I believe this is our first Founded X Founder Interview. We’ll be publishing a few more of these one-to-ones with founders from the communtiy over the next week so keep a look out!
Brian Garret is the founder and CEO of 3D Hubs, a startup that connects anybody with a 3D printer. It must be noted that in my interview with Brian, I wanted to discuss my opinion on Amsterdam not neccessarily being recognised as a big European tech hub — Brian rightly corrected me though. The interview was done virtually last week, before I’d ever got over here to Amsterdam, so I’d no real basis for my opinion other than maybe the tech media. I spent this week in Amsterdam and had a chance to meet some of the up & coming startups around the city and have been educated to how vibrant a tech hub it is!
AF: How did it come about? Tell us a little of the founding story.
BG: Bram (Co-Founder) and I were working at a 3D Printing company called 3D Systems. We sold lots and lots of 3D Printers, but we noticed that these printers weren’t used all that much after the initial enthusiasm wore off. So we started talking to some of these printer owners to find out if they would be open to print for others. We got an overwhelming yes, and the idea for 3D Hubs was born. A couple months later we quit our jobs, got accepted into Rockstart and connected our first couple printers. Now year and a half later we’ve got over 10.000 printers connected in 150 countries.
AF: You’re based between NYC & Amsterdam. How does that affect the dynamics of the team & company culture? Is it more difficult than imagined to keep on top of things or how have you managed?
BG: Indeed we’ve got two offices, we’ve been very aware of the risk of splitting teams up between locations, of course the 6 hour time difference isn’t an easy thing to beat. We’ve done a pretty good job so far, we make sure that there is always someone in New York from the Amsterdam team or there is someone in Amsterdam from the New York team. We also have a live Video Portal open between the two offices so there is a lot of random chatter between team members. Especially the informal conversation is something we actively promote because it helps keeping everyone in sync across locations.
AF: Please explain your business model and tell us a little bit about your growth.
BG: Our primary revenue stream is a 15% commission on every order that crosses the platform. We’ve seen pretty spectacular growth in 2014, on average we grow more than 30% Month-over-Month.
AF: You recently helped out Founded In Holland in their S2S (startup 2 startup) project, 3D printing their Tulip logo & sending it to other dutch startups. There seems to be a great startup community in Holland/Amsterdam yet it’s not recognised as one of the big startup hubs in Europe?
BG: I don’t really agree with that, I think Amsterdam is becoming one of the Hot Spots in Europe for Startups. All the big investors have people on the ground here, wether thats Balderton, Index or Accel they are all here because this is where it happens. Simply look at the investments raised by Adyen, ElasticSearch and Takeaway.com which totals to well over $400M.
AF: What are your fears as a founder?
BG: The biggest fear of any founder is being outperformed by your competition and not see it coming.
AF: What is your morning/daily routine & what is your most important task of the day?
BG: I start every morning (quite early) with catching up on most important email, then scheduling my day, followed by a standup with my development team. The rest of the day is pretty much filled with back-to-back meetings, calls and interviews. After 7 it usually quiets down, then I have time for some less urgent tasks, have dinner and spend about one more hour to empty out my inbox or work on something exciting and new for 3D Hubs.
AF: What is the next big milestone for 3D Hubs?
BG: In 2014 we built the network to allow anyone to 3D Print, in 2015 we’re going to deliver on that promise. We’ll have hundreds of thousands of people printing locally. In order to accomplish this we’ve got some big surprises in the pipeline.
AF: Can you tell us about a major hiccup/mistake you made along the way?
BG: We didn’t pay enough attention to our hiring strategy in the beginning, it turns out that in order to hire talent you have to go out there to talk to them and convince them to join your company. Especially tech talent is hard to find. Luckily we’ve passed that point and we now have a team of about 35 people, most of our positions are filled and people are lining up to join because we’ve built one of the coolest places to work in Amsterdam.
AF: An app, a book, a website, a blog or someone on twitter.. or something you recommend that our readers should definitely go check out?
BG: I really love Slack, it cut down on our internal email by about 50%, it also brought down the amount of shouting in the office which turns out to be a great boost for productivity.
AF: What size is the team? Are you hiring?
BG: We’re about 35 spread across the Amsterdam office, New York and a couple of people in the UK and Germany. We’ve got a couple of open positions (jobs.lever.co/3dhubs) and we’re always happy to talk to talented people that want to change the world with us.
AF: What is the coolest/most exciting 3D prinitng project you’ve seen? If applicable please include a link.
BG: It’s Strati, a 3D Printed Car: https://localmotors.com/3d-printed-car/ It’s literally printed in less than 48 hours, which means you can download the latest model and drive a few days later.
It was great of Brian to give us some time out of his busy schedule to give us an insight into one of Amsterdam’s fastest growing startups. It wasn’t until this morning that I happened to be passing 3D Hubs offices and popped into say hello very briefly (we hadn’t met as the interview was done via email). The hive of activity was evident even in the early hours of the morning. I was greated by several 3D printers situated inside the door and by a very busy Brian. We wish Brian & his team all the best with 2015!