3 Things Every 3D Printing Startup Needs

By on October 4th, 2017 in Corporate


 You don't need red shirts, but you do need these three roles
You don’t need red shirts, but you do need these three roles

It’s time for some gentle advice to those hoping to launch new 3D printing ventures. 

As a popular 3D print publication we constantly receive notices from all companies, large or small, on their new activities. They’re hoping to get noticed and have some press coverage. We think that’s great, and we’re especially very happy to give a hand to worthy startups with new ideas and twists on the technology. 

However, there’s very often a problem. 

Many new ventures have enormous challenges before them, simply because of how they’re attempting to execute their project. It’s a pattern I’ve seen countless times in the world of 3D printing, and indeed in any tech startup: too much tech, not enough “everything else”.

A 3D print startup is a business venture, and should be treated as such. This means you must be able to handle all aspects of business operations, at least to a minimum level. While such startups are often very capable technically, they have in some cases almost zero expertise in other critical areas such as marketing, project planning, finances and other non-technical aspects. 

It’s the same in almost any other human discipline: your football (soccer) team roster isn’t filled with strikers, is it? No, you must have a series of different roles, including striker, but also forwards, defense and goalkeeper. 

In my experience a startup, that is ANY startup, including 3D printing startups, absolutely must include at least these three critical roles:

1. Hacker: The “hacker” is the role that undertakes the technological aspects of the project. This may mean hardware design, software development or both. Typically this role is in every startup, as the inventor of the technology often wishes to make a business from it. They make the product work, functionally. 

2. Hustler: The “Hustler” is the business counterpart to the Hacker. This role provides financial, project and marketing skills that are typically not found in those with a Hacker background. They make the money.

3.  Hipster: The “Hipster” is the artistic role, which provides expertise on how to present not only marketing materials, but the product itself, be it hardware or software interfaces. They make the product appeal to its intended target market. 

Without having at least these three roles, I’m afraid any project is going to suffer. They are ALL that important for success. If you don’t know how to plan your business financials, you will fail. If you cannot identify your target market and address it, you will fail. If your product doesn’t actually work, you will fail.

That is not to say that you must have literally three people; if a single person had all these skills, most certainly they could do the project on their own. However, it is exceedingly rare that a person exhibits competency in more than one of these roles, and almost never in three. 

As a project expands, more roles can be added to do more activities, but the minimum is the three roles above. 

I always look at new startups to see if they have this concept implemented, and sadly all too often they do not. Perhaps they have a very poorly set up web page, or badly translated press releases. If so, they’re likely missing the hipster role. If the project doesn’t seem to be priced correctly, or they have ignored obvious competition, or have not accounted for future activities, then perhaps they don’t have the hustler role. 

Does your project have all three “H” roles? If not, I’d strongly recommend you consider adding some folks that do have the skills required to round out this standard project triumvirate. 

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!