Interview with Jonathan Jaglom
Having just spent the three previous days vacationing amongst the ridiculous meticulous beards, the craft beers, the fixie bikes, the cold brews, the handcrafted burgers and achingly ironic bands of Brooklyn, New York, I felt like a fully-fledged MakerBot employee as I prepared to interview their new CEO.
Instead of finding that too cool for school attitude MakerBot became synonymous with under the stewardship of founder Bre Pettis I was greeted by the super-professional handshake of Jonathan Jaglom, a handshake that could only belong to a man who has fought his way to the top of the executive ladder with business nous and a ruthless streak.
That ruthless streak was evident as 24 hours after our meeting MakerBot cut 20% of its workforce when it closed its three brick-and-mortar retail outlets in Manhattan, Boston and Greenwich. A statement from David Reis, CEO of MakerBot’s parent company, Stratasys, read: “These organizational moves are part of the continued scaling of MakerBot.”
Despite many doom merchants predicting that this may be the final nail in the coffin for desktop 3D printing it is to be expected that any company that grows 600% in two years would have some significant flabbiness that could deal with trimming. In the five years of MakerBot’s existence Google alone have discontinued over 50 services.
In Jaglom, a man who has been around Stratasys management for a good decade, it has got a trusted surgeon to operate on the company that it took a $100 million impairment charge on last year. Despite the role of CEO at MakerBot appearing from the outside something of a poisoned chalice Jaglom is up for the fight:
“It’s a dream come true to be part of a team like this. It is my first role as CEO and for that to be part of such an amazing company is like topping two things in one shot,” enthused Jaglom.
That’s not just clichéd sportsperson speak on joining a new side. This is a chance for an incredibly ambitious young businessman to harness one of 3D printing’s most recognisable brands and wake them from their financial slumber. Added to that drive Jaglom is also a MakerBot user with a passion for the desktop technology.
“It was approaching Hanukah and a lot of the guys in the Stratasys Hong Kong office are Israeli ex-pats, we didn’t have any of the decorations and sourcing them within the day was proving difficult so we headed to Thingiverse, downloaded a candlestick and were able to print one off there and then.”
Engine on MakerBot booth at TCT Asia
Unlike the previous two CEOs, Bre Pettis and Jennifer Lawton, Jaglom comes from Stratasys management having left the post of General Manager, Asia Pacific & Japan, which he held for two years, to helm the Brooklyn-based manufacturer. His rapid rise through the ranks of Stratasys mirrors that of MakerBot’s meteoric progress in the industry and the similarities don’t end there; Jaglom describes himself as always being known to the Stratasys board as “That guy with the weird ideas, who was always pushing for them to go through.” MakerBot too have been described as “crazy” having launched nine pieces of hardware in less than a decade.
One of MakerBot’s most popular offshoots (and some say one of the major factors in the 2013 acquisition by Stratasys) is that of Thingiverse - the repository and community for printable models – may not have been so popular had Jaglom got his way:
“In 2008 we submitted a business case to the Stratasys board (then Objet) to try to create a community along the same lines of Thingiverse, we never did it. The board decided not to go that route but the fact that we thought about it was pretty cool,” noted Jaglom. “Ultimately Thingiverse did it for us. Thinking of an idea and succeeding with that idea are two different things, any entrepreneur will tell you that having an idea is just 50% of the equation.”
In short this is Jaglom asserting his admiration for the path Bre Pettis and Jenny Lawton set MakerBot on, one that has seen the company go from a wooden box built by three guys that printed rough plastic parts, slowly and without much strength to an entire range of printers sitting on desks at GE, Lockheed Martin and countless education establishments across the globe.
Reversing the fortune
The problem with MakerBot has been poor financial results, the $400 million investment has, as of yet, failed to show any return. Enter Jaglom. His mission is to turn that brand positivity into cold hard cash. He doesn’t see that being a problem under the MakerBot umbrella.
“The MakerBot brand today is extremely powerful and very strong,” said Jaglom. “I definitely want to preserve the brand and maintain its identity. MakerBot is very different from Stratasys in many ways in terms of its DNA, its culture, its can do attitude, its fearlessness… as long as I mange to contain that we’re great. The challenge for me is; how can I enjoy the resources from Stratasys whilst preserving this MakerBot culture?”
Though the closing of the stores may indicate that MakerBot is struggling to preserve that culture, it actually just confirms what some have seen coming for some time. MakerBot’s market is not yet in the printer in every home - one that Bre dreamed of - it is the printer on every designer, every engineer’s desk market. There are over two million engineers in the US alone, this is no small market, and if MakerBot succeed in the path already set by Martha Stewart, Hoover and Lockheed Martin it could be exponentially lucrative.
This year’s CES was a prime example of that shifting focus within MakerBot, which though before Jaglom’s time, was a clearly a Stratasys approach to a tradeshow. As opposed to the previous year where MakerBot made a huge bang by launching three new machines, at the 2015 International CES the company showcased its ecosystem of partnerships and some interesting R&D in materials science.
“I come from the world of professional platforms, and in that world materials are key. Stratasys has always been at the forefront of material science and MakerBot is heading that way. Materials are key to our offering, if we want to tap into a more professional audience - and that’s what is happening at MakerBot right now there are more and more professionals stepping into this space and thinking about how they can use these printers – then materials becomes more and more important. Composite materials are just one example of what we’re doing behind the scenes and there is plenty more to come, exactly like Stratasys.”
It would be churlish to suggest that MakerBot is stepping away from the consumer market all together, despite the closing of the retail stores its printers are still available in the likes of Home Depot, Amazon stores and Microsoft Stores and its printer-plus-software combination is still considered by many to be the easiest and best to use. Jaglom was speaking to me directly after they had launched Shape Maker on the Print Shop app – an application that allows children of all ages to take a 2D drawing and make it 3D within seconds.
Sabertooth at Makerbot
“Our challenge is to understand the needs of tomorrow, as long as we maintain close relationships with our customers and partners we have a better understanding of to where to take the technology. Staying in touch with our community is key; tapping into their knowhow, understanding where they’re at, where they’re going and what they need from us is very important.”
For Stratasys Jaglom is just like one of New York’s most famous landmarks – a bridge that connects Brooklyn’s fixie bikes and handlebar moustaches to Lower Manhattan’s buttoned up financial district.