Sophomore Kyle Pham made his idea of a subscription-based service that allows people to enjoy 3D printing through a monthly delivery a reality. The only catch — the contents of the shipments are a mystery.
On Sept. 15th, Pham officially launched a Kickstarter campaign for his start-up, CubeForme. Each month, subscribers of CubeForme receive a delivery of featured designers’ 3D printed work.
Pham, who is majoring in cognitive science and philosophy, politics and law, thought of the idea with high school classmate Nick Nguyen when they were brainstorming ideas for creating their own business.
“At first, Nick and I considered using graphic design to make t-shirts, but we soon realized that market was too saturated,” Pham said. “We ended up choosing 3D printing because we were intrigued by the process and figured the average consumer probably was, too.”
According to Pham, 3D printing is an entirely different application because it has a steep learning curve. Most people are not familiar with 3D printing, so he and Nguyen wanted to present it in an easier format that anyone could access and understand.
The duo reached out to a handful of 3D designers to include in the startup. Their vision was to create a platform that could support these designers while giving consumers the opportunity to physically interact with their products.
“I thought a subscription box would be a great way to enter the business field, and Kyle had his heart set on helping artists by featuring them in one way or another,” Nguyen said.
According to CubeForme’s website, every month subscribers receive a box that showcases the innovative work of a featured designer. The contents of the box are always a surprise and anything can be inside them, from aesthetic models of figurines to functional objects such as 3D printable clocks.
Though subscribers won’t know exactly what they will get, they always have the caveat of knowing the designer beforehand.
Luis Picarzo, a mechanical engineer from Spain, is one of CubeForme’s prolific 3D designers.
Picarzo found out about the startup when he stumbled upon an invitation in his email.
“A CubeForme message appeared one day in my inbox in Thingiverse [a design community],” Picarzo said. “Kyle, the cofounder, explained his new platform with a contagious enthusiasm I couldn’t ignore.”
Intrigued by the idea and impressed with the team’s hard work and passion, Picarzo decided to join CubeForme’s initial campaign.
“To me, it is a good way to meet new people with similar interests and inspirations, not to mention I get to continue designing things and improving every day,” Picarzo said.
According to Picarzo, 3D printing is a form of freedom. He considers it a vehicle for constantly creating new things and hopes CubeForme will continue to help him share his passion.
Pham and Nguyen also look forward to raising more awareness about 3D printing. They have already recruited supporters, including fellow students for their team, as well as James Bottom, project director of Blackstone LaunchPad.
“I first met Kyle in my freshman startup seminar,” Bottom said. “He later joined Blackstone Launchpad to seek a more customized roadmap for CubeForme.”
Blackstone LaunchPad is the largest interdisciplinary entrepreneurial program at USC, and has already coached over 250 student ventures since its opening last spring.
“We also have the largest collection of 3D printers, so students can get trained via 3D and 4D printing and create their own prototypes,” Bottom said.
According to Bottom, the program not only helps students develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, but it also builds a community of creators and problem solvers.
Pham and Nguyen both agree that CubeForme’s journey has not always been easy or glamorous, but they’ve been able to learn how to juggle school and workthrough the process.
“While there are ‘big’ days like opening up our website or launching our Kickstarter campaign, a majority of the days we’re figuring out mundane tasks such as how to make shipping labels or where to buy boxes,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said CubeForme has received compliments, but some have criticized its business model.
“Even though we’ve gotten great feedback and support, we also come across individuals who have 3D printers themselves, and they just don’t see it as something for the broad audience,” Pham said.
Nevertheless, with the help of LaunchPad and other USC programs, such as 707Development and 3D4E Club, CubeForme is already on its way to going live.
Currently, CubeForme has 47 backers on its Kickstarter campaign and has already reached $1,564 of its $5,000 goal.
With just over a month left to go, Pham and Nguyen plan on uploading a visual chart of the backer rewards, so supporters can keep track of the startup’s progress and see an illustration of the rewards they will be receiving.
“Our ultimate vision for CubeForme is to make it more than just a subscription box. We want to be a company that connects 3D printing to the greater community,” Pham said.