Since enrolling at the University of Waterloo in 2010, I have had the opportunity to start an engineering design team and two companies. I originally applied for the Nanotechnology Engineering program at the University of Waterloo with the hopes of starting a Nanotechnology based company. Coming into the University, I met students who were eager to start something as well. In that year, Blackberry’s CEO Mike Lazaridis, had donated $100 million dollars towards the creation of the Quantum Nano Centre; a building that focuses on Nanotechnology and Quantum Computing.
One day, while going over fourth year design projects, I found a clever group that had created inexpensive Carbon nanofibers (an incredibly strong and durable material with a lot of potential). They were working under the direction of Professor Leonardo Simon, so I emailed him about working together. That summer, I did my first co-op term with him and was able to work under a freshly graduated alumnus, Andrew Finkle (MASC ‘11) (who was also a first generation nanotechnology engineer). He taught me a lot about polymers and materials, but most importantly he taught me about 3D printing.
During that first summer, I was also able to experience the Student Design Centre, which housed all the engineering student teams in the University. Since opening a Nanotechnology company at that time seemed like a far cry, I thought the best way to have a startup experience would be to start an engineering design team for Nano.
Some of my biochemistry classmates and myself found a team of almost a hundred students from different faculties to represent the University of Waterloo in a biomolecular design competition. We placed Bronze.
In 2012, I decided that Nanotechnology Engineering was no longer for me and I wanted to join a program that helped me understand both biochemistry and business at the same time, so I joined Science and Business. The program made my life much simpler, as I would be able to apply things I learned at the startups directly into school and vice versa. During that year, my previous manager, Andrew, contacted me about opening up a company. I was really excited because during that time, Andrew was living with Eric Migicovsky (founder of Pebble) and Michael Litt (co-founder and CEO of Vidyard), and their startups were already quite famous in the area.
It was 2012 and 3D printers were booming. That same year, the University of Waterloo had just opened the 3D print centre, a place where students could use state-of-the art 3D printers for projects, prototypes, robotics, and personal use.
I immediately got fascinated by the technology and started designing away, but after some months, I noticed that the market was becoming too competitive and saturated (and boy, did it explode further). But I thought there was another unaddressed problem with 3D printing, one that would grow as the technology exploded: the fact that 3D printing is still difficult, complex, obscure, and slow. I wanted to build a one-stop-shop for 3D printing, a place where you could do anything from getting designs to selecting printers and finding information about materials. And Lani was born.
Since then, the company has been steadily growing (we are hiring!) and have 5 different locations for printing. We were also one of the winners of the Velocity Fund $25K this past July.