David ten Have – CEO, Ponoko

“We’ve got an online manufacturing service. So the idea is that designers come up with a product, they send the design files to us and we then send the parts back to them. We also provide a facility where they can sell online so the idea is to create a marketplace for them.

I left my first company in 2006 and about 18 months prior to leaving, I was getting interested in digital fabrication. My father had a copy of SolidWorks. Up until then, my experience of CAD programs had been rudimentary – through AutoCAD or AutoSketch, they were kind of hard work. I got introduced to SolidWorks and it transformed my perception of my own ability of design and I was able to produce 3D objects. And of course, the next obvious thing was, “Hell, can’t I just send this file to someone and get them to send it back?”. It seemed the next logical progression. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. Anyway, I left Provoke and hooked up with Derek Elley and we were just starting to think about what we wanted to do next – and Ponoko was the winner. The really fundamental thing was that Derek and I had been involved in a number of climate change concepts and what we were starting to be exposed to were the very real implications of having a carbon component to everything. And the implications of having the true cost of an object factored into its price. The world is full of subsidies and what we’re starting to see is that subsidisation is starting to be priced into things properly. The corollary of that was, “Well what happens to all of the products that we consume?”. We’ve got this incredibly efficient system where we send everything to get made in China or on the other side of the world and then it gets sent back to us. It is an incredibly efficient system... but it’s going to change. The natural economics of those systems force change but there was this external environmental impact. And so it was, “If you were to design a factory from scratch which we were doing, for the 21st century, how would you design it?”. Well you wouldn’t centralise it in China or India, you would aim to smear it across the world. To create systems where the point of production was as close to the point of consumption as possible. And you would aim to create systems that allowed volume to match demand properly. There is a lot of guesswork that goes into product development because of the economics. You need to be able to produce 10,000 or 100,000 of something for it to be economic. But if you ignored that and you said, “Actually I want to produce stuff that is relevant – economic and relevant, sometimes they work together but other times they work counter against each other. But they’re just equally as important things. If you’re in Pakistan and you’ve got a flat going on, certain things are far more relevant than others – and you want to be able to get a fitting that allows you to plug a hose onto something. But you only want one of them, not 100,000. So that was the big idea that got us really excited. It was, “We’ll create this distributive manufacturing system, we’ll take advantage of software, we’ll take advantage of the ubiquity of IP network and we’ll drive for relevance... and we’ll see how it goes”. That was the pitch.”


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