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Founders

John Hauer, 3DLT

John Hauer and his fellow co-founders at 3DLT started their 3D printing marketplace because they knew the technology would greatly benefit designers and consumers alike. With limitless potential to create unique pieces, 3D printing is an exciting development. 3DLT, which is based in Covington, is a vital addition to the local web of entrepreneurs, designers, technophiles and customers.

What does 3DLT offer its customers?
3DLT provides 3D printable files, connecting the designers, consumers and producers of 3D printing. We also work with retailers, helping them understand the 3D printing ecosystem and build their service offering online and in-store. For them, we acquire and manage content, provide technology and manage the production of 3D printed products. We've got decades of experience and offer speed-to-market which can allow our partners to stake a claim in an industry which could soon account for a significant fraction of their sales.

Why did you personally become involved with 3D printing?
I've spent most of my career in 2D printing, with an emphasis on eCommerce and retail. I saw my first 3D printed product in 1999 while working for Xerox. I was at GraphExpo (the nation's largest 2D printing show) in 2012 and became concerned about the future of the industry. I saw 3D printing as a potential opportunity and began evangelizing it to 2D printers through my blog, 3D4printers.com. An article I wrote about why 2D and 3D printing are a lot alike was featured on TechCrunch.com. My co-founders read it and introduced me to the idea behind 3DLT. I fell in love with the concept and joined the team as a co-founder.

What different ways did you find money to start up?
So far, most of the investment in 3DLT has been organic, from the founders. We recently joined UpTech. They have provided funding and a ton of additional support. As we continue to grow, we'll probably raise capital from other sources including angel and venture firms.

Is Northern Kentucky your permanent headquarters?
We're headquartered at UpTech's offices in Covington. We're very happy to be there and hope to remain in the area for the long term. Anything could happen, but we've seen a lot of interest from local and state government in Kentucky, as well as the Northern Kentucky business community, in keeping us here. The Greater Cincinnati area is a retail and marketing mecca, and we feel that is a big advantage to growing our business.

What was the first item you successfully printed? Do things ever get particularly botched?
Many of the early products we printed were self-promotional. They helped us learn a lot about what works in the real world and what doesn't. For instance, we printed some novelty sunglasses for our appearance in Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt. The hinges weren't designed properly and the glasses would come apart. While it was a bit embarrassing, it helped us learn how to better assess the files we receive. Through partnerships, technology and training, we've invested a lot in our quality control processes. It was a great example of how execution and failure can lead to success.

Would you like to offer new entrepreneurs any advice? 
I just read a quote today that really hit home. It said, "Competition won't kill your startup, lack of execution will." Lots of people have asked what makes us think 3DLT will be the "one" to succeed in our niche. I like to reply that I think there will be many successful firms. First and foremost we're a content provider. Do you get news from just one source or music from just one label? Probably not. We're also consultants, and that's definitely not an industry dominated by one player. The opportunities are endless, but you must execute. Failing is a big part of the process, but it is also the pathway to success.

Interview by Sean M. Peters


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