Coming Out: June 29th, 2020
Annie Mayol is the president of Foundation for Puerto Rico (FRP), a not for profit organization whose mission is to transform Puerto Rico into a destination for the world. Based on a thorough study of the location’s assets, which includes natural landmarks, the people, the culture, etc., the Foundation For Puerto Rico can develop a plan to attract new visitors; tourism that looks for authenticity over luxury. Maria altered the nonprofit’s DNA in fascinating ways that still impact their operations to this day. Let’s learn how.
For Samantha Snapes, a U.S. air force officer and co-founder of Re:3D, the social enterprise to manufacture the world’s first human-scale affordable 3D printer meant taking less traditional routes to funding her dreams. Re:3D is focused on decimating the two biggest barriers to 3D accessibility: cost and scale. While maintaining operations across Texas and Puerto Rico, they have bootstrapped their development since day one. Rather than following the more traditional path of seeking financing has proved integral to the company’s model. Allowing them to innovate and scale through the support of a customer base that effectively acts as a community of micro-investors.
“Because our tech is designed to enable independence,” Snapes explained in a recent interview with Based, “I thought it was important, especially in the beginning, that we walked the walk and became a case study for how you could bootstrap.”
An Accidental Entrepreneur
Snapes’ path to social entrepreneurship began during her time as undergraduate studying biology when she co-invented a device to grow adult stem cells. “We called it an artificial immune system,” said Snapes. “What I didn’t know then was that when you make it to the last phase, it’s called commercialization.”
This tissue culture device was her first company, one she ultimately sold before later beginning work as a contractor for NASA. As a self-identified “accidental entrepreneur”, Snapes’ passion for socially-minded business is evident. “There were certain things that didn’t resonate with my soul in terms of starting a business,” she said of her experience co-founding re:3D; “we knew we were bucking the rules.” This non-traditional mindset ultimately led to the creation of four core tenets that the company founders agreed upon. Re:3D would be a social enterprise adopting a hybridized for-profit, non-profit model; and in the same vein, for every one hundred 3D printers sold, they would give one away for free to someone trying to make a difference in their community; the science behind the company’s technology would be open-source; they would remain in bootstrap mode.
Re:3D initially sought to create a tool that would give people the freedom and independence to respond to pressing community concerns like unemployment, or high levels of plastic waste. Through their global volunteer work with the organizations’ Engineers Without Borders and Opportunity International, re:3D’s founders “ saw people who were dependent on aid or long supply chains,” Snapes explained, “and some of the communities we were invested in, we thought, these are brilliant people, they can make their own stuff.”
From One To One Million
Through a series of informal meetings with her colleagues from Engineers Without Borders and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where she was a social entrepreneur in residence, Snapes and the re:3D founders came up with their idea: an affordable, toilet-sized 3D printer under $10,000.
In its early stages, Snapes and her team sought seed funding by applying to competitions that provided cash prizes, such as a Jack Daniels and Instructibles prize for $25,000 and a barrel of whiskey. They didn’t win the Jack Daniels competition, but made it to the final round, and rapidly began to gain support online through blogging and sharing their idea.
The Catalyst | Community & Mentorships
Just a few months later, Snapes received word that re:3D had made it into Startup Chile’s accelerator with $40,000 in prize money. She promptly quit her job and set off for Santiago, with the ambitious goal of creating a product and launching a re:3D Kickstarter campaign at that year’s South by Southwest conference, just 8 short weeks away, to fully fund their idea. Within a few months of entering Startup Chile’s program, re:3D had crowdfunded $250,000 in sales. Re:3D has since met the challenges of scaling and fine-tuning their business model with direct support from their online backers. “They were our micro-investors,” Snapes said of re:3D’s customers, “they gave us a lot of mentorships, they wanted us to succeed.”
Re:3D began manufacturing their first product, a 3D printer called the Gigabot, in co-founder Matthew Fiedler’s garage in Texas, where they stayed for the next four years. All in all, through open partnerships, crowdfunding, and cash awards, the organization has managed to raise nearly four million dollars ($4MM) in financial backing, all towards the end of improving the global ecosystem of accessible 3D printing solutions.
re:3D Is Founded
re:3D is accepted into the 6th Generation of Startup Chile.
u003cstrongu003eRe:3D closes their second (2nd) Kickstarter campaign.u003c/strongu003e u003ca rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022 href=u0022https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/re3d/open-gigabot-an-open-source-gigabot-3d-printer-exp?ref=profile_createdu0022 target=u0022_blanku0022u003eThis was through a collaboration with the Kickstarter team.u003c/au003e
u003cstrongu003eAccepted into Startup Accelerator Parallel18. u003c/strongu003eObtained a grant by the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, Research Trust.
WeWork Regional Awards
u003cstrongu003eNational Science Foundation Grant. u003c/strongu003eu003ca rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022 href=u0022https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/1499509u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022u003eSBIR Phase I: Increasing Maker Manufacturing through 3D Printing with Reclaimed Plastic u0026amp; Direct Drive Pellet Extrusionu003c/au003e
u003cstrongu003eRe:3D closed their third u003cemu003e(3rd) u003c/emu003eKickstarter Campaignu003c/strongu003e. Theu achieved this with only 50 u0022backersu0022. u003ca rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022 href=u0022https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/re3d/gigabot-x-your-direct-pellet-extrusion-3d-printer?ref=profile_createdu0022 target=u0022_blanku0022u003eSee their campaign hereu003c/au003e.
u003cstrongu003eDepartment Of Defense – Air Force Grant. u003c/strongu003eu003ca rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022 href=u0022https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/1623803u0022 target=u0022_blanku0022u003e3D Printing with Recycled Water Bottles for Air Force Applicationsu003c/au003e
u003cstrongu003eNational Science Foundationu003c/strongu003e. u003ca rel=u0022noreferrer noopeneru0022 href=u0022https://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1853153u0026amp;HistoricalAwards=falseu0022 target=u0022_blanku0022u003eSBIR Phase II: Increasing Maker Manufacturing through 3D Printing with Reclaimed Plastic u0026amp; Direct Drive Pellet Extrusionu003c/au003e
Puerto Rico & The Twenty Million Mark
Since the inception of the company, they have been able to sustain operations across 150+ countries and bring home over twenty million dollars ($20MM+) in revenues, whilst staying true to their mission. Re:3D’s Puerto Rico operations do just that, by creating a collaborative environment where entrepreneurs and organizations on the island that can leverage the support of 3D technology to find solutions to some of the most intractable problems.
“We just thought anyone, anywhere, anytime should be able to innovate,” Snapes said, “and have one more tool in their toolkit to make that happen.”
Experience & Listen To The Complete Interview
For the full story of re:3D’s journey to becoming the first affordable & industrial 3D printer on the market, listen to our interview with Samantha! It will be released on Spotify this upcoming 14th of June 2020.