Michael Sorkin, the fellow who put together Formlabs’ European operation, is leaving the company.
We first encountered Sorkin years ago in Germany where he helped developed a large 3D print reseller, iGO3D. The company grew significantly at the time and was one of the leading 3D print businesses. Some years ago we even visited one of their storefront operations in Germany. Today their retail stores are gone, but iGO3D remains one of the largest distributors of 3D printing equipment in Europe, and we’re told Sorkin still holds shares in the firm.
Then Sorkin suddenly bolted from the company and became the leader of Formlabs’ then-new European base. Then, as now, it is imperative to have regional operations for any global manufacturer such as Formlabs; understanding local conditions, language, practices and needs is mandatory and only available from an on-the-ground operation. Formlabs understood this well, seeing the failure of others to establish remote sales operations.
They recruited Sorkin to build the operation and when we spoke with him about this, he indicated he had been totally impressed with the skills, enthusiasm and ideas of Formlabs.
Since then Formlabs’ European operation has been growing significantly. This past June it was announced that the company had just moved into a gigantic new office to hold their 120 staff. That’s pretty big for a regional operation, and is in fact far larger than many 3D print companies in total!
But then today we noticed this announcement from Sorkin, in a post entitled, “There is no material on the market that is harder than saying goodbye”:
“Today and after more than 3,5 years of pure madness, I have announced that I’m going to be leaving Formlabs to lose myself again in new (ad-)ventures. Before diving back into the exciting ‘un/known’, I want to express something that comes from my heart, but belongs to all of you.”
Regarding the future of Formlabs Europe, he says:
“Looking upfront into what will happen in 2019, I am more than confident that the rocket-ship that we all have built together is on the right course. I have this confidence because I see you pioneering. I see you inventing. I listen to you advocating for our customers. I have tasted the sweet and salty passion that you invest to make Formlabs & each other thrive.
As for me! I initially came to Formlabs to negotiate a couple of percentage points with margin for my distribution company. Instead, you all have transformed my life in the most positive ways. I can sincerely say that I have learned so much from you during all those vibrant years and I cannot describe in words how proud and thankful I am for that astonishing roller-coaster ride we have had together.”
And so Sorkin now moves on to other ventures.
Is this a good thing for Formlabs? While Sorkin’s management skills obviously helped their European base grow significantly, it is now a large functional unit. It has been made.
For Sorkin, this is likely the moment to depart, as an operation that has been built may be of less interest for someone of his interests.
I’ve seen this pattern many times before, where an energetic business leader entrepreneurially builds a business: that’s the part of work they enjoy! Meanwhile others who prefer a more stable, regular work cycle might be frightened of such an environment.
But the reverse is also true: stable, working environments are no place for high-power entrepreneurs, and they often depart after doing what they can, seeking to repeat the growth-from-nothing scenario elsewhere.
That’s what Sorkin is doing.
But what is he doing, actually? We have no idea, but hope to find out.