The Czech startup cotu is housed in an inner courtyard at Palmovka and from the outside you would never know what interesting things are going on inside. The small showroom with samples of 3D printed works indicates that the firm’s portfolio is broad, from small bells and models to mannequins with detailed features such as facial hair, teeth, colourful ties and shoes with laces.
We sat down with sales and marketing director Veronika Harrison, who began telling us the history of the firm. “We’ve been in operation for not quite four years and we are a start-up that, among other things, works for other start-ups. The foundation is prototyping and series production, but our big advantage is that we offer clients a complete process from the initial concept to implementation. And, mainly, our clients can take only a couple dozen units of a product rather than hundreds or thousands as in the case of series production.”
Can start-ups thrive today? Where do they find clients? And is 3D really such a trend of the modern age? We asked Veronika these questions and more in the interesting interview that follows.
Veronika, tell us about your start-up. What exactly do you do?
We are a prototyping studio with overlap into series production. We manufacture professional-grade models and functional prototypes. We also do surface treatment of 3D-printed items by hand so that they look like final products. We can approximate the appearance of the broadest range of materials such as glass, ceramic and metal. We also focus on series and continuous production of already finished parts and products using vacuum forming of plastics numbering dozens to hundreds of units per month.
The statistics speak for themselves. A very large majority of start-ups fail and only the strongest survive. How do you see that from your perspective? Are you finding success? How much do you have to fight for customers?
From our perspective in the area of 3D printing, it’s not difficult to start doing business and to be relatively successful in the first two or three years, when you’re doing business alone. But it’s completely different if you try to achieve success as a firm. We are currently facing a demanding period of transformation from start-up to established firm. The struggle for customers is not easy at all on our market. And retaining them is even harder.
3D printing is currently a topical issue. Do you perceive it as a trend of the modern age?
Definitely. Today, 3D printing is undergoing a transformation from a tool for prototyping to a full-fledged production method. The sci-fi fantasies about manufacturing products on 3D printers at home are not going to come true. Expensive professional-grade equipment will be necessary for additive production using 3D printing. However, it will be possible to manufacture continuously – as much as needed every month with an estimate of actual sales. This eliminates the necessity of major investments in large-scale production. It will be easier to handle manufacturing through a profession provider of 3D printing.
We spoke about your expansion. You already have several colleagues abroad. Are you planning a larger expansion?
We first want to build up our team in Prague. We would like to open a branch with production in Slovakia in a few years.
Thank you very much and good luck!