Why Space Matters to Carbon

August 2018
David Bergeron

About Carbon

On a mission to transform manufacturing, 3D-printer company Carbon knows that the journey towards its goal is just as important as the end result. Carbon’s collaborative space in Silicon Valley reinforces the values and strong culture the company has built over its five-year history, and T3 has worked closely with the team since finding its current space, continuing to advise the company as it grows.

We talked with Carbon’s VP of Corporate Development and Administration, Josh Green, on his decision to join the company, Carbon’s culture and cutting-edge space in Silicon Valley, and the partnership with Adidas to create the world’s first midsole crafted with light and oxygen.

You were a venture capitalist on your way to retirement when you decided to join Carbon. What made you join?

I’ve known Joe DeSimone, the founder of Carbon, for almost 12 years, and I literally ran into him at a restaurant in San Francisco. He told me he had just moved his 3D printing company out here and invited me to see him at his company.

After 10 minutes, I did what most people who come to Carbon do, which is drop your jaw and say, “Wow, that’s pretty amazing technology.” Joe had decided to attack it all: hardware, software, and materials, and to do the full play. It was quite ambitious, and it really engaged me. I could see the potential as a platform technology to change manufacturing in a fundamental way. So that, combined with a strong culture that is here, caused me to raise my hand and say, “Joe, I wanna join you.”  And it’s been great ever since.

The technology and company were first developed out of the University of North Carolina. Tell me about the relocation to Silicon Valley?

The company came out here to Silicon Valley, had its first venture capitalist meeting at 9:00 AM, and by 3:00 PM, they had a term sheet in hand. It is really one of those magical Silicon Valley stories. And because the company is a hardware, software and materials startup, it was clear that it needed to relocate to where there was a richer employment base. And of course, there is no mecca like Silicon Valley.

Why is culture important to Carbon?

Culture is at the forefront of everything we do. Joe DeSimone and I agreed that we were a potentially high-impact company—we could change manufacturing. But it was not going to be a worthy endeavor unless the journey itself were just as valuable as the end result; and a strong culture is absolutely essential to making that happen.

Why does space matter to Carbon?

When I began my career, I thought, “Space is space,” that it didn’t matter, and it was all about the people involved. I’ve learned, however, over the decades, that space is the most important determiner of how people behave and how people relate to each other.

I can remember very clearly decades ago at my law firm when we split into two different buildings. Soon enough, a divide existed between the two buildings and there was a competitiveness that never was there before. So when I moved to another firm and decided to use our values, like teamwork, to create a collaborative space, it resulted in not only removing those bad behaviors, but also promoting better behaviors, where we were much more productive.

So space is incredibly important to reinforce and protect the values of Carbon. My favorite thing about this space is that it encourages collaboration. And a lot of startups are fond of saying that, but it really is reflective of our values. Respect, teamwork, excellence—those are on display every minute of every day. We get things done faster here and more responsively. There’s no question that we’re able to execute on projects in a fraction of the time that it would take a larger company to do so. Because we’re all in one location, we’re encouraged to act as team members to make that happen.

Tell me about the partnership with Adidas?

Our relationship with Adidas is really a result of our culture and their culture being compatible from the very first meeting. Quite remarkably, over a 120-day period in 2016, we negotiated a very complex, exclusive arrangement with them in the area of athletic footwear. The partnership quickly moved to creating multiple design iterations and a final product.

Typically, Adidas designs new running shoes over a 15- to 18-month period, and they’ll do four iterations of those, using injection molded parts. In our case, they were able to do 50 design iterations in just four months. And as a result of that, we introduced the first product last year.

For over 10 years, Adidas’ roadmap included a 3D-printed shoe using lattice-type structures that had never been seen before in any kind of running shoe. And then we came along to make the impossible possible. It was clear enablement by Carbon that allows Adidas to fulfill its goals. We think that’s going to happen all the way across manufacturing over the next 10 years or more.