MakerBot’s New CEO Jenny Lawton Discusses The Company’s Future as Well as the Industry With 3DPrint.com

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Early last month, when it was revealed to us that Bre Pettis, co-founder and CEO of MakerBot, would be stepping aside and taking on a new, expanded role with Stratasys, many within the industry were surprised. Pettis had become the face of the desktop 3D printing movement, despite the fact that he had angered some within the community after reneging on his promise to remain an open source company. Money speaks, and a deal to the tune of $403 million eventually got jen2him to sell out to industry leader Stratasys.

Fifteen months after the deal was first announced, information began leaking from the company that Pettis would step aside, taking charge of a new initiative called Bold Machines. In his wake, Stratasys announced that Jenny Lawton, the president of MakerBot would be stepping into his role.

Lawton, who has had an extensive background in technology, co-founded one of the  fastest growing companies in the tech field back in 1991, Net Daemons Associates (NDA).  That company was acquired in 1999 by Interliant Inc.  She also worked with Softbank and Mobius Venture Capital before taking a hiatus after 9/11 to run two independent bookstores and a coffee shop until 2011.  She then took a job with Mercury Solar Systems as a Senior VP of Operations, an  in November of 2011 she moved on over to MakerBot just as they were really beginning to hit their stride.

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Very down to earth, friendly and sincere, Lawton’s persona strays wildly from that of her predecessor Pettis, whose boisterous and infectious attitude was likely both an asset and a liability for the rapidly expanding company. Lawton was kind enough to spend some time with 3DPrint.com, discussing the future of MakerBot, and her thoughts on the industry as a whole.

I found out quickly, that perhaps unlike Pettis, she cared greatly about the people who were working under her. Whereas Pettis was often disliked within MakerBot by some employees, at least according to those who left the company, Lawton prioritizes them.

“Our employees and our customers are always my top priority,” she explained to us. “At MakerBot, we have plans and targets and goals and sprints and so much more… but in the end, our customers and employees are the most important.”

Pettis was clearly the innovative mind which drove MakerBot to the company it is today. Without a doubt, he will be missed. Was this the right move by Stratasys, taking him off the project he created and loved so much, and placing him on jen4their Bold Machines initiative? Lawton thinks so.

“Bre has been a leader in the 3D printing industry since he founded MakerBot in 2009,” she explained. “Bre loves innovating and creating, and he is an advocate for the world of 3D printing. Bre’s expanded role within Stratasys is providing him a forum to continue to innovate and create in a more unstructured and broader environment that will allow us the best access to Bre’s potential.”

Lawton, is probably a good change for a company which has certainly seen its conflicts internally. She herself seems incredibly excited about where MakerBot is headed, as well as the industry in general, stating ‘There’s so much creativity yet to be unleashed.”

As the market expands, and new players continue to enter it, there will be major changes, and major decisions the new CEO will need to make. CAD software giant Autodesk has recently entered the space announcing their Spark platform, which some individuals within the industry believe may do to the 3D printing market what the Android operating system has done to the smartphone market. I asked Lawton what her opinion was on Autodesk’s initiatives. Her response jen3towards the company and their ambitions were somewhat surprising:

“Autodesk’s work and thinking is necessary to the overall industry of 3D printing. So much of the success of the 3D Ecosystem and future of 3D printing can be accelerated by the CAD company’s pivoting.”

I’m sure she’s thinking that the larger the industry becomes, and the simpler it is for ordinary people to get involved, the more printers and other services MakerBot will sell. Her outlook for the next five years is quite rosy. She believes that within five years the market will be moving out of the ‘early adopter stage’ into more of a mainstream adoption period. The leaders within the industry at that point will have a major edge moving forward.

Lawton hopes that when we look back in five years or so, her legacy will be one which portrays “a vibrant market leader with an amazing leadership team that is continuing to lead the next industrial revolution.”

She certainly has the reigns of a company at the head of the pack, leading this revolution. What she will make of this opportunity is yet to be seen, but judging from her excitable attitude, there is a lot to look forward to from this company.  Let’s hear your thoughts on Lawton’s new position and what it will mean for MakerBot and the entire industry. Discuss in the Jenny Lawton/Bre Pettis MakerBot forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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