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Tom and Tracy go live from SXSW where they are joined by serial disruptor and digital innovation expert Jay Samit. They dive deeper into the subject of disruptive technology relating to 3D design. Jay focuses on providing virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality solutions for corporate and public sector clients. We’re living in this era of endless innovation where the biggest transformation is about to happen. He shares that disruption isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond to what happens. In his book Disrupt You!, Jay teaches how you can swim with the currents of change instead of against them, embrace innovation, and propel towards new opportunities, creative challenges, and success.
Listen to the podcast here:
Live from SXSW: Disruptive Technology And Innovation with Jay Samit
We are so thrilled to be invited by TuneIn so we want to thank them and South by Southwest because this is going to be a lot of fun for us to do this live and really talk about some advanced things in 3D printing. We have Jay Samit with us. He’s the author of a book called Disrupt You!. We had him on the show once last year and we wanted to have him back for a deeper dive. He’s the Independent Vice-Chairman of Deloitte Digital and he’s also speaking a couple of times here at South by Southwest himself so you’re going to want to check that out. It’s fun to have you here on the stage with us from the beginning. Thank you for joining us.
It’s fun to be here.
WTFFF stands for What The Fused Filament Fabrication. Fused filament fabrication is the geeky term for 3D printing. We talk a lot more than just about fused filament, which is the desktop version of 3D printing. We talk a lot more about all different disruptive technology, mostly everything related to the 3D design of those things including AR and VR and all types of applications for 3D design. That’s what our podcast is focused on. We’ve done over 520 episodes over the past three years. It’s been well received and we have about 100,000 listeners a month. We wanted to bring this here to you and talk about disruptive innovation and the path of that. The first episode we did we did with Jay last year was episode 504 of WTFFF called Forget Disruptive Technology, Disrupt You! Instead with Jay Samit.
Jay has signed one of his books for us. Those of you who are watching this recorded or on Facebook, if you go and like our 3D Start Point Facebook page, which is the home for the WTFFF podcast. We’re also going to pick a lucky person who comments on the Facebook feed and you would be sent another book, one of Jay’s book signed by him. Definitely, make sure you go and like 3D Start Point and comment. Jay is the Independent Vice-Chairman for Deloitte Digital, which has to be the coolest job as it’s been termed by Wire Magazine. He focuses on providing virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality solutions for corporate and public sector clients. He has more than 30 years’ experience in digital transformation. He helps grow pre-IPO companies and big brands like EMI, Sony, and doing cool things like mobile video, internet advertising, e-commerce, social networks, e-books. Billions of us use products and services and digital goods that Jay has been responsible for.
It’s fun. Why we’re here and why this all ties in is we’re living in this era of endless innovation. We’re living into the time where 100-year old companies disappear and every 48 hours there’s a new billionaire created. They didn’t go to the right schools. They didn’t come from money. Something has changed. The main thing is you’re holding something in your pocket or staring at it right now that connects you to 7 billion people. You only have to be right for a nanosecond to become rich or change the world or whatever you want accomplish.
You write a column or articles.
I wrote a column for Fortune Magazine.
You’re obsessed with AR. There’s a lot of AR content there.
For people who think things have been over hyped, everything that you do in work, play, and shopping will completely change over the next five years. If you thought getting a PC changed the world, and it did, and then the web changed the world, the second transformation, and then taking all that to mobile and connecting us all to each other was a huge transformation. The biggest transformation is about to happen, which is all mankind’s knowledge colluding to bring information to you. The air of you searching for answers goes away when everything appears before you. We’re talking about the launch of a trillion-dollar industry.
You’ve been obsessed with all these things digital for quite some time. How did that obsession start for you?
I didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t set out to start companies like what I did with eBay and LinkedIn and everything. I got out of college, bought into society’s rules of get good grades and get a job and live happily after. There was the recession, there were no jobs. Look at the person next to you over the next decade, half of all jobs in the US disappear, so one of you is out. What I realized real early was you could go and try to compete for a job against somebody that has a ton of experience, or you could go do something that no one’s done yet. You’re either the best at what you do in the world or the only one doing it. If you’re the only one doing it, by definition, you’re the best. I always jumped on the next thing. The PC was very good to me, the web was very good to me, and mobile is very good to me. AR is just unbelievable.
For a lot of people, the idea of being disruptive and on the edge again and again is inherently risky as opposed to the job that pays you.
We’re at the 60th Anniversary of the Fortune 500 and less than 57 of the original on the list are still around. It isn’t that security robs ambition, it’s the illusion of security that robs the ambition. As you watch these larger companies go, the more time you’re spending at a large company, the more myopic your view becomes until you become the foremost expert at that department. I was running one of the world’s largest music company when the industry went from $40 billion to $20 billion in one year. You knew how to break a song, you know how to get it on radio, you know how to work with a physical retail over the Midwest, great skills.
Until it all changes. Napster and MP3s brought all that crushing down.
If you start looking at yourself differently and you see how malleable you are, then you can see how easy it is to change the world.
For those out there looking at 3D printing, that’s 320 million jobs estimated as being lost around the world in manufacturing. It’s not significant. The number’s a little low, but 15% of retail would disappear as well. It’s got to be higher than that.
I just had dinner with somebody who is a manufacturer in Asia who is well-known that has 1 million employees in their factories. He was telling me that they now have five factories that they called lights out. I’m like, “They work in the dark. It sounds so cool.” “No. Lights out means there’s not a single human in the factory.” They’re looking to expand that number rapidly. They’re the largest manufacturer in the world. It’s coming. The flipside is there’s a huge opportunity. My talk is Augmented Reality, A Job Killer or Economic Savior. For anybody to get one thing out of this talk and one thing out of Disrupt You!, the book, disruption isn’t about what happens to you. It’s about how you respond to what happens to you. You always have a choice and you can make those choices. In 3D printing, we now get to a customized world, a bespoke world, and anybody that isn’t setting up their supply chain to be digital, to respond to those demands, to allow people to have input into the products they want will be cannon fodder.
It’s been a lot slower. When we started the podcast three years ago, this was our focus. We were wondering whether or not there was a market for those products because that’s what we do. We are product designers. We’ve designed products for mass market retail for 25 years. We’ve done things that you buy every day at Costco and Walmart and Target. We look at that and we want to be on the edge. We got in very early in 3D printing to explore that, but what we’ve found out really quickly was that there wasn’t a market for our skills yet and there wasn’t a market for our products yet. There’s lots of resistance and friction along the way, which I’m sure you’re looking at what happened with Sony. There’s a lot of resistance in that retail market because they’re all invested in inventory and warehousing and their trucking, or whatever their specialty is as a supply chain. There’s a lot of that investment in there so there’s resistance to change. When there isn’t an investment in the digital good side of things, the design of those digital products doesn’t exist today. They exist in some formats but not in all products. When they don’t exist, it’s hard to imagine a world at which you can provide them. There’s been this slowdown of adoption into what we call retail reality.
There used to be a strategic advantage of owning the means of production. I talk about the example of motor oil. Remember motor oil coming in around cardboard tubes that you stab with a knife and then when you open the second can, it’s slippery and you stab yourself. The dumbest product in the world, but Quaker State had the biggest factory to make them more cans than anybody else and nobody could touch the price. They weren’t going to build a new factory. They put all their money into their factory. Then Pennzoil made a little plastic bottle, and then because they could make plastic any shape, they made it in the shape to get two bottles in the space that it took on the shelf to put one of those round things. Suddenly sales took off and they ended up buying their competitor. The lesson there is the advantage isn’t the means of production. The only advantage any company has today is the speed of which they can react to their consumer data. Insights for the difference and the advantage that you have. Zaro one of the biggest retailers out there changes virtually all their inventory every ten days. Many of our competitors are set up with the “Here’s our season, here’s what we’re doing for this line, for the fall or the spring or next year or two years from now.” That doesn’t work anymore.
Do you have any advice for some disruptors, perhaps?
It depends where you are in the food chain. If you’re at the beginning of your career, congratulations. You are now working at the craziest company you’ve ever seen or could imagine, until you get your second job. What you’re frustrated is you know how it should change and your supervisor doesn’t understand or doesn’t see it or doesn’t see the writing on the wall. You have two choices. You can point it out to them or their boss or their boss’s boss, and one of two things will happen. You’ll get promoted and get thanked, or you’ll be shown the door. If you’re shown the door, they’re actually doing a favor because any company that’s not listening to their employees and listening to changes are going away. We’re watching it happen so fast and so often. On the other hand, there are no longer any barriers to market. There’s no gatekeeper stopping you from getting cash. You have crowdfunding, you have VCs, you now have ICOs. You have people who would literally write a business plan and raise $70 million to $100 million in 48 hours. This was the year of the ICOs, initial coin offerings, alternative currency.
It’s really about solving a problem. If you have problems in your life, congratulations, you’re halfway there. Look at what new technologies can address those problems. I give thousands of examples of people who became billionaires in the simplest thing. My go-to simple example is two kids sitting in traffic in Tel Aviv. It dawned on them the phone company knows where their phone is and it knows where the other guy’s phone in the other car is. I If they tell him to go left and me to go right, there is no traffic. They named their company Waze. Without a dollar in revenue, they became billionaires in less than a year. It is that easy. There are only two things you need to succeed, insight and perseverance. You can’t be taught perseverance, but insight can be taught and that’s what I focused on in Disrupt You! I’m humbled that the book’s in its third printing and in eight languages. It’s coming out in Portuguese in June and Korean in July.
I occasionally get a letter from somebody says, “This is all great. All of these people could do this thing but not me.” If you say no to me, that’s the greatest way to get me motivated in life. What I took out of that was I’m now mid-way through doing my version of Pygmalion. I found a couch surfing millennial and he knew no one in Los Angeles where I live and I said, “I will mentor you for one year. I won’t open up the Rolodex, I’m not cheating.” Damasio is a high school dropout, didn’t go to college, normal life, but he showed perseverance. “I’ll mentor you for a year and take you from couch surfing to a self-made millionaire.” The most he ever had earned was $35,000 a year. I’m not selling get rich quick and I don’t sell seminars. This isn’t a pitch to where I’m sitting on the Lamborghini. I wanted to show that it could be done. Not to kill the whole book in advance but it walks you through how to do it, the first month, he did $70,000 and he could fly coast to coast without a plane. He didn’t believe it was possible. The second month $83,000, the third month he broke to$100,000, and it keeps on going. It’s a dialogue because I’m now learning how today’s world exactly is so I can take the Disrupt You! method and zero in on any opportunity.
Isn’t that exactly why you’ve been in the position that you’ve been? You’ve learned so much along the way and learned as much from the disruption that you cause to be able to inform the next thing that you do.
It’s my way of paying it forward. I don’t know how much time I have left. I do believe that the only way you have a stable democracy is by having a strong middle class. The middle class is being the eviscerated.
Especially if we lose all these jobs.
Not just that, but if you look at the history, I’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars from Silicon Valley. I love Silicon Valley, they’ve been great to me, but it’s been a winner-take-all monopoly. We all know eBay named the number two auction site, named the number two of any of the categories that doesn’t exist, so you have a consolidation. If we do that globally, it’s very destabilizing. On the other hand, everybody has the power to do this. As long as there’s still problems to solve, there is still opportunity. Problems are opportunities in disguise. We don’t teach them. We teach this agrarian, “Here’s two ducks and two ducks equal four ducks,” and that’s wonderful. We teach people to have enough knowledge to go on a battlefield or to go into a factory. Those days are gone.
In your book you cite, “According to Nielsen Research, women are responsible for more than 83% of consumer purchases. I actually say 86% at mass market retail. They’ve generated virtually all the income growth experience in the US during the past twenty years.” We were talking that there’s not enough. In fact, there was a talk here about designing with bias, that there’s not enough women product designers. There’s not enough diversity. It’s not just women.
It’s not just design, by the way. I speak on panels all over on all kinds of subjects. I’m amazed at how many conference after conference, it’s the old white guy conference. I’m glad I got included, but I’d like to hear some of the viewpoints. One of the stories that they tell there that is exactly this point in Disrupt You!, there was a woman who got a sales job in Florida for a conservative company. She was required to wear pantyhose. It’s Florida. It’s humid. She wants to wear sandals. This thing isn’t working. She tries cutting off the toes, she’s tried different stuff. She finally comes up with a product idea. Turns out hosieries are made in North Carolina. She goes up there and goes to the factories and to a person. Every single person that she talks to at those factories are all men. They all tell her, “It’s a stupid product. It’s dumb.” One ripped up her card right in front of her face and told her, “Go.” She didn’t have a dime to her name. She went to Barnes & Noble and bought Patents for Dummies. She wrote her own patent. She didn’t have a dime to her name.
Sara Blakely and Spanx is now a multi-billionaire. She changed the world by coming up with a new category. That’s what happens when you have diversity. Diversity isn’t just a buzzword. It’s about having different points of view. If you have all your designers in the US designing cars for Morocco where the streets are four feet wide, for some reason the SUV doesn’t sell. When you have a Detroit name a car for Latin America, the Nova, which in Spanish means “no go,” it turns out nobody wanted to buy the Nova. Those are silly examples, but they go on every day. It’s so easy to get other viewpoints.
One of the most important lessons you share in your book is that it’s incumbent upon us innovators to communicate the future in a way that people living in the past can comprehend. You’re talking about building a bridge. Can we discuss that a little bit how do you talk to those people and get them to see the light?
When I was half my age and I knew everything, I used to leave meetings so frustrated. Why don’t they get it? I remember pitching one of the biggest corporations in the world of this great digital plan for them. I’m going down to the CEO’s office down the long hallway. This is in this century, passing IBM Selectric. There wasn’t a single pc on the C-Suite floor and I go, “This is not going to go well.” I’d leave all mad, “Why don’t they get it?” It’s not their job to get it. If you’re the innovator, if you’re the disruptor, it’s your job to communicate the future in a way that people stuck in the past can comprehend. If you can’t communicate it, if they can’t comprehend, you can’t make change. That’s where change begins. It’s not “You’re wrong, I’m right,” because then there has to be a winner and a loser, and they’ve already won. They’re in the C-Suite.
The biggest challenge for a lot of companies is what got the people in that corner office won’t get them to the Promised Land. The world has changed. How to recognize that, how to communicate that, how to disrupt yourself, because you’re going to be disrupted. The classic example, Kodak invented the digital camera, but it didn’t have the same margin and competed with film and they own the film world. Whoever was put in charge of the digital camera, your careers pretty much over. Kodak didn’t realize innovation happens. Somebody else came out with it, and today there is no more Kodak. We all have digital cameras and several of them on us, and life has changed. We now take more photos this year than the history of mankind up until this year combined.
This is classic. We hear this a lot of times when we get inventors come and talk to us about their product ideas. They want to be secretive about it or they’re so afraid because of that Kodak world that someone’s going to buy their patent or license it.
Someone’s going to steal.
They’re going to sit on it. They’re going to shelve it. We hear this all the time. You’re a fan of Zombie ideas, which I totally love, and that’s about being very public about what you’re working on. If you don’t have a team that’s diverse, that’s the best way to get feedback.
Let’s bust some myths right here. No one’s going to steal your stupid idea. Your idea sucks, I guarantee it. I don’t care what it is. I’m your friend. I’m just telling you honestly. If you go to every VC, every VC’s first rule is they love you, they love your idea. They went back to talk to the partners, “The partners didn’t like it, but come back next time.” They want to keep the door open. Your idea sucks. Why does it suck? Ideas don’t come fully formed from God to you. It’s not the flux capacitor. You’re not Doc Brown sitting on the toilet and boom. What happens is you start off with a thread of an idea, something that seems to make sense, some empty piece of land, and if you go further into the dirt than anybody else did, that’s where you’re discover it. This music conference has a tech conference because a failed music company with a few last hours decided to play with some short messaging and a music company called Twitter changed what they were doing. They pivoted. What’s going to happen is you’re going to pivot. You’re going to want to tell everybody your idea for a simple reason? It is so hard to launch a business. It is so hard to get funding and so hard to become that billionaire. Anybody you’re telling is most likely too lazy to do it. I’ve yet to have somebody come and say, “Here’s proof that somebody went and took my idea.” When you start sharing that idea, share it now with friends and well-wishers. You want somebody to kill your idea. That’s why it’s called zombie idea. Find people that can actually use it.
Don’t tell your idea to the yes men and yes women in your life, like the ones who goes, “You’re so wonderful. Of course, it’s great.” You don’t want those people and then you don’t want the moms and dads. It’s usually my dad who will say, “You shouldn’t do that,” because they’re so afraid for you. You have them on both sides.
Go find twenty potential customers and ask them why they won’t buy it, not what do they like about it. What doesn’t it do? You start taking that rough piece of marble that you started with as an idea and you’re chipping away, chipping away until nobody can find a fault with it. If nobody can kill it, then it’s a zombie idea. It’s this idea that will just go and just keep on coming, and that’s where you see the big successful. When you’re doing those iterations, each version of your product is happening between two years. You’re not burning through capital. If you go and raise a bunch of money on your idea and then start doing this, you’re burning through all that capital and one of two things happen. One, you run out of money and bye-bye. Two is actually more painful. There are a lot of people that keep on funding you so by the time your idea hits a homerun, you own 3% of your own company. I started companies where we’ve sold them for $600 million and sold them for a billion and you don’t own enough of it. It’s very rare that you’ve done it the right way the first time. That’s why I’m trying to pay it forward so that you don’t become a slave of your own idea.
Let’s pivot and talk a little bit about skill gaps because we think we have one here in 3D printing and we may have one in AR and VR as well. We just don’t have quite enough designers. We don’t have quite enough skills to be able to do the professional content required. When you’re talking about music and Apple goes to create iTunes, they already knew there was a lot of indie musicians, those that were eager to be published and distributed, and there were of course the labels. There were already professional musicians. In the 3D design world, we don’t have a library of designs that just aren’t getting made right now or professional design. We have lots of free libraries of amateur content, things that moms wouldn’t buy. If moms don’t buy it then it’s not getting bought at retail. How does that grow and where does the investment need to happen to bring those skills set up so that it can grow faster, the industry can move faster?
In each new marketplace, you have to build a dual-sided marketplace. There has to be a reason why a consumer is going to come and there has to be a reason why the designer is going to put their designs there. If there were a million designs up there, everybody decorating a home would go there to look for lamps. If everybody was buying lamps there and you were creating a lamp, you’d put that up. How do you get to that spot? Reid Hoffman, who did the intro to Disrupt You!, and he’s the smartest human beings I’ve ever met. when we were working on LinkedIn, they had the same dual-sided problem. Why would anybody put up a resume if there’s no jobs? Why would I look for jobs or people if there are no resumes? How do you get the inflection point? That’s where marketing comes in. You really have to market and develop that community. The exact turning moment for LinkedIn was when a guy who’s looking for a job in the White House named Obama and the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, both signed up and put up profiles on the same day on LinkedIn. What a coincidence. Everybody goes and checks it out and there’s enough activity.
It’s very similar to when you went to the best party of your college years in a small dorm room. If that same party had been on the ballrooms at this hotel and twelve people show up in a room for 2,000, it doesn’t look very good. Figure out a test market. Don’t be all 3D things to all things. What is one specific item that there’s so much need for customization that people will search for? eBay took off because people would spend their weekends going to flea markets to find a motorcycle parked from a 1929 Indian motorcycle. When all the young people were on the internet, nobody over 40 had discovered the internet, their average person was over 40 and spending 45 minutes per visit on the site. Solve a problem and then expand that market base. Zuckerberg didn’t wake up one day and say, “I’m making a social media for everybody on the planet.” He did Harvard. He did Ivy Leagues. He did the US, and so on and so on. Here’s the great thing about living in this connected world. If you can prove that micro market, whatever it is, you can then get as much cash as you want and lose money for as long as you want. If you can prove that people prefer ride sharing or hailing to waiting in the rain for maybe a cab comes by, you can lose a billion dollars a quarter until you take over the world and there’s no competition. That’s the model. Why aren’t you doing it?
We have so much experience in mass market retail of conventional products. We understand that industry very well. It is conventional retail as we know it in the US, a dinosaur. Is it a dead man walking? You’re going to try to retail in like half an hour.
Here’s my opinion. The idea of going to a store to choose from a subset of the products available to you on the planet to buy something is over. None of you do it. Up in town, there’s a store called Beta that isn’t meant to sell anything. It’s all the coolest electronics on the internet. You can pick them up and touch them. Traditional retail is dead. Brick and mortar is not dead. What’s the difference? Destination that is an experience. That’s why you leave home to experience something that you can’t do in your living room, to share it in different ways. I’m working with a European automaker. When you go in Europe into their show room, they will not let you see the car. They’re going to put you on a white room and they’re going to let you design your own car. When you finished designing that car, they ask you to do the mountains, the beach or whatever, and then you’re going to see it in VR. It’s beautiful. It’s like putting yourself into your own fantasy. Then you see the car that they have. It doesn’t look as good as the one you just designed. They’re selling 30% more upsells of customized features. I just design my first car, not as a designer, but you just pick this, pick this, and pick this. Tesla doesn’t let you buy a car off the lot. Every car is bespoke to your choices. If it’s something that you’ve invested time into making, you’re willing to wait.
My first job out of college was working for an automotive textile company in South Carolina. I was shocked when I went in there and they said, “You need to design and figure out the color trends for the cars. This is going to be a model ten years from now.” I looked at him, I was like, “Are you kidding me? How do I know now what’s going to be sold in ten years?” It’s because automotive is ten years behind, they’re outdated. I can see why 30% more gets up-charged because they didn’t get it right. They had to make this. They had to test it. They had a tool for it. They didn’t get it right from a feature and a color perspective or a material perspective.
It is tough to change an ongoing business. Dinosaurs got really big, they ruled the Earth and whatever, and they’d fight each other like King Kong movies. They didn’t notice the little mammals scurrying around. You’re that little new annoying thing. The big company isn’t going to try to stop you. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a public CEO. Here’s what’s going to happen. Those big dinosaurs do have momentum, which means cash. They’ll buy you out at a huge multiple. Don’t get cocky and say, “Yes.” The reason is because you’re only going to be right for that same nanosecond. You’re not always going to be right and always be ahead. My son’s the same age as Mark Zuckerberg and when he turned to $2 billion, I’m like, “if they had offered my son $2 billion and he said, ‘No way,’ I’m going to hit him over the head with a baseball bat. I’ll forge his name and when it comes out of the coma, he’d hate me, but he’d be rich.” Zuckerberg was the exception. He was somebody that actually had a vision and kept control of his company and kept control of the board and executed magnificently him and his team, but that’s rare. If you’re so good and so smart, then do it.
The US PTO statistics, the Patent and Trademark Office in the US, is less than 2% percent of patents. Apple filed tens of thousands of patents, so they’re in the mix there. Less than 2% of patents make their inventors any money.
Patents are public. Apple is one that I’ve been waiting for, for years. Apple patent tennis shoes. Tennis shoes use kinetic energy to charge your battery. Every time you walk it’s capturing that energy. If your battery’s running low, you could just run. Soon we got to have something kinetic that keeps us charged. That just seems like such an easy product to have. I had the FitBit for a lot of years and I was super motivated to walk so many steps, but I’d be more motivated if with the other choices I lose access to the internet.
Especially when your FitBit says, “You just walked for three hours around South by Southwest and you burned 56 calories,” it’s really not helpful, but my phone had a full charge. I would have walked everywhere to make that happen.
Wearables are going to be a huge era. We’re going to have a huge shortage of physicians. The flip side is, we can have the same diagnostics that doctors get nowadays available 24/7 meeting us. One of the things that I got from the sports band that I was wearing for a number of years is I wasn’t killing it for my age on walking, but I was in the 1% of people not sleeping. It was telling me not sleeping for three days does cause psychosis. 87% of the people your age sleep. It was the world’s largest sleep study. Wearables are doing lots and lots of things to make our lives better. There are so many new opportunities to build a business around that. What’s the wearable for a certain situation? What’s the new eyewear? I’ll be showing augmented glasses that beam the object into the back of your eyeball. At the back of your eyeball, we all see the same, so you don’t need prescriptions, you don’t need lenses, you don’t need any of that. It’s opaque so people can walk around it, it’s there. So many things at retail will be different. You can have virtual inventory in the store. A small shop can have everything in every color.
We were talking about that path to being able to explain it or that bridge to being able to explain to the old white guys in the room. Supply chain and delivery and inventory, all of these, we’re carrying costs of products. It’s so high right now. It’s waiting to be disrupted. It just needs proof that what you have, people will buy. They will shift out of that so fast because that costs factor in their business is gigantic.
When you buy something and there are twelve shades, you’re actually paying for the pink shade that you didn’t buy because that excess inventory never sells. There’s a huge opportunity that if you can go into retail, the reason why it will be an experience that you can’t have at home is the edge computing and the 5G and the streaming of all this magnificent 3D polygons. You won’t have that in your house for a while, but you’ll have this amazing experience when you go into the store. You can actually see all the sofas in scale. You can do simpler things at home. Many people have gone through and suffered through in their relationship where you paint for different versions of beige on the wall because somebody can’t make up their mind. Nowadays, you can just put on your AR glasses and the whole room, you can adjust to whatever color, and then instantly that color is mixed for you. It either comes the next day or you can go pick it up. These aren’t science fiction. These are things that my clients are doing right now.
The reality is the people buying something at retail, especially housewares, is a huge category where your average or you call it the way you want, delivered to you a few days or a week later on demand with credit.
We’re going to lose Toys“R”Us. How cool would it be to be able to go into a toy store and see the TIE fighters flying around, the Death Star and everything, and have a whole battle scene? Maybe you buy one more Lego set because you want to have that to spark people’s imagination to show how things can look. Most people don’t have a design aesthetic. There are lots of studies of retail that whatever you put on the mannequin turns out to be your bestseller.
That happens everywhere, especially in furniture. Whatever the floor sample is, that’s what sold 80% of the time. It’s an 80/20 rule. 80% of the volume comes from 20% of these cues and typically that’s what the display probably is.
For those of you that are on the data side of this and are data scientists and you’re in massive demand, check your data at the door. You have to make sure that you’re putting good stuff in. What’ll happen is the red dress on the second floor of the white dresses on the first floor, all their data shows 90% of people prefer the white dress so they stop making the red dress. Whereas it was a “where you put in the store” issue, not a “what was on the mannequin” or whatever.
There was some talk about bias in the data, and this happens all the time, the data and this is concern about AI. I’m not concerned about designers being outdone by AI or engineers being done outdone by AI because I know that the data’s bad. I know that the data doesn’t have a lot of representation. If you haven’t sold it at retail, you don’t know if it will sell. If it never made it past the gatekeepers, you don’t know if it will work. Your data’s already wrong because AI depends on failure, learning what doesn’t work or what does work, and then doing more of that. When we don’t have a lot of sense of what’s going on there, we have a big power time at which we need to build better data.
For the layman to understand, the big concern of AI isn’t Skynet coming to kill you in your sleep. The big concern is we don’t know in true AI how the decision was made. A great example was they showed 10,000 photos of wolves and 10,000 photos or Huskies and mixed them up. The AI figured out better than any human which were wolves and which were Huskies. When they dug into the why of it, there was snow in the wolf pictures. The machine never looked at the dogs. It was solving a different problem but coming with the right result. Another example that is an automaker that made two self-driving cars and they named one AJ and one Bobby. They raced them around the track, no drivers, identical hardware, identical software, and AJ won. One goes on the left, one on the right, and vice versa. They did it again and AJ won again. They tried every different way. AJ learned something in that first race that Bobby will never know. The programmers don’t know what it is that the car learned.
They still don’t know to this day?
Yeah. That’s the thing. There can be gender bias in AI. There could be racial profiling in AI. There can be shit in, shit out. If you have bad data, you may get a functioning good answer for a reason that isn’t valid. We go down a rabbit hole.
We do see this. This is where we look at the visionaries in the world. There has to be those. Being disruptors, finding that opportunity gap as we’ve been talking about a lot here, there’s about having that vision for where it’s going to go and holding hard and fast to that.
The best way to predict the future is to hang out with people that are actually coding. What’s really interesting is most of the new products that are coming out, you can read about, you can know about, but the people who are building them have no idea why. That’s your opportunity. A scientist has, by definition, no freaking idea what they’re doing. It doesn’t mean they’re stupid. They’re job is to discover something that they didn’t know. Their job wasn’t to make a better razor blade. Their job wasn’t to make a basketball that bounces harder. Their job was to create flubber. Then it’s somebody else’s job to bring it to the market. That’s to me the most exciting part. Somebody else did the heavy lifting, somebody else paid attention in science class, and now you get to say, “I see a product fit. I see a market fit.” Since you’re experts in 3D printing, could you talk a little bit about where we are with 3D printing? What kind of new stuff is coming up?
Do you have an opinion on that, Jay?
Right now, there are 3D printers doing human organs. There are 3D printing doing medications. There’s 3D printing doing food. My favorite is vegan beef. They now have vegan beef that bleeds. They bred plants with hemoglobin and they can print 3D meat and it’s delicious. There isn’t an issue in the printing itself right now. Any substrate you want to do in metal, glass, wood, people are doing it. The market fit has been brought to the exact thing we’re talking about. People haven’t said, “Here’s why this particular product is better 3D printed.” Until people focus on that, it will be a hobbyist, just like PCs were a hobby. I’m old enough that when I bought the first PC, the TV commercial was, “You can help balance your checkbook for $2,500.” Come up with the market.
It’s the killer app. From our perspective, it’s not the delivery system that’s there. It’s not the printers. They are there. It’s not the materials. There is a lot of work to be done in post-finishing, the post-processing of it. You do 3D print in metal but it still has to be polished. We have a distributed manufacturing system. We manufacture over in Asia a lot of our products. We bring them here to the US. They’re finished over there. They’re not finished here. If we want to print here and distribute here, we now have to build post-finishing into our process. That needs to come along but that’s not that far away. Demand needs to happen first.
Focus on the killer app. In the AR example, last year in 2017, Americans bought 80 million pairs of glasses for more than $100 a pair. It only came with one app, focus. For the same price point, you can put on your glasses and they’ll translate any sign or menu you see into the language that you read. You’d buy that pair over the other pair. It’s like a smartphone. The first year, they didn’t know what those apps would be, and now we all have tons that we can’t live without. Focus on in the printing what and in my mind, you should steer towards bespoke, customized. What is it that people would rather buy customized? Prosthetics have been huge in 3D printing for exactly that reason. Where a child wouldn’t normally get a prosthetic until their teen years because it was so expensive, they can now for $75 to $80 get a functioning prosthetic every year.
They’re growing and that makes a lot of sense.
Let’s take it one step further in the prosthetic example. Imagine your kid can’t play ball and they’re left out. Their whole trajectory of their life of being the less than suddenly becomes a challenge. A young startup that was doing 3D printed prosthetics went to Disney for license. They do a Frozen arm, they do an Iron Man arm, they do a Star Wars arm. Now the kid goes from being less than to be the coolest kid. I want Darth Vader on my team. That opened up a whole market. You’re smiling because you’re seeing a great use of 3D printing. You’ll know a good application in two seconds. Get that insight.
Ask those consumers because the minute you ask that consumer group, they’ll go, “We need this.” Those parents needed that.
I have a 30-day process in Disrupt You! to teach you how to solve for that insight. It works and it can give you more deal flow than a VC.
There are still tremendous advancements in 3D printing and different materials and finishes. The capabilities of 3D printers are increasing all the time and the cost of the machines are coming down, whether they’re desktop machines or they’re commercial machines. The one thing that is still eluding the tech on the delivery system side is being able to make things out of more than one material in one machine. That still leaves the inherent issues of assembling parts together that are made of a couple different materials that need to go together. The initial verticals that are going to be successful are products that are absolutely performing their job perfectly in one material and it is more of a finishing issue.
Can I challenge that?
That didn’t seem to hold back IKEA, the idea that you have to assemble the different parts yourself.
Yes, absolutely. We should know that better than anyone because I think we design the most ready-to-assemble furniture out there. There are products that would change paradigms. You’d have to assemble different things. We have another question over here.
How long do you think until additive manufacturing gets to the level of fit finish tolerance, durability of injection molding, for example? Is that five years away or ten years away?
It’s already there. We just don’t see it. We see it a lot in application, but the general public doesn’t see it yet. While we use desktop 3D printers in our office to make prototypes of things, you can today create the same engineering model that you would send to an injection mold printer and get an actual part back out of certain polymers. Maybe there are some specialized plastics that are being injection molded, it may not be available in 3D printing, whether it’s ABS or nylon or polycarbonate. You can get so close. Maybe the only exception is a highly polished, clear print of something you would see through like an old CD case used to be.
Avionics and the military are doing that now in the field, reducing the amount of parts that they need to have.
I’m currently working in industrialization and additive manufacturing. When I speak to my customers, to your point, the skill gap is significant. They want to do it but there’s no labor out there from the designer, from the actual operators.
That is a big gap as we see it. The more 3D printing comes to be, then the more designers and engineers you’re going to need to create the actual 3D models that are going to be these products.
It brings us full circle. The more problems you have, the more opportunity. Instead of advertising, “You, too, can be a chef at Cordon Bleu,” what a great place to now show that there’s a course that you want to teach and the way to certify and set up a program online. There was a professor who was the number one professor in teaching robotics. He took the summer off and he said, “I’m going to teach a course online,” and you get a certificate. It’s like he’s the Einstein to that subject. He became a multi-millionaire for just one summer because everybody wanted to take the online course. You have unlimited seating capacity. Fill the gap. It’s a huge opportunity.
There is an HR company, a human resources and placement company that is working worldwide, Alexander Daniels. We did an interview with one of their executives, their US operations executive, and they are actively searching around the world to place jobs. They admit that there is a skill gap but they created that opportunity of being able to spin off what was a generalized company to just filling additive manufacturing jobs. If there’s a placement agency for it, that means that there’s a place for all of you to up your skills, find places to go, send people. I make this talk with buzzwords and put it on LinkedIn. I do this all the time when I speak to audiences of inventors and designers and things like that. I’m always saying to them, “There’s an opportunity here,” and lately we’ve gotten worldwide. We had a guy in Denmark and someone in Ireland and a couple of guys out of Michigan, and they said, “We had listened to you and we upped our skills and we have jobs now. We’re so busy.” It can work.
I’ve been in charge as a professor in our department to incorporate 3D printing, but I teach visual communication and graphic design. Everything I come across is more manufacturing. How do we get 3D printing into different people’s hands into more of the creative field? Are there people creating the software that more matches the Adobe products are or anything, like chefs with a 3D printer has it more accessible?
There are more curriculums being created for secondary education. In particular, I’m thinking of Eton College that are using 3D printing, additive manufacturing and actually a cross-section of different tools, not just 3D printing, with these students. It’s an end-to-end design process they’re teaching. 3D printing and these different technologies are just some of the tools they’re using, instead of the old shop tools that some of us had. Through problem solving, whether it’s design or engineering, in curriculums, is a way to integrate these things into what you’re doing. Adobe actually has a whole suite of tools and curriculum for shifting graphic designers into being able to 3D print. ZBrush is probably one of the most common ones where people come out of a more art or 2D design world and going into 3D. It’s more applicable to that sculpture and painting route. They have huge training sessions and fabulous tutorials and groups that help you manage that process. They would be happy to help you.
I would add on to that Tilt Brush, learning to create in 3D in VR. Once you start creating 3D and you’re creating polygons and mass, it will be very quickly that people will have files that can go back and forth between making physical objects out of that what you’ve created.
There is no absolute standard though on the software for how you’re going to create these models. There are hundreds of different tools everywhere from tablet-based tools that mostly younger kids are using for the most part. When the kids to grow up, not even understanding how to use a computer mouse, having a teleplay software makes a lot of sense. The Morphi App is one of them that it is a good tool for that. There’s no standard unfortunately.
I was curious, I haven’t seen a true pro level manufacturing quality 3D printing software out there that does things, that lets you choose your material that you’re printing with so you can actually do structural analysis and actually know the true material science of the designs that you are creating in a standardized way, in a standardized format that would be universally taught in classes. If a person goes in and learns ZBrush in one shop and then goes through a new job, and then has to learn a completely new set of software, that right there creates a real change. Maybe another big opportunity for disruption in the 3D printing universe would be to create that unifying software suite for the design and development of 3D printed objects.
That would be wonderful. We’d love to see that, but you’re right. Right now, you’ve got many different software packages to choose from, whether the more parametric engineering based ones like Solidworks and Fusion 360 and all things like this, or the more surface modeling like Rhinoceros, or you have some of the more pixel-based like ZBrush. There is no standard and I don’t know if there ever will be because there’s so many different companies competing in this space and there are so many different niches to serve. It’s up to the individual who is designing the product to know, “I’m going to 3D print this now. I have to make sure I work within whatever limitations there are of that process. I’m going to manufacture it that way in production,” which is what I’d like to see more often than not. We’d like it to be tech-agnostic. In some cases, you may need to injection mold something and you got to know the limitations of that process. I agree with you, I don’t think there’s a common software that understands all of that and guide you through that. It’s up to us as human beings right now to determine what we need to do and what tools we’re going to use, and to have that knowledge to not design something in your computer that cannot be made in reality in that process. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality now. I want to thank you, Jay, for showing up.
Thanks for having me.
We really enjoyed talking with you again. Thank you all for showing up to our talk. We’d like to think South by Southwest and TuneIn for inviting us. You can find us at 3DStartPoint.com and anywhere on social media @3DStartPoint. Please subscribe to the podcast. We’d love to have some new listeners and have new questions. You can always post questions to us anywhere. Thank you all for coming. This has been Tracy and Tom on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
- Jay Samit
- Disrupt You!
- Deloitte Digital
- South by Southwest
- Reid Hoffman
- Alexander Daniels
- Tilt Brush
- Fusion 360
- Patents for Dummies
- Morphi App
About Jay Samit
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