What Does It Take To Work At A 3D Printing Startup?

By on September 23rd, 2019 in Ideas

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 [Image: Engin Akyurt via Pexels] [Image: Engin Akyurt via Pexels]

Startups across the 3D printing ecosystem are popping up all over the world at a rapid pace and they are hiring a range of employees, from engineers, sales reps and marketers to executive management.

While the 3D printing industry is incredibly attractive for job seekers due to its growth, innovation and limitless potential, it is essential for job applicants to understand what it means to work for a 3D printing startup. It is equally important for hiring managers at these startups to recognize whether applicants have what it takes to work at these companies, beyond core functional skills. I have seen hires who were previously successful at large companies, fail at the 3D printing startups they joined.

Employees at 3D printing startups, up to and including the CEO, must possess these six traits:

Willing and able to execute tactically, in addition to strategic thinking and management

I have served on executive teams at 3D printing startups. In that capacity, I contributed to the strategic direction of the companies, developed marketing plans and presented to investors. At the same time, I gladly wrote all the content, pitched press, set up trade show booths and executed all of the tactical details involved in an event. At 3D printing startups, bandwidth is limited, budgets are often too small for external vendors and it is hands-on-deck for all team members all the time. There simply isn’t room for idle hands or egos.

Willing to learn and sometimes perform functions for which you might not have any previous experience

This often requires working long and odd hours. Without sales colleagues in the early days of one 3D printing startup, I began cold calling prospects and sold the company’s first printers, without having any prior sales experience. Everyone on the team needs a do-what-it-takes attitude.


Team members must be able to trust and rely on one another for the success of the company. 3D printing startups are too small and goals are too aggressive for colleagues to work against one another or operate politically. You must possess a pleasant, respectful attitude where you help one another, regardless of function and level in the company. You must also take responsibility for your performance, both positive and negative. This includes being open and transparent about what’s happening in your functional area and across the company.

Risk taker

There are hundreds of 3D printing companies all competing for buyer budgets. Many of them have similar technologies and lack clear and meaningful differentiation. Inevitably some companies don’t survive. We have seen several 3D printing companies fail over the last couple of years. You need to accept the risk when you join a 3D printing startup and understand that you might not receive annual raises, bonuses and promotions like your peers at larger companies.

Resilient and optimistic

There will be setbacks. The company might not receive desired funding at a time when other companies raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital. The emerging technology might hit bumps in the road while others beat you to market. You might not have enough budget or bandwidth to achieve your goals at a time when other 3D printing companies have big budgets with expensive external vendor partners. You must be able to adapt when needed, push forward and focus on meeting your company’s goals without turning cynical.

Passionate about the technology and industry

People talk about having soulmates. For many of us who work in the 3D printing industry, we have found our ‘industry mate.’ There is something wonderful about this industry that differs from all others. Believing in your company’s technology and having a profound attachment to the industry is especially important at a 3D printing startup.

Working at a 3D printing startup can be incredibly rewarding. Honestly assess whether you have what it takes before you join. If you are hiring, be sure your candidates, regardless of position and level possess these traits.

By Julie Reece

Julie Reece is an award-winning marketing expert with more than a decade of experience in the 3D printing industry. Founder of J. A. Reece Associates in 2019, a marketing consultancy, Julie has held executive marketing positions at several established and startup 3D printing companies. She has also been a respected advocate for increasing the representation of women in the 3D printing industry.