Tech Pitch: I Can Make

Co-founded by the former CTO of Moshi Monsters, 3D printing start-up I Can Make is bringing a "new form of publishing" to the fore

Company name: I Can Make
Founders: Chris Thorpe (46), Becky Fishman (41), Mark Simpkins (44), Dean Vipond (39)
Background: Thorpe is the former CTO of Moshi Monsters, Vipond has worked on BAFTA Award-winning projects, Simpkins built the Vogue UK iPad app and Fishman has work on sales for major subscription products at world class publishers.
Based in: The Internet/@SlackHQ. We have offices in London but our founders and team live and work in London, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire, Herfordshire and Glasgow.

Very simply, what does your tech start-up do?

I Can Make creates 3D printable content and associated materials (we’re a new form of publisher) and this in turn:

  • Gets the 3D printer out of the cupboard and into the classroom by giving teachers something meaningful to do with it in class.
  • Helps to make the 3D printer a fun thing in the home, giving parents the confidence to buy one and helping parents and children make things together.

Tell us why there’s a need – what do you disrupt?

We see ourselves as enablers rather than disruptors. We help teachers and parents make the most of 3D printing and feel comfortable using it in front of children. This in turn makes 3D printing a part of the children’s lives and hopefully they’ll go on to disrupt supply chains, manufacturing, product design and a vast number of things we can’t even begin to imagine.

Are you funded?

We’ve had funding from Bethnal Green Ventures, the Nominet Trust and Wayra. We’re in the middle of an SEIS round at the moment, looking for investors who share our vision and mission.

What were you doing before starting?

A very diverse mixture but we’ve all worked in either publishing or media for companies such as the BBC, Channel 4, Six to Start, Oxford University Press, Macmillan, Mind Candy, The Guardian and the Saïd Business School.

We’ve all been working in digital since the early days of it being an industry and we’ve known each other individually and collectively through past projects and Twitter. We started thinking about what could be done with 3D printing in schools after a project where we laser scanned a historic steam train, made 3D prints of them and showed them at Maker Faires in the US and UK and noticed that you could have the most amazing discussions about engineering and technology with children while they playfully tried to assemble all the parts.

The familiarity of the objects made it easier to talk about the technology and the physical objects made it easier to talk about the subject and helped the kids to learn. We started working together formally on how to turn this observation into a product at Bethnal Green Ventures where we were part of their Winter 2014 cohort and have been adding talented friends together into the team since then as and when we need their skills. Since we’ve all been working in the industry for 15 years on average we seem to be able to find someone we’ve worked with who has exactly the right skills for anything we need to do.

What’s the best thing about where you’re based?

Where we’re physically based in Wayra’s academy in London is great as we have access to some very smart, very experienced people while also being around a very diverse set of start-ups. Where we’re based outside of the office (when we’re working remotely) is great as we get to spend more time with children and family which makes what we do possible.

We understand on a very fundamental level from our children and their friends what we need to do and we also get to spend time with our children’s teachers and other parents who are the people who will be our audience. We’re not constantly in a bubble, but we also have access to all of the serendipitous connections which occur from being part of the London ecosystem when we’re there.

I Can Make was a finalist at the 2014 Pitch to Rich competition, enter to pitch your business to Sir Richard Branson for Pitch to Rich 2015 here.

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