After months of searching, Shapeways announced today the appointment of Gregory Kress as CEO of the 3D-printing marketplace. Kress, the former president and COO of online learning service Open Education, becomes the New York-based company’s second chief officer, replacing co-founder Peter Weijmarshausen, who stepped down in August to pursue other opportunities.
Shapeways has been something of a quiet success in the world of 3D printing, opting to provide the technology as an online service rather than attempting to sell users pricey desktop machines. As such, the company has weathered the hype storm that has found many startups crashing against the rocky shores of reality.
Like many others, we’ve compared the company to Etsy in the past — though Shapeways does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to actually bringing the product into existence. Essentially, the company buys those multi-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars machines so you don’t have to, promising a much better print quality than you’ll get on your desktop MakerBot.
But Kress believes the company could be doing a heck of a lot more on that front with regards to making the technology more accessible to those who don’t understand things like CAD programs.
“Shapeways helps creators bring things to life,” Kress told TechCrunch earlier this week. “That’s always been our core mission. But I think, over time, Shapeways has always focused on a piece of that experience: taking a digital file and creating a 3D model of it. That’s a very small sliver of what the customer actually goes through.”
Along with hand-holding through the product development process, Kress also sees a future in assisting on the business side of things. The company has already worked to team with incubators to prototype products on its machines and will look to play a larger role in helping on the sales side.
“We can help them to market it and develop and sustain a small business,” says Kress. “I see Shapeways shifting from delivering one niche of that customer experience to truly helping our creators from almost a platform perspective and allowing us to become a one-stop shop.”