction.
I can share with you another piece of information. Last quarter there was a sprint. Every month there was a one week sprint. That means that either a team flies over there or comes back. So there are a lot of stuff happening between Stratasys Minneapolis and Brooklyn. And it is great, it just makes good sense. It is the stuff that shareholders want to hear. And it is stuff that I want to think is happening. Cause otherwise why did we do this?
I am excited about the future and what it entails. By the way, it is not only R&D it is also the region you alluded to. We have an incredible infrastructure in Asia. I came from Asia, I am sure you are familiar: 10 offices, 300 staff members, an incredible channel put in place. It made no sense to run China out of Brooklyn. Which was clearly happening. So we will run China out of China. And guess what, we have a office in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, an office in Hong Kong. Will go there, it just makes more sense.
I want to say one more thing on that, I think we are doing a good job communicating it but I wanted to mention it as well. There is a culture, a way of doing things at MakerBot that you want to preserve. The balance is that I want to collaborate, I want to work with Stratasys here and there but I want to protect the DNA, the culture, the mindset of MakerBot. And not expose that and become another Stratasys.
I think I can tell you, walking into MakerBot as a Stratasys guy, comes with its challenges. But nine months into the role, I think I have established that comfort. The staff appreciate the efforts. I am a MakerBot guy and I really mean it when I say it. And I respect MakerBot tremendously. And I think I have managed to balance that well. I think that it resonates well with the staff as well. It is nine months now, but I am pretty comfortable.
Fabbaloo: Are you still having fun?
Jonathan Jaglom: Oh my goodness! To your first point, there were a lot of challenges, those challenges make you stronger, make you better, ultimately in what you do. It is what you look for in any professional career, I think. You are looking for that next challenge. This was a big challenge for many reasons. Even in times of hardship, the question I kept asking myself is "are we going to walk out of this, these challenging times stronger than when we walked into it"?
What needs to be done today to make sure that when we walk out of this, and we are walking out of this, we will be stronger than when we walked into it. And to that effect, my conscious is solid, I think we did great things in 2015 to establish ourselves to prepare ourselves for 2016. The fact that we launched the Smart Extruder+ on the first day of the year for me was like: “that is the tone”. We’re going to strike big time in 2016. We are just all pumped. We really are.
Fabbaloo: Any thoughts on all these resin machines that are popping up? Do you view them as competitors?
Jonathan Jaglom: First of all competition: I really do appreciate competition. It puts us on the edge, questions what we are doing. It challenges are mindset. It makes us more aggressive, and ultimately the customer has more choice. We are very happy and confident with the products we have on hand, we are very proud of our offering. We are very proud of our history, our service quality we provide, product quality we provide, strong brand we have in place, and how we are resting on Stratasys a lot on the back end. So we are very confident, but watching the competition, having the big players, like Polaroid and HP of course for next year 2017, these are all great indicators because they are giving us the sense, confidence that this is big otherwise these big players would not step into it.
Fabbaloo: MakerBot doesn't have a booth this year at CES, which is a change. Are you no longer producing a consumer product?
Jonathan Jaglom: Again, we have consumer customers, of course, in the consumer space and the focus of our efforts are in the commercial and EDU space. For that reason and coupled with a tough 2015 we want to be sensitive to how we spend our money, which I think is very fair and knowing that the consumer space is not yet ripe for market, again it doesn't mean that we don't believe in it, we do, it is what it is for this current moment in time. We thought we would have a team up with Stratasys so that is the rationale behind it.
Fabbaloo: That is all the questions we had; thank you!
Jonathan Jaglom: That is it? Are you going to mention that we sat on the carpet floor?
Fabbaloo: Absolutely. (See above)