AMS Spring 2023

Hostile Takeover and No CEO at 3D Printing Startup Triditive?

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Triditive Founder and CEO Mariel Diaz has reported that several partners fraudulently took control of her company and dismissed her as president of the Board of Directors on September 29, 2022. Since then, 3DPrint.com has learned that Diaz mounted a legal battle against the alleged attempt at a hostile takeover by co-founders and other individuals, like shareholders, whom she believes are acting concertedly. Diaz also considers that these parties have violated the provisions of a shareholder agreement – which commonly employs protectionist share structures as an added defense against these situations.

Attempting to unravel this situation, 3DPrint.com also reached out to the new alleged Director and Secretary of the company, Luis Valdes, who suggested that during a general shareholder’s meeting celebrated last September, all the company partners present (except Diaz, of course) voted in favor of a series of agreements including the renewal of the board of directors and the dismissal of Diaz as CEO and director of the company. Diaz, the majority shareholder of Triditive, remains co-founder and partner, pointed out Valdes.

Alleged Attempt at Identity Theft at Triditive

Diaz, the now-former CEO, described that the general shareholders meeting was illegal, as well as the agreements to change the Board of Directors, which is under criminal investigation.

According to Diaz, “the scheme to drive her out of Triditive” continued after the September meeting. Speaking to 3DPrint.com, Diaz divulged a series of alarming situations that gave rise to her initial doubts about a hostile takeover by insiders. She said several preemptive moves by co-founder and ex-husband Jose Camero and another shareholder had been aimed at preventing her from returning to the company and outing her completely from all diligence. This includes hacking into her corporate email and her personal LinkedIn accounts, arguing they belonged to Triditive.

Diaz also lodged claims that there was an attempt to “steal her identity” to access Triditive offices without alerting security. By October 6, 2022, Triditive’s facilities were “taken by force,” according to the former CEO. Valdes denied these claims.

Sidestepping Triditive’s Founder

Under the premise that “this change was the beginning of a growth stage,” the new leadership has sidestepped the founder. We have since found out that this situation is being handled by Diaz’s lawyers in Asturias, Spain (where the company is located) and that they have already notified the partners to “re-establish Triditive’s legitimacy.”

Everything points to this matter being settled in court, but not before “endangering an Asturian project spearheading the development of new technologies and 3D printing design in the country, which is immersed in several European technological projects,” commented Diaz when consulted about the future of the company.

In a statement published on her personal social media accounts two weeks ago, Diaz stated that she will “continue fighting for the project that I started alone, from scratch, with great enthusiasm since I was a student at the University of Oviedo and which I have helped position as one of the top three most important 3D printing companies in Europe.”

Diaz and Triditive’s 3D Printing Origins

Listed as one of the top startups in Europe, Triditive has been focused on automating additive manufacturing. Towards that goal, the company secured more than $9 million in funding – including a €5 million ($5.2 million) seed round completed on June 15, 2022 – making it the largest capital-raising AM firm in Spain.

Details like the company’s origin story are a few of the facts that are also now being debated between Diaz and her former partners. Diaz has ascertained throughout the last few years that Triditive was founded in 2016 as a spinout of the University of Oviedo‘s engineering lab, where she studied and quickly patented its Amcell printer, the first industrial 3D printer able to mass-produce components using metals or polymers, making it one of the fastest solutions for large-scale production.

Nonetheless, Valdes guarantees that Camero presented the idea to Diaz after having traveled in China for a long time. According to Valdes, it was in the Asian country where Camero first encountered a 3D printer and thought of developing a fully automated AM machine for hybrid mass production of parts. He says that later, co-founder Sergio Martínez joined the company to create all the software needed to optimize the quality of the parts.

Mariel Diaz standing next to one of the Amcell printers from Triditive. Mariel Diaz with one of the Amcell printers from Triditive. Image courtesy of Mariel Diaz.

As for Diaz, she has been a student at the University of Oviedo since 2010 and graduated as a mechanical engineer in 2015. She later taught 3D printing to graduate students at the same institution. In addition, she worked as an AM expert for the European Commission and the Fraunhofer Institute. During this time, she was awarded numerous prizes, including Best Female Entrepreneur in Spain 2018 by the Secot Foundation and Repsol. Furthermore, less than a month ago, she received the “Asturian Engineer of the Year 2022” award for her continued collaboration with the sector.

In addition, Díaz is an ambassador for Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) in Asturias and an Alumni of Techstars, a leading global accelerator of technology-based companies. Last May, the General Assembly of the Spanish Association of Additive and 3D Manufacturing Technologies (Addimat) even elected her as president of the association, replacing Jaume Homs.

Mariel Diaz receives the “Asturian Engineer of the Year 2022” award Mariel Diaz receives the “Asturian Engineer of the Year 2022” award. Image courtesy of Caja Rural de Asturias.

Thwarted Metal Binder Jet Deal with Foxconn

Commenting on the current situation, Diaz said: “it felt akin to being stabbed in the back. I’ve been behind this organization from the start, and my only mistake has been not having a diverse group of investors. Today, that industrial warehouse, that fort that Triditive represents, has been taken. In the last few months, I’ve organized a huge stand for the upcoming Formnext trade show in Germany; I’ve closed a $5 million round and a deal with Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to develop a new metal binder jetting technology.”

The struggle for control over the company could damage its future, seriously compromising its financing, projects, and feasibility, and it’s “difficult to see more projects come to fruition after this storm.” Moreover, following Diaz’s forced departure from the company, we can’t help but wonder what will happen to ongoing deals with other companies, like Foxconn.

Moreover, with no official CEO leading the firm at the moment and a severe lawsuit at its feet, Triditive’s future is uncertain. Valdes himself confirmed that the lack of a CEO figure “is not relevant” to him and the company’s board of directors since this is “in no way a required position by the Spanish legislation.” The company’s management is currently being carried out by a board of directors and a team of executives who make decisions on a day-to-day basis; these include a facility in Meres, more than 20 employees, and the highly anticipated Formnext 2022 event.

“The company’s objective is to give continuity to all viable projects, capable of highlighting the solutions that the company can develop. The existing team is currently focused on this and continues its mission and activity, facing with enthusiasm the new challenges that lie ahead,” said Valdes. “The company, complying with the contracts formalized by Mariel Diaz, will be present, with its own stand, at the Formnext Fair.”

In the end, Diaz believes the “hostile takeover” of the company will be settled in court. However, does that mean that the future of the Asturian startup is uncertain and could suffer the adverse effects of this unexpected change of control? We hope to find out more in the next few months and will keep our readers updated with any news on Triditive.

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