What: Pressp.in, a 3D printing peer-to-peer marketplace.
Where: London, UK
Who: We spoke to Romain Kidd, Founder and CEO.
What was the hunch that got you started?
I’ve always been attracted by technology and graduated as a mechanical engineer in 2007. Back then, desktop 3D printing was just starting to take off and for sure it wasn’t as hyped or accessible as it is today, but I started following the emergence of this technology out of curiosity. If we fast-forward to last year, I was working on an entrepreneurial project that was a peer- to-peer dinner hosting community that paired home cooks with guests passionate about food. This got me really excited about the potential of the sharing economy, collaborative consumption and p2p marketplaces. Presspin began as a sort of marriage between these two trends.
One of the things early I noticed was that desktop 3D printing was being distributed in a very 20th century kind of way, namely by reducing the cost of the devices to such a point as to get this innovation in every home. The (anachronic) analogy that I frequently use is comparing this to Ford’s Model T Car. If Henry Ford were to release the Model T today (with all of the web 2.0 technologies that we have available to us), would he have waited another century to start a car sharing company? Of course not: whatever the state of the underlying technology, there is no reason not to use today’s capabilities of the web to give greater access to innovative products and services. Which is why there’s no reason why we should be assuming the same for 3D printing technologies.
The idea for Presspin was just that: disrupting the distribution of desktop 3D printing through a p2p marketplace.
What have you learned? How have you failed? How have you had to pivot?
We’re building a critical mass on the maker side right now. There’s more and more people with 3D printers at home, and since this audience is involved in the culture, their expectations are completely in line with what kind of products can be produced. This audience is aware and knows that it’s an expensive hobby with a very long learning curve. Presspin’s value proposition is very straightforward for them.
Our primary challenge is on the demand side (people who need access to 3D printers to get things made), who tend to have less knowledge around the space and set production expectations that are simply too high. Presspin’s goal is to become a translation engine between a very technical language used by 3D printer hobbyists or professionals on one side and buyers who expect the buying process to be as easy as on etsy or ebay.
In terms of what I’ve learned, there’s quite a few things. First, I think there’s a lot of misconceptions around 3D printing. People imagine certain things that don’t really exist or won’t exist for a long time, partially due to the media hype around it. Something else is that there’s an over-promise of the potential of 3D printing. For example, something you hear all the time in the media is that owning a 3D printer will unleash creativity. To me being a great creative or designer does not require same skillset as a great builder. Much in the same way that we remember Gutenberg as the inventor of the printing press, not a great author. Presspin essentially disintegrates the 3D printing value chain to make it more efficient.
The next misconception is the idea of the general purpose 3D printer, a magical 3D printer capable of printing your shoes before going to work as well as your dinner when you get back. Quite the opposite, 3D printers will become highly specialised machines, which makes the access to a distributed network of 3D printing services much more competitive. Presspin is not a service about finding that neighbor with a 3D printer who could print something for you; the promise made by Presspin is that we allow you to get the best deal for whatever object you wish to get 3D printed, given the different capabilities of 3D printers and the skills of makers.
What is your team like? Company Culture?
I’ve only really been working since early 2013 on Presspin. So it’s basically myself and a couple of developers. In that sense you could say that we’re super lean and completely bootstrapped. We don’t even have offices yet. One of the developers is also in London; the other is abroad.
What is your plan for monetization?
We’re applying a fee-based model much like AirBnB’s. We’re still A/B testing on how to incentivize the right behaviors on both sides of the marketplace to create the right price point as well as put in our own fees.
What can brands learn from you?
With what’s happening in 3D printing today, brands can effectively reduce the time and cost of bringing new products to market: rapid prototyping for testing, iterating on live feedback during focus groups, etc. But that’s a tiny fraction of the potential behind this technology: the real value that will be created (or destroyed…) around 3D printing for brands is still 5 to 10 years out.
The billion dollar question is how will companies integrate highly distributed production capabilities to reduce the cost of creating the customized products and increase their capabilities and speed by streamlining their supply chain. There’s going to be a lot of questions about what they’ll allow their customers to customize, as personalization is a key selling point. Presspin will have a lot of information around the customer insight: where people will be designing their own products, as well as what their demand is for.
There is also a defensive attitude to have around IP, patents, copyright and original material in general. The marginal cost of duplicating a digital design file is essentially 0 and much like other types of content (pictures, movies, music, articles, etc.), the cost of creating a new 3D design is going down (the tools are getting cheaper and much easier to use; 3D scanning is also an interesting trend in itself). Brands should learn from publishing companies or the music industry for example as I see a lot a similarities between the two trends.