Lessons learned at a 3D printing startup – 3DPI interview CubeForme co-founder Kyle Pham

For just over a year CubeForme has been 3D printing’s answer to subscription-based gift boxes. Unfortunately, as the year comes to a close, the California-based company are also winding down and December’s edition will be the last one from the team as they prepare for new ventures. Eager to hear what the creators had to say about the process, 3DPI interviewed co-founder Kyle Pham who handles the managing and outreach side of the business, and learned of his relentless positive and entrepreneurial spirit that drove him to start a business whilst still in college.

Cubeforme ‘Adventure’ subscription boxes

CubeForme was initially conceived as a venture in which Pham and his friend Nicholas Nguyen could learn something new. As 3D printing is a technology often on the periphery of popular culture, it was the perfect vessel for their ideas. After finding themselves trawling 3D model sharing platforms and finding plenty of objects that challenged product design and created hype, often in fandoms, it occurred to them that the best way to create an impact would be to spotlight the designers behind all of these talked-about objects.

The Patrick Buddha designed by will be one of the 3D printed objects still available to buy from CubeForme's online store.
The Patrick Buddha designed by Kirby Downey will be one of the 3D printed objects still available from CubeForme’s online store.

Their decision to close subscription comes as both founders are moving onto further studies, and with print times for each object running to an average of one hour, and around 5 different objects per box, production has to be constant – as soon as one box goes out, the next one had to start. The whole team are looking forward to scaling-back on this, and using the time to apply themselves to more intensive studies, and work on something new.

When asked about his favorite CubeForme box of the whole process, Pham gave a special shout out their first ever featured designer Jim Rodda (zheng3) who became a longstanding ally in the project. This lasting partnership gives foundation to one of the things Pham cited as an important lesson gained from the project; ‘Absolutely value what you can get out of an email.’

Cubeforme Jim Rodda box from September 2015. Photo by Cubeforme.
Cubeforme Jim Rodda box from September 2015. Photo by Cubeforme.

Past boxes also include the ‘Gizmo’ from 3D Brooklyn designers – innovative designs for household items including a cactus-shaped wall hook; the ‘Flight’ box by Connor Devine in which all the objects can be used to up-cycle something else, e.g. an old CD or water bottle; and a ‘Geek’ box that had a host of objects from video games, comics and cult TV shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The 'Flight' box from June 2016. Photo via: Kyle Pham
The ‘Flight’ box from June 2016.

Their ‘Finale box’ will be a compilation of Jim Rodda, 3D Brooklyn, and 3D Central designs, and it still isn’t too late to subscribe as the final box is due to be shipped in December and kick-off 2017.

In the interview, Pham also touched on how even failures can be a success in disguise. The team launched a Kickstarter campaign in the latter half of 2016 which was unsuccessful, but still earned CubeForme some traction from a marketing perspective.

They will continue their social media accounts alongside the online marketplace, and have plans to start a YouTube channel. As far the next venture goes, Pham was secretive on the subject he said, ‘I can’t speak much about it because it’s too preliminary in terms of idea development’ but promised to update 3DPI as soon as the next thing came up.

One final piece of advice given by Pham was; ‘just take the idea and launch because the sooner you get started with your new business, the sooner you start learning more about it’. To be honest, we can’t think of anything much more inspiring that. If you have an idea, get to it. We’d also love to hear about it so be sure to drop us an email with ‘3D printing startup’ in the subject.

To close, Pham gave the following statement:

To all of your readers, and to everyone who has heard about Cubeforme, or been involved with it on either end of customer or designer, the whole team and I […] couldn’t be happier to have had this as our first venture. It’s been a good ride!’

We wish him and the team all the best for future, and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Featured image shows the CubeForme September 2016 box with a collection of its trademark logo buttons. All photos in this article were provided by Kyle Pham.