Entrepreneur Bre Pettis and Berkeley-based Other Machine seem like a match made in heaven. The MakerBot founder has been through the ringer once already, leaving the company he co-founded and ran after selling it to 3D printing colossus, Stratasys. But now he’s doing the buying.
Other Machine founder and CEO Danielle Applestone tells TechCrunch that her CNC Milling startup has remained purposely independent for its first few years, in order to avoid the push out outside influence. But Pettis, a long time friend from the fairly tight knit maker community, presented the opportunity to grow the company, while still avoiding corporate influence.
“I started thinking of acquisition as a way to grow at least half a year ago,” Applestone says, in audibly good spirits following the deal’s official announcement. “If you focus on selling your business, you’ll build the wrong product. Bre and I had had a relationship for a little while, and when I thought about who would be the best partner from year three to year five, he was someone who I had reached out to for advice. Since he was done working with Stratasys, it’s just kind of a natural thing.”
Applestone says things will stay mostly the same for the company. She still gets to run things day to day as CEO (albeit with added input from Pettis as the owner) and the company’s headquarters will stay in the East Bay. “It’s kind of an old fashioned business in that way,” she explains. “We work together on a weekly basis. But for the most part, operations will still remain the same.”
Pettis, for his part inherits a company with a bright future and a solid present. Other Machine’s line of products, like the Othermill Pro, which look to do for CNC electronics milling what MakerBot planned to do for 3D printing, are already shipping product to good reviews. The startup has a proven audience of engineers and some real growth potential. And almost as importantly, Applestone seems to recognize the space’s limitations.
In its ascension, MakerBot captured the tech world’s imagination with promises of 3D printing for all. When that kind of tech ubiquity failed to surface after a few years, however, the tech press that once praised the company roundly regarded it as a failure. But while MakerBot has undergone a serious contraction, the company is still kicking.
And while 3D printers are a far, far way from being a household appliance, they’re still selling, believe it or not – mostly to schools and businesses looking for a quick and easy way to prototype products from a desk. Those, coincidentally, have already proven pillars for Other Machine’s business. And while the company certainly sees growth potential, Applestone seems to have a level-headed view of the company’s market. At least for now.
“We’re a product for engineers and people who want to be engineers,” she explains. “I have a very broad opinion of who can be an engineer if they want to be, but it’s not going to be sitting next to a toaster oven or anything like that. I don’t see it as a consumer product.”
The startup executive pauses from explaining her vision for a moment. “Hold on,” she says. “I’m going to let someone into the building.” A male voice can be heard faintly through the phone. It’s someone there for a job interview. She’s couldn’t have timed it better if she’s tried.
The company’s already expanding. Applestone is hiring an executive assistant and there are a number of openings for engineers of various stripes. There are already plans on the books to expand the company’s product offerings. It’s an exciting time for the startup and the CEO isn’t making any effort to disguise that fact in her voice, telling me, “I’m psyched. So psyched.”
Other Machine’s existing products and Pettis’s industry experience should be a solid fit. Assuming the company continues to grow at a measured pace, it could have a bright future ahead of it.