I didn’t respond to this article request because it was pitched to me as being about the downfall…
Bre Pettis
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It is a shame what has happened to Makerbot, and several other small businesses, that have been acquired by Stratsys and 3D Systems for that matter. Makerbot is the most visible example, but they all follow a similar path. A small startup builds a product that users love, that has great potential, they are then acquired, the smart Wall Street types come in and show them how to turn it into a “real business”, and the product is changed to suck money out of customers until they revolt.

I would rather buy a Makerbot Replicator 2x off eBay or a clone from China than one of the new Stratasys approved machines. It wasn’t enough to switch the material to a proprietary model, they had to add a consumable nozzle. It has taken a while to get it to wear out at the correct time, but the idea behind it is to extract more money from users.

The reason home 3D printing revolution has stalled is because of two reasons one of which can be directly traced back to Stratsys and 3D systems; 1) Cost of consumables and 2) Lack of 3D modeling software that the average person can use.

Additive manufacturing is the 21st century technology trapped in a 20th century business model. For decades Stratasys and 3D Systems sold large AM machines and used materials as an added revenue stream. The old razor and razor blades model. They could get away with that because they were dealing with corporations and a small niche market.

Consumers are much more price sensitive. There is also a need for a wide variety of materials, more than what any one company could provide. By making the feed stock proprietary they limited consumer options and increased costs. You do not want to increase the costs of new technology as you are rolling it out to consumers, the price is supposed to decrease. It is not a surprise they turned away from it.

There was also an assumption that SketchUp and Geomagic would work fine but for someone without CAD training under their belt it was absolutely painful. Bringing in a large business did nothing to alleviate that problem. They never had to worry about that before with their professional customers.

I wish Bre the best of luck in his new ventures, and do not blame him for the what happened to Makerbot. But the lesson we entrepreneurs need to take away is that we should avoid large corporations and Wall Street if we want our products to make a mark on the 21st century. Those institutions are not visionary and stuck in the previous century. Worst of all, they do not respect their customers. That is what really makes a successful business out of a good product — respect for the customer. Makerbot had it and lost it.

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