Some months ago we watched an amazing documentary on Netflix called Print the Legend. It told the story of a few different companies and their path towards building 3D printers and becoming businesses.
The main company that you learn about in the documentary is called MakerBot. They started out as a small group of guys who quit their jobs to make 3D printers. They would hand build their printers, box them, and ship them out to whoever would buy them. They were crazy about their little machine and they loved getting to build it and make it better.
When they started, they had this cool idea of having their printer Open Source. That meant that anybody could get the blueprints of their MakerBot and contribute to making it even better. A community was developed around MakerBot, made up of tons of people who thought that it was awesome to get to contribute to and use something that they believed was really cool. More people joined the initial group that built the maker bot. Everybody who was on the MakerBot team was there because they believed that they were doing something awesome. They were there because they were passionate about what they were doing and had a vested interest in it.
The team didn't work in a professional environment. It was cramped and chaotic and uncomfortable, but everybody was there because they chose to be, because they wanted to be. They loved their job! They got to work together to do something great.
We thought that was amazing! We thought that it was so cool that there was somebody who actually made a living doing what they loved and making a business out of an Open Source product. This wasn't your average company, driven by what makes money and what will give more power to the business. This was a group of people that truly believed in what they were doing and were doing it because they wanted to. Because they cared about what they were making.
That was what we dreamed, no, what we still dream of doing. While we were watching this we were just blown away and stoked that somebody actually did it. It gave us hope that we might be able to do what we dreamed one day.
As the company grew and became more successful, they eventually moved to a real professional office space. A huge step up from where they were working before. They also brought somebody on who was supposed to help guide them to becoming more like a "real" company.
After that point, things started to change. The work environment was made like a professional work environment. They started running their business like a "real" business. It took them longer to add new features. Some who worked at MakerBot felt like they had lost something since the time that they started. They no longer had the zeal and the community spirit that they had. They were now an enterprise.
The CEO, who came from the original team that made the MakerBot, started to lead the company away from the principles that they started on. He close sourced the MakerBot, which threw the large community that was developed around it in the dust. The community was devastated. All of their hard work they invested in the MakerBot would now go to nothing because the company had locked it down. As a result of this, one of the guys who first started the company quit his job at MakerBot.
We couldn't believe it. All that we thought was so amazing about MakerBot was thrown away in the interest of making a more successful business. Now they were just like everybody else.
The rest of the story
A lot more happened than I can relate here. I highly suggest searching for Print the Legend and watching it. It is a very well composed documentary in every respect and is interesting to watch.
So, what did we learn from watching this? For one, it showed us what we didn't want to become. We saw MakerBot start off as a company that we were inspired by. A community that worked on something they believed in. That is very much what we want to do one day. This story made us realize what could happen, though, if we didn't make openness and community a priority. We gained some insight into different ways that companies were run from the specific examples in the documentary.
So who are we then? We are a group of brothers and sisters in Christ who want to make a company that makes things in accordance with what God says in The Bible. We want to make things with a focus on making a good product, not a lot of money. That is one reason we like open source so much, because open source products are made by people who work on them just because they want to work on them, not because they are getting paid to do it.
We're not a company yet, but we're working towards it. We'll see what happens.