So tell me about yourself Myles, where did you attend school and in what field did you receive your degree?
I attended Boston University and received a degree in Economics. During part of my time at BU, I pursued a Masters in Economics. However, after realizing that I wasn’t quite as passionate about Economics on the the graduate level, I decided to drop those classes. As a result of withdrawing from the Masters program I had a lot of free time to dedicate towards my entrepreneurial aspirations. Also, I wanted to use this time to learn about some basic web programming techniques. [Side Note] I spent a lot of time watching documentaries which I would consider as a major component of my college education and time well spent.
Interesting, so when did you actually first experience 3D printing? What were your initial thoughts about it?
I first learned about 3D printing when I was a Junior in college via browsing YouTube. The video covered 3D printing as a method that could someday be used to print organs for humans, rendering the transplant list obsolete. At the time I didn’t realize quite how far along technology had come or presently existed. The video showed me wide ranging applications that could excel beyond the field of medicine. Ultimately, I figured 3D printing was an entity researchers were just getting started with and was barely feasible in a lab environment.
Did you always have aspirations of owning your own company?
From an early age I believed starting a company and building a great product from the ground up would be an incredible adventure. I always knew I would pursue starting a company, but of course it didn’t become apparent right away. Even when I did realize I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I had to make sure what I would be working on was something I really believed in. Likewise, during my Senior year at BU I was working on an open-source, low-cost laptop project based on Chrome OS which I wanted to sell at $99 to help people in developing countries get access to the internet. My interest in the low-cost laptop helped me decide that’s what I would pursue after graduation in lieu of looking for a job. This decision prompted me to pack up and move to Beijing. I chose Beijing because it was the one place I was familiar enough with. This was important because I had to make the cash, my parents provided me for graduation, last long enough to give a start-up company a shot.
3D printing seems like a tough field to break into, was it a hectic process starting a 3D company, if so how?
Well as I mentioned, I was originally working on an idea for another company. It wasn’t until I began the prototyping process for the laptop’s chassis that I became reacquainted with 3D printing. As I looked into it more and more, I realized how much potential there was in this industry and how incredibly positive it could impact society on a global scale. As a result, after a phone call with my friend Eric, I completely changed gears and had funding and a team within a few months. From business planning to funding was actually the easy part, from then on, however, began the busiest and most hectic times of my life. At the same time though, they have also been the most productive and rewarding as well.
We first launched the site a couple weeks ahead at an industry conference. At this conference we purchased a booth, though the booth wasn’t the only entity driving us to get the site online, it was at this conference where we realized we needed to meet a milestone that could get us a chunk of funding; funding we desperately needed. Though we felt like we could’ve done more before the launch, if I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t have waited longer. Real user feedback is the most important component in the development process for any site.
How has your company progressed from it’s initial start-up?
One of the hardest parts of starting a company is getting past the foundation that needs to be laid. This should be done before one can really begin their business development, then you can begin to iterate on your core product. Since the early days, we’ve gotten much much more efficient and streamlined; everybody knows their role and is able to execute well together, this allows us to move at a much quicker pace than ever before.
What innovations has your company brought to 3D printing, that other companies have not?
The most incredible thing about 3D printers is that their core value is actually in what they can create, not necessarily the machine itself. Unfortunately, that means the technology is inherently more complex to use than a smartphone. For example, something people are already familiar with and know how to use doesn’t depend on an ecosystem of other necessary products to be useful. With every complexity about 3D printing, we’ve identified, and have done all the legwork to make things simple for the user. This has resulted in everything from developing industry standards that make product comparison easy, to actually combing the web to get everything you need for 3D printing under one roof. Neither of the aforementioned options, however, have been done by anybody else out there, and we at THRE3D are able to leverage those advantages to create some awesome features nobody else can offer. One example is our 3D Prints gallery which we think is really cool because it displays user generated content to show off how the different types of 3D printers and even individual models are capable of creating, something not otherwise well understood.
What are some of the future goals you view for your company?
Our goal is to be the best resource (online) for anything and everything 3D printing related. That means providing all the educational information people need to become comfortable with the technology. Also it means selling every popular product in the industry; a superstore for 3D printing you could say. Additionally, because we naturally need this in order to list all the relevant 3D printing products on the site; we’ve developed an incredibly powerful system for tracking industry data and are working hard to develop that into a major revenue source over the coming months.
That’s pretty awesome, what was one of your most difficult set backs with your company thus far and how did you and your team over come it?
We’re an international team based out of Beijing. Figuring out how to keep everyone in the country has been quite nerve racking and an expensive mission. However, once you figure it all out, being largely based in China affords a big competitive advantage on cost compared to running a start-up out of San Francisco or New York; or really anywhere in North America or Western Europe for that matter.
Where is your company currently based out of?
Currently we’re split between Beijing, China and across the US. All the full-time staff are in Beijing, but we have part time staff based out of Houston, New York City and Boston.
Product of Society has featured an array of articles in our “Technology” section regarding one of the world’s fastest growing industries; 3D printing. Likewise, we are grateful for sharing your insight about entrepreneurship as well as the growth of your business THRE3D. Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for future entrepreneurs?
At the end of the day, a business is just a group of people working on solving problems and creating value. Surround yourself with the best people you can find and that will give you the best shot at success!