Matheson LUCAS MATHESON of Pinshape has his MBA from the U of A, is a CFA Charterholder, and has worked for AIMCo, Deloi!e, and Capital Power. With this list of accomplishments, Lucas went on to be a co-founder of Pinshape, which has been dubbed the “iTunes for 3D Printing” in this industry. He took our call over Skype from his home base in Vancouver and shared his experience with Silicon Valley, 3D printing, and tech start-ups.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED WITH PINSHAPE? Nick Schwinghammer (co-founder of Pinshape) and I met while doing our MBAs, and when we finished grad school I was exploring industries that I thought would be fun to start a business in. I started reading about 3D printing and seeing it pop up in the news and in "e Economist. I started to become more curious about where the industry was going and where there was room to participate. One day Nick saw me out of the window of his oﬃce and we ended up going for lunch the next day. I told him about my idea and asked if he would be interested. We spent the next four months exploring the space, buying research papers, checking out competition in the market, and trying to understand where we think the industry is going. From there we put together a scope document and a business plan, competed in a couple business case competitions, and that’s how we got started. HOW DID YOU FUND PINSHAPE INITIALLY? Luckily Nick and I both had full-time jobs at the time, so we used our funding to bootstrap the business for about six months. We were also lucky that we found a technical co-founder [Andre Yanes] to build our web application who was willing to work for free for equity in the company. We set milestones, and as [Andre] achieved those milestones he earned more equity in the business. So that allowed us to invest a minimal amount of money in the first couple of months. A$er that we applied and got into 500 Startups which is an accelerator in the Silicon Valley. "ey invested $100,000 US and brought us into the program in California. Part of the program taught us how to raise money and connect with investors, and then we subsequently raised money. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE STUDENTS INTERESTED IN STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS? If you’ve been thinking about starting a company: do it as early as
you possibly can. I wish I could go back and start a company right out of undergrad. In the Valley I’m an older entrepreneur; in my team I’m definitely one of the oldest and it’s definitely a challenge when you’re married with kids. I have two young boys and I’ve been very lucky to have a wife that’s incredibly supportive of my ambition and passion in starting this company. So my advice for people is to get going as early as you can, and take advantage of all the time you have in school to learn as much as you can. WHAT’S A GOOD BUSINESS BOOK? Our whole team read a book called "e Lean Startup. It completely changed the dynamic and culture of the company and gave us permission to learn. "e Lean Startup provides a framework for how you can learn from your customers. So that’s the first thing I’d read, especially if you want to start a tech company. YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU HAD WASTED A LOT OF TIME IN THE BEGINNING OF PINSHAPE, WAS THERE ANY PART OF THE PROCESS YOU COULD HAVE CUT OUT LOOKING BACK? Do not write a business plan. Do not do a financial model. If people ask you to do those things, it’s a complete waste of time. A business plan is great for a retail store in a traditional market, but when you’re creating a technology start-up, the reality is you have no idea what you’re doing. What I would recommend is thinking about how you can quickly and eﬃciently talk to customers and get as much information about real customers to understand the problems they’re facing. "e strategies that companies are using in the Valley are allowing them to learn so much faster because they’re assuming that they don’t fully understand the problem they’re solving and spend more time collecting information to make be!er decisions. "ey build a vision, and do everything they can to accomplish that vision.