A recent post that I wrote on Medium
When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.
–Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist)
Last week I read a couple posts about hiring MBAs into startups by Ed Zimmerman and Phin Barnes. They took a thoughtful look at hiring and funding MBAs, with both largely ending up on the “it ultimately depends – but I’m usually extra cautious about it” answer. My view is a little more nuanced view, in that I think that most MBAs should ignore the startup hype and go after the big roles at corporates that they dream about. Much like a Rabbi telling the wannabe convert to get stuffed 3 times before welcoming them into the fold, founders should push the limits of potential MBA candidates.
If they don’t do the startup thing, it’s totally ok! Other people do not need to define success, or their life, the way that a startup founder does. It makes me extremely upset when I see startups poopooing other people’s career goals as not valiant. It is perfectly acceptable, and more logical, to make a conscious effort to de-risk career choices. Hell, in the depths of the dark days there isn’t a single startup founder who makes it past the “just messing around stage” that doesn’t rethink their own huge risk taking. Over the past year I’ve had more than my share of dark days, many of which had me thinking how to seriously de-risk.
When an MBA decides to take on the extra risk, they can be a huge asset. Many MBAs have an element of unrestrained ambition that makes them a force when deployed in the right way. They will give up all other aspects of their life for professional success, throw personal relationships out the door and maybe even sacrifice their own health. They also usually have the intelligence and attitude to be a key contributor to the team. The problem, as both Phin and Ed point out, is that they are usually wired to take safe bets and seek out status, security and prestige. As a founder, you question their motives for wanting to be involved, worse you fear that they’ll jump ship when something shinier comes along. If you can find one that truly wants to be involved, they usually have something to prove and that kind of fire translates into an employee that will be very hard to stop.
So when an MBA comes looking for startup opportunities as their modern “safety school” equivalent, they get shown the door. If you put up every roadblock and they knock them down one by one and are relentless because either your idea or your team is something they need to be a part of, then open up and use their fire to your benefit.
For Purple Mountain Majesties
Above the fruited plane
– America The Beautiful
It’s been about a month since I left Colorado and I wanted to reflect on the things that I miss the most about Colorado and Boulder in particular. It is one of the most beautiful and amazing places that I’ve ever been, it was home for longer than nearly every place besides the city in which I grew up. So without further ado, let’s get into a top ten 15 list:
1 – People – After traveling for years, being in one place showed me the power of really deep relationships. I’ve formed friendships that will last the rest of my life with people who I can be myself with and who inspire happiness. You know who you are.
2 – Access to the backcountry – It’s no secret that the outdoors is my main jam, it’s my haven away from the intensity with which I live. The stress just melts away, and no where else has quite the same backcountry access (while still maintaining an awesome city life) as Boulder. Having a bad day, it’s about as easy to get away as it is to get to Brooklyn from Manhattan. Maybe easier.
3 – Cool mornings & evenings – Mmmmm, so nice to wake up to cool mountain air.
4 – Sunny days – All 300+ of them per year.
5 – The 2 main emotions of mountain biking (terrified and exhausted) – Actually, you can say that about a lot of the sports that I like, and Colorado boasts.
6 – Small mountain towns – There is something intoxicating about the atmosphere of a Colorado mountain town that is hard to explain. It’s not just the pot.
7 – Learning to love Blue Grass music
8 – Good food – I’m not just talking about how it tastes
9 – Commuting by bike without true existential fear of dying in a horrible motor vehicle accident
10 – Competitive nature of people – Only in Boulder can you be pushing yourself to run up a mountain at your top speed only to be passed by a 13yr old girl or a 75yr old guy.
11 – I usually hate homogenous communities, but Boulder’s self selects for my human personality Kryptonite (adventurous, smart, successful)
12 – Hike meetings –
13 – Hike dates
14 – Nearly every moment is photogenic – Thanks to Instagram I relive the beauty, and foster jealousy, everyday.
15 – Being able to work outside in the middle of town (not even close to possible in NYC) – Ah conference room park 🙂
There are more reasons, but my nostalgia has been satisfied, for now.
I’m really tired of this nonsensical political debate about printing of weapons. Let’s get something straight, 3D Printing allows anyone to make anything they want. As easily as I was downloading illegal MP3s in middle school, people will be able to download and print physical items. No government, no organization and no army is going to be able to block this from happening.
The future of 3D printing offers individuals around the world immense powers of creation. From current materials we can easily print to biological and chemical materials that will one day be commonplace too. Talk about powerful weapons.
Let’s, as a society, stop trying to block things we don’t understand and talk about reasonable ways to achieve our shared objectives (keeping guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous or otherwise not fit to have them). Let me propose a simple law:
- Every gun in the United States should be licensed by the government. Similar testing as a driver’s license.
- If you are caught with a non-licensed gun you are severely fined. Minimum jail sentences for certain kinds of weaponry.
Does this stop the psychopath from printing some dangerous weapons and planning a mass killing at a school? No, but I for one cannot think of a single thing that would prevent that. Even today without a world filled with cheap 3D printers.
In the meantime I’m going to go print a one-shot gun and shoot it in a controlled, safe, environment for fun. Printing guns isn’t just for gun-toting republicans, this Independent (but mostly Liberal) Jewish boy wants to do it too.
If you love me
tell me you love me
don’t stab me man
– 50 Cent (High All The Time)
For some reason, many people seem to have been conditioned over time to choose tact over honesty. In both personal and business life this manifests itself as white lies, dropped e-mail threads, and ultimately, resentment. Why can’t we as a society be upfront with our thoughts and feelings? What is there lose?
Last week, I got an email from a friend talking about another entrepreneur: “[xyz knowledgeable entrepreneur] is totally unresponsive. To a point where I’ve written him off….all his friends believe the drop off is due to ego, he’s too good for people now”. Ugh, can you think of a worse insult for an entrepreneur (or for anyone)?
Like many of you I get a good amount of unsolicited requests, resumes and other small-asks. It’s annoying, sure, but I don’t ignore them, and usually send a polite “Sorry, but I can’t do this” response. No need to go through the rig-a-ma-roll of explaining the reasoning for your decision, just be direct and up-front. As adults, we should be accustomed to rejection (hell, entrepreneurs even more so) but I know for myself, and nearly everyone I know, hearing directly “no” is 100X better than being ignored, or worse, being lied to.
There are a million and one reasons why you may not want, or be able, to help someone. Have the decency and guts to close the loop and say what you think. We’ll be more productive, happy and successful for it.
Now shit’s constantly hot, on my block, it never fails to be gunshots
-2Pac (My Bloc)
Last week I wrote about how startups wanting to leverage 3D printing to attack existing markets need to think about the technology. This week, it seems reasonable to start talking about the ecosystem developing around the entire 3D market. The support structure for creating content and distributing content has been booming and feeds the raw material for the printers.
3D scanning is currently time-consuming and inaccurate. Scans often fail and certain items don’t scan well, compounding the problem. Small items can be scanned accurately using a $2k desktop scanner in 15 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the resolution. The larger the item the longer the scan takes and the less accurate it becomes. Adding small movements, poor lighting or reflective materials throws the technology off pretty badly. A scan I did of my foot with a detailed desktop scanner took ~15 scans. Each scan took about 3 minutes of me holding my foot still and the resulting 3D model is still not perfect.
Luckily there are some new technologies that leverage Kinects, Leap Motion Controllers and other lower cost 3D sensors to do quicker scans. Arden Reed for instance is using Kinects to do full body scans in just a few seconds.
This technology is absolutely critical to the ecosystem because it enables people with no design skills to get 3D design files (replacement parts for instance). More interesting to me, it allows us to start customizing add-on products to the world around us. You cannot customize something to work with other things unless you know what the other things look like (insoles, clothing, medical devices, jewelry are all relevant examples)
Creation (Digital design)
For years the only way to create 3D models was through cumbersome software that required specific, high-learning-curve, skills. This has limited the power of creation to those super interested in the technology and prevented the power of the crowd to directly drive content creation. This has begun to change, albeit slower than a lot of people would like. On the one hand you have new technology like Sketchup and Tinker CAD which make it easier for people to start designing in 3D. On the other hand you have educational Preston Middle School in colorado which is specifically teaching students to build 3D models and shows them how to print them. Will some future generation be considered the “3D printing natives” and truly democratize the power of creation in whole new ways? Mainstream companies are jumping on the bandwagon and offering custom solutions that leverage 3D printing, like eBay’s Exact app.
Sharing & Distribution of Content
Do any of you remember what we were using to share video and music in the 90s before Youtube and Spotify? It was the Wild West of applications, from Napster to email (and burned CDs). It’s exactly the same today for 3D models. We know that companies like Youtube are incredibly powerful because they are the intermediary by which people consume and share their content. Many companies are trying to solve this problem from a variety of angles. The manufacturing companies, and the outsourced printers, have competing services. Shapeways has a marketplace where every item can be printed and mailed to you, Makerbot has Thingiverse where any item can be downloaded for free. Then you have startups like Sketchfab which is taking a more “utility” approach to the problem by providing a place to host 3D models and rock-solid software that makes viewing the files online fast and pain-free. Previously if you want to view 3D models time-consuming plugins were needed and each file took a lot of time to load. Now you can simply upload your content to Sketchfab and then use their code to embed your file anywhere across the web. Their catalog of 3D models are browsable on their site too, and they’ve got some amazing things in there.
All of the things we just spoke about develop the content pipeline that feed the printers. We’re approaching a point where access to 3D designs and printers is widespread. The content pipeline is set to explode. Another problem that people, like 3D printing manufacturers, are running into is that workflow management software for 3D fabrication facilities blows chunks. The model where you create thousands of unique pieces at the same time is the antithesis of a traditional manufacturing facility. Managing orders, post-production, packing and quality control are all completely different. I’ve not seen a single company with creating this software for sale as their sole purpose. Josh is taking the Parts Press idea in this direction now. It’s an opportunity to be the glue that 3D fabrication facilities run on.
I’m searching for today, instead I found tomorrow.
– Lil Wayne (Nightmares of the Bottom)
Additive manufacturing technologies like Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) are enabling enhancements to way we manufacture physical goods. The biggest issue is that few companies have found and commercialized products that can be mass-manufactured profitably using today’s 3D printing technologies. Either they need to be able to produce the parts at a lower cost or with features that aren’t possible with traditional manufacturing techniques. Much like when the iPhone first came out and there were very few applications, it took years for an “application layer” to emerge which leveraged the technology to create value in different verticals.
People are experimenting with different 3D printed products now, from fashion to aviation and everything in between. There are a few use cases where 3D printing has advantages over traditional manufacturers:
- Need for customization – We’re talking about where customization is either required or adds significant value. Braces, hearing aids, prosthetics, art and orthotics are all good examples. Bad examples include coffee mugs and iPhone cases, customizing as a novelty is not a long term competitive advantage.
- Designs that can only be made with 3D printers – Complex meshes, intricate internals and other features are sometimes only possible with additive manufacture. This art piece is a good example. When those features also add a competitive advantage to the product, then it creates real differentiation.
- Cost effective – In some cases, 3D printing is actually cheaper than traditional manufacturing. This is rare, but will be less so as the technology develops.
Obviously I think Sols is a perfect fit in buckets 1 & 2 and probably fits in bucket 3 against some of our competitors products (but not all). I’d love to hear about other products that people think are a fit.