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Student Innovation: Meet Jeff Johansen, Co-Founder of MakeIt 3D

Live Free and Start is New Hampshire’s one-stop business connection for innovators and entrepreneurs. We are featuring its Innovator series to introduce you to some of the very cool things Granite Staters – who may well be your neighbors – are doing. -Ed.

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Jeff Johansen ~ Co-Founder of MakeIt 3D

Please provide your 30-second pitch about your company.

MakeIt 3D is a platform for 3D printing services of all types. It links consumers with hobbyists, makers, designers and inventors. The material extrusion market is growing rapidly, involving people of all skill levels, which in turn is creating the need for skillful services such as design work or prototyping. With this need comes the need for an all inclusive platform to aid these people of all skill levels. MakeIt 3D will allow users to buy and sell digital model files and contract out printing and 3D modeling work. MakeIt 3D’s will have a forum that acts as a multi-faceted tool for all of it’s users, allowing them to review designers, printers and makers. MakeIt 3D’s main goal is to help users share knowledge and learn about the world of material extrusion technology, and make some money while doing it.

What was the inspiration behind your company idea?

Growing up, technology always inspired me. From my early years learning my Windows 98 operating system, I knew that tech was my way of life. A couple of years ago, I learned about 3D printers and was totally captivated by the technology. Soon after, with the availability of printers in my school, I quickly learned that I am absolutely terrible at modeling and design work. My total lack of artistic ability has served as the inspiration behind MakeIt 3D.

What’s the best advice you have received?

The best advice I have ever received came from Ron Emrick, director of engineering innovation at Wasabi Ventures. “Make it work, make it work better”.

It’s a piece of advice that came out of my internship with Wasabi this past summer but I’ve found myself using it in every thing that I do. This piece of advice is very important for me, personally. I always look towards the end picture: make everything work perfectly, look pretty, and function effortlessly all right away. This method isn’t a great choice for building a startup.

“Make it work.” Make everything functional, there can be some minor bugs or flaws, things definitely will not look pretty, and there may be some effort required to use the app, but it works. This half of the phrase expresses the importance of a first draft, of creating a baseline. Then, “Make it work better”. After the functional baseline is completed, all the slick animations, pretty formatting and cool features are built. Through all of Ron’s advice, beyond this phrase, I have found that I’m learning more and more of what it means to become an entrepreneur and build a successful startup.

What was the most challenging part of developing and pitching your startup idea and how did you overcome it?

To date, the most challenging part of developing my startup idea was bringing a more innovative solution to the material extrusion market. It’s easy to copy someone else’s ideas, but how do you make yours new and different? Overcoming this challenge doesn’t exactly happen overnight, in fact it’s a long process. Successful companies are always innovating, creating new, attractive products and solutions. Personally, I have started to attack this problem by talking to as many people as I can about my idea. Soon, I will be working on MakeIt 3D as part of the Commercialization Academy, which will help me to add high-value patented technology to make my startup more innovative. This challenge, albeit long, has proved to be quite fun and I can’t wait to keep attacking it.

What are your thoughts now about starting your own company, either now or later?

Since last fall, when I took a Wasabi Ventures Academy course with TK Kuegler, I have wanted to build tech startups. The way he portrayed his life, his work and his business showed me exactly what I want to do. I’m starting early, as a freshman in college, so that I can have my feet firmly planted on the ground by the time I graduate. This will allow me to spend the rest of my life building companies. TK’s inspiration has sparked within me a passion for startups!

What does the future look like for your company?

Imminently, I will be working on MakeIt 3D through the Wasabi Ventures Commercialization Academy. I am incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to work with Wasabi again and to have access to all of their resources, tools and mentorship. In late October I will be pitching my company in Utica New York, with the rest of the Commercialization Academy cohort. I plan on becoming an entrepreneur with the help of Wasabi Ventures and building an incubated company!

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