Michelle Mihevc of FATHOM sat down with Disruptive Magazine writer and 3D printing insider Rachel Park to discuss the origins of the company, what it’s like being a female leader in a male-dominated industry, and the hype cycle of 3D printing.
Mihevc co-founded FATHOM in 2008 with Rich Stump, aiming to change the way products are designed and manufactured, leveraging her background in recruitment for the software industry to build an award-winning team of experts—from humble beginnings out of her garage in San Ramon as an authorized partner for Objet 3D printing systems to becoming one of the top distributors and experts in the world for Stratasys additive manufacturing equipment.
The full interview by Park can be found on Disruptive; excerpts from the interview below.
Rachel Park (RP): You set up FATHOM in 2008, ahead of the 3D printing ‘hype’ cycle—can you tell us about the motivation behind your vision and the challenges you face(d)?
MM: I started researching the technology and was blown away by its potential to completely change the way products were designed and manufactured. Additive manufacturing had been around for a couple of decades but there was still an unbelievable amount of companies not using it.
We knew we could make a huge impact. We were in the middle of an economic downturn so it was kind of scary to start a business then, but we were being offered an incredible opportunity in an amazing territory so we jumped at it.
RP: As I see it, people seem to be the key to FATHOM’s success—from the perspective of both the team and the clients. How do you keep the technology from eclipsing the people?
MM: While we do focus on acquiring the latest technologies, it is more so our team’s ability to leverage these that brings the most value to our customers. The expertise and passion of our team is really what makes the difference in the solutions we provide.
We also have a company culture that pushes for collaboration and partnerships across all departments. FATHOM has a lot of programs that help people build strong relationships across the company, including our volunteering program, in-house yoga, sports teams, company outings, and a bunch of other day-to-day activities that nurture a strong team dynamic. One of our company cultural ideals is to bring your best every day – our team definitely embraces this attitude.
RP: There has been an increasing level of negative hype headlines recently, including one that suggests that the 3D printing industry is dying. What is your response to these headlines?
MM: The hype over consumer 3D printing has definitely calmed down, which is what many people think of as the 3D printing industry, but more companies are using 3D printing than ever before.
The 3D printing industry isn’t dying, it’s actually growing, fast.
In fact, the 2016 Wohlers Report (the authoritative source for the industry) valued the industry at $5.2 billion in 2015, which represents about a 25 percent growth over the 2014 report. More recently, larger manufacturers in the space have (…continued)
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