I caught up with Josef Prusa just before the 2017 SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards in Austin, TX. The Original PRUSA I3 MK2, which was the highest scoring printer in Make:’s annual 3D printer shootout, was nominated in the Innovative 3-DIY category, competing against four others.

Just 27 years old, Josef has bootstrapped a 100-person company in Prague and now is selling about 3,000 units a month. Only 8 years ago, he dropped out of college and found his way as a hobbyist building RepRap 3D printers, an unusual path for someone interested in music and having studied economics. Even though he lacks an engineering degree, his design of a 3D printer became recognized as an improvement on what previously existed. His printers are also open source hardware, and his conviction comes in the form of a tattoo of the OSH logo on his arm.

Now that he has become a maker pro, Josef is learning to run a business, and he realizes that “there’s no blueprint for that.” He is brimming with enthusiasm for what he is doing and excitement for a world of possibilities to be created by 3D printers. Here is my interview with Josef — with all the unfortunate background noise of a hotel lobby at SXSW.

Unfortunately, Josef did not win the award. Instead the 3D Doodler Pro won, and no doubt Josef was disappointed, as was I. It’s hard not to root for Josef, although he’s already a winner.

The Innovation Awards mark the close of SXSW Interactive. All the winners are listed here.

Photo by @jrwashley