The artist who democratized manufacturing—Bre Pettis

Part of the business owner to business owner series, ‘Flight paths’

How a broken bike led to 3D printing

From an early age, inventing and getting things done has been Bre Pettis’s passion. He's been a “puppeteer, artist, public school teacher, waiter, video blogger…” Now, he’s the inventor known for bringing 3D printers into our lives.

After college, Bre “showed up” at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, hoping to help create the sophisticated puppets they make there, no payment required. Though he eventually got paid, Bre values the skills he learned there much more.

In everything Bre does, there’s a drive to create. “Being an entrepreneur is what you have to do if you want to get something done,” he says. He often asks himself, “How can I unlock potential in human beings?”

Bre is one of the entrepreneurs who shares his story with us for our special video series, 'Flight Paths." Watch highlights from his interview.

A fall through the ice builds tolerance

Career milestones

Freewheeling childhood

Climbs trees, builds things, witnesses birth of computing era

“Shows up” in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop

Makes super-custom robot prototypes

Artist > Teacher > video pioneer

Discovers market for instructional videos

Starts one of first co-working spaces

Creates hit poster Cult of Done Manifesto

Launches 3D printing industry

Challenge leads to creating a robot that can “print” a shot glass

Sells $600m company

Decides to focus on fostering talent and empowerment

People and place: the new measures of success

I don’t have a lot of memories of discouragement because I’ve just filtered them out.

Bre opened one of the first co-working spaces in the country, in Brooklyn. There, he and Kio Stark wrote The Cult of Done Manifesto, printed it on a poster and saw it become a sensation.

Bre’s next sensation would be even bigger. He started the company MakerBot with his friends, and wound up revolutionizing 3D printing. “We figured out how to make a 3D printer for about $1,000." (At the time, 3D printers sold for about a $100,000.) In Bre’s mind, he and his friends were “handing the means of production to the people.”

“Those early days of experimentation were pretty magical,” he recalls. His friends and family invested $75,000 in the fledgling business. Then, $11.2 million in venture funding fueled MakerBot’s growth. It sold for over $400 million to a strategic buyer.

I’m not good at sitting on a beach. I’m not good at not doing things.

You have numerous options after you’ve sold a company with 600 employees, but taking a break was not part of Bre’s plan.

“Now I'm in a position where I get to, sort of, turn the dials and start all over again.” Bre’s new company, Bantam Tools, makes robotics that guide machinery. “It’s a different sort of experiment.”

This time, Bre has a small team of 17, set not in an urban setting, but in a much smaller city that had been an early industrial center. He expects that these decisions will have a meaningful impact on his community and on his employees’ lives.

The Cult of Done Manifesto, by Bre Pettis and Kio Stark

  • There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  • Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  • There is no editing stage.
  • Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  • Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  • The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  • Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  • Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  • Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  • People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  • Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  • Destruction is a variant of done.
  • If you have an idea and publish it on the Internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  • Done is the engine of more.

Learn more from the entrepreneurs of ‘Flight paths’

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