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Catching Up with Josef Prusa at the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards

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
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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty