Samantha is an officer in the Air National Guard and the CEO and Co-Founder for re:3D where she works with dirty fingernails facilitating global connections between others printing at the human-scale and/or using recycled materials.
A serial entrepreneur, she currently volunteers as the Chair of IEEE Entrepreneurship. Previously, she served as the Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence for NASA HQ and Deputy Strategist supporting the NASA JSC Space Life Sciences Directorate after selling a start-up for a DARPA-funded, co-patented tissue culture device.
→ Sam, you have spent your career at the forefront of technological change. How do you describe your work to others, and how is your work currently affecting change?
At re:3D we are working to enable anyone, anytime, anywhere to have the tools they need to independently problem-solve onsite. As part of this focus, we are committed to decimating the cost & scale barriers to functional 3D printing. After pioneering the world’s first affordable, human-scale industrial 3D printer (the Gigabot), re:3D is now enabling 3D printing from reclaimed plastic via directly from pellets or flake (Gigabot X). Along the way, we’ve been honored to donate one Gigabot for every 100 3D printers sold to someone trying to make a difference. We are also passionate about supporting conversations around new job creation and ensuring that our offices are invested in local entrepreneurship & education initiatives.
→ What have you learned about yourself as a leader during your career?
Bootstrapping a socially-driven, open-source, hardware company that manufactures in the USA is a road less traveled when compared to our peers on accelerators we’ve done. We have to be very creative and lean to defy the odds.
As I grow as an officer in the Air Force, I think I am growing as a teammate at re:3D. I am thankful for the opportunity to be exposed to new leadership skills and techniques that hopefully improve my ability to contribute at re:3D. The military also has exposed me to techniques to better manage my time and help me make quick decisions, which we often must do at re:3D.
I joined the reserves on my lunch hour at NASA JSC when I was 29 because I wanted a way to serve and give back. I had never planned to be in the military. Similarly, I never chose to be an entrepreneur. I simply chose to pursue a mission with peers. This led to the founding and acquisition of my first venture (a life sciences company), which led to joining some friends as a NASA contractor and resulted in leaving with like-minded peers to form re:3D. In hindsight, I would say I am an accidental entrepreneur.
I think what these experiences have taught me about myself as a leader is that I am very independent, mission-driven and motivated by the amazing people I serve alongside.
People tell us at re:3D that we are crazy almost every day for not fundraising, for not outsourcing our manufacturing and assembly. For donating one 3D printer for every 100 sales, for spending so much time and money trying to create large scale affordable 3D printers to print from plastic waste in an undefined market. For opening an outpost in Puerto Rico and staying after the hurricanes, and for being open-source. While we may be crazy, we have had the honor of working with a team and community for 5 years.
I don’t think re:3D’s success is necessarily a testament to my leadership, rather an outcome of a dynamic and passionate group of people that work hard together, that I gain inspiration from as a leader every day.
→ Sam, we’d like to say - you are successful yes because of people working together and in part because of your leadership to create the space and energy for all that to happen! :)
→ If you had $10M of your own wealth to bet/invest in one future technology, what would it be?
I would invest it in our Unreasonable friends at Lanzatech, who are converting waste gases to fuels and chemicals, from any source of CO or CO2.
→ Please share with us, what’s the best piece of radical advice you’ve been given?
A navy admiral once told me when I was a 2nd Lt that I could be stupid for a day or stupid forever. For this reason, he advised me to be bold in asking questions.
→ What’s the most enlightening book you have read?
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
I find it really remarkable that such a young lady had the courage to stand up and risk so much for her community. I admire her confidence and resiliency.