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Chris Norman
CEO, Kraftwurx & Digital Factory

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I was watching my son play a video game where he tuned up his video game car in a virtual garage and I thought, that’s what people want. Brands want that, and people want to customize it and order it.

How did you find out about 3D printers? Did you think they would change the way everything is made forever?

I was exposed to them in college, and through various jobs I had in the manufacturing industry. I knew some things would change, but they’re not replacing injection-molding any time soon.

What is the patent situation with some of your competitors who beat you to market possibly using your idea as their business model?

I have sent them letters informing them that they are in violation of my patents, in fact, I sent those letters years ago and they haven’t changed the way they do business, so that means in court it’s triple the damages. Yes, I have patents that cover what they do and I could sue them. I have no plans to at the moment, but I reserve the right to in the future. I think that they have been a good test-model and in a way a good thing because I know my business model works. They did some things wrong that we can do right and do better than they will.

Are you a patent advocate? What about open-source / DIY?

I think the open-source stuff is cool, but no business has time to spend pulling messed up prints out of MakerBots, they have to get things done and the big guys have done serious R&D that makes their printers amazing. Without patents, we wouldn’t have that R&D because people would just copy the innovators and the innovators would go out of business.

What are the top skills needed to become an entrepreneur?

You need to constantly evolve and roll with the punches. You’ll need to constantly look at yourself and be critical of the way you are doing things, but on the same token, you need to do what you believe you can do; if you think you can make it to the moon, you can, and people will tell you that you cannot, don’t listen to them, listen to yourself.

How did you acquire investors?

Family members; all good things start from a garage ya know? You’ll be surprised, people that own big businesses would rather invest the money their business earned than take it as a ‘bonus’ at the end of the year because of the giant tax hit, it’s like they have all this money and need a place to put it.... Well, why not in your business?

What has been the most satisfying moment in being an entrepreneur?

I suppose it’s when I launch a new product at a demo and I get to show people what I have been working really hard for... That and our first order that went through the system was pretty thrilling.

How long do you stick with an idea?

Well, it’s been about ten years...I’m still working on it.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

We’re going to empower others to have their own business on their website, and brands are going to emerge through our systems that rely on us for the logistics and output. We’re really going to be doing serious amounts of business. We’re in talks with some big companies, like Wal-Mart... We told them to wait for while but that yes, their suspicion is correct, people will be able to customize items on their website and order and we’ll handle the rest...(one day).

How do you deal with the fact that 3D printing is still an emerging technology?
(Equipment gets outdated, etc...)

Keep the overhead low, and don’t even bother owning printers, they’re like computers, the next one is coming out when you’re buying yours. We don’t own a single printer; they’re all owned by the guys who we contract for the output...they’re all over the globe too. The machines just keep getting better and better and so the progress is a good thing, not a bad thing for us.