(GIF by Tyler Woods)
3D-printing startup Voodoo Manufacturing celebrated its first birthday with a splashy party at its East Williamsburg headquarters Wednesday night. Amid the company’s roughly 250 3D printers (which had been coordinated for a light show of sorts) there was food, drink, a live brass band and a line stretching two large rooms for a machine that would scan your face and mail you a 3D-printed bust of yourself (our editor has one).
At the same party a year ago, we interviewed cofounder Max Friefeld about his hopes and ambitions for the company and the future of 3D printing. This year we caught up with another cofounder, Jonathan Schwartz, about the last year and the year to come.
Find a lightly edited transcript below.
Technical.ly Brooklyn: How was the year?
Jonathan Schwartz: We had a great year. We have not had a dull moment this year. Literally every part of this year we were struggling to keep up with everything that’s going on. Starting out last year we launched the website, we started talking to people outside of our personal networks and saying, “This is Voodoo Manufacturing, this is how we can help you.” Since then we’ve grown the team, we’ve had to scale everything up.
We’re creating real value, helping people solve real problems that they’re willing to pay real money for, and that’s the point of a company. Not to build some bullshit app or idea, it’s to actually add something back to the world, and that’s what we’re doing.
"I'm not trying to shit on San Francisco but I think that New York is a great place to diversify your experiences."
TB: What stands out for you from the past year?
JS: The problems. The problems change. In our first year, we needed to make everything work. We had 100 printers and when we get an order we needed to be able to fulfill that order, we needed to be able to receive the order, it’s like all these basic things. And now our factory is working, our sales team is working, we have a three-person sales team today. So now, for Voodoo, it’s all about scale. How do we go and create scalable channels for customer acquisition that we can find more people to add value to?
Through a lot more software and automation innovation in the next year we think we can get a lot further with just what we have. With the number of machines we have and the number of people we have.
TB: What’s the dream?
JS: The dream is building an end-to-end digital factory, where the input is bits and those bits are a 3D model that could have been generated by an engineer using CAD or a 3D scan of a person or an object. You take those bits and you feed those into our digital factory and you choose a bunch of parameters: the material, the quantity, the tolerance, everything, and out comes your product. It’s as easy as Amazon Web Services has made computing. And that was something that companies had to do and figure out themselves before AWS existed. You had to have your own servers that you were running your site off of. Our vision of manufacturing is being able to offer a scalable service, whether you’re an engineer building a single prototype or you’re a large company shipping product.
TB: How big of a market is there for plastic and rubber things?
JS: Huge. Huge. The injection molding market worldwide, $200 billion…
TB: But don’t you think that’s a different market than what you guys are trying to…
JS: It’s part of it. There’s an overlap and it’s really hard to nail down…
TB: It’s like a Venn diagram?
JS: Exactly. There are many different markets that make up our market. That’s one way of looking at it. Another is the promotional goods market. I think in 2015, $20 billion of promotional goods were bought in the U.S. And that’s like event swag. Even if we take a bite out of that, it’s still a pretty big bite. So we see even just the things we’re working on today being an enormous opportunity, let alone some of the technology that we have in the pipeline and process and materials and everything will only expand the applications that we can address, and therefore only expand the market that we can address.
Now, you need to be careful. A lot of startups get lost doing too many things and lose focus on their core value. So for us, we’re always conscious that we’re focused and attacking what we do best with our full might. But, as we grow to become a larger company, you can put feelers out there into other technologies and areas. That’s how you discover game-changer things. Amazon wouldn’t have discovered AWS if they weren’t Amazon already.
TB: If they were like, “Let’s stick to books?”
TB: How is the neighborhood?
JS: It’s awesome. You walk around this neighborhood, it’s light industrial is what they call it. There are a lot of mom-and-pop manufacturing shops, a couple creative agencies, a lot of startups, also.
I completely prefer starting a company in New York City as opposed to San Francisco or the Valley. It’s way less claustrophobic, it’s way less of a bubble. Look at tonight. How many different people are in that room? Between people that work in tech, artists, or every other aspect of life. In San Francisco, you’ll go out to a party and you’ll meet a bunch of bros who work for Google and LinkedIn. And I’m not trying to shit on San Francisco but I think that New York is a great place to diversify your experiences.
TB: What’s the best restaurant around here?
JS: There are a bunch. Anchored Inn is one of our favorites. They have one of the best hamburgers in New York City. It’s amazing. Seriously. It’s like a smashed burger more than a fat beef patty and it’s this hole in the wall bar, you never would expect it to have such a delicious burger, and it’s so good.
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