LOVELAND — Jeff Moe’s entrepreneurial spirit has turned the traditional business model for a software company into a free-for-all.
As founder and CEO of Aleph Objects Inc., Moe and his team created a company that develops and manufactures 3D desktop printers. LulzBot is a product line of that parent company: Aleph Objects Inc.
The line includes 3D printers, as well as accessories and parts.
What’s unique about Aleph is that its code, design, plans and spreadsheets are open sourced. Users have the same information as the company does and are invited to modify and improve the technology in the same manner.
As opposed to using the closed-source model, which keeps source code under wraps, Moe believes that technology evolves and advances more quickly when everyone can experiment with the source code.
“Before we even release a new product, people can download and offer their input,” Moe said. “In this century, open and collaborative outpaces secretive and patented.”
The philosophy of open-sourced code makes business a win-win. Customers and other interested individuals have the opportunity to build their own — 3D printers in this case — and to experiment with customized options.
For companies such as Aleph, the feedback that follows can reduce the time its in-house R&D group spends upgrading.
For example, one of the critical components of 3D printers is called a hot end. When one user got ahold of Aleph’s hot-end source code and started working on it, the cloned result was a product that had more features and cost less than the original model.
“We wound up buying it from our cloner and rolling it into our next versions,” Moe said.
His goal is to use collective intelligence and spend time on the tasks that uniquely support the business.
In addition to tapping into technological wisdom and creativity outside of his company, Moe put the management of his company’s employees into the hands of a professional employer organization.
As opposed to an in-house human resource department, he outsources tasks such as employee benefits, payroll and workers comp.
The innovations have helped Aleph grow from a basement business to a crew of 115 in a 17,000-square-foot space in Loveland.
Scaling up has been one of the bigger challenges the company has faced, Moe said. “Not letting any part of the company get ahead of any other part and keeping them all in sync has been demanding,” he said.
Using a communication technique that keeps everyone in the loop has proved to meet the demand.
“We have weekly meetings of each department and between departments so everyone knows what everyone else is doing and stays on the same page,” Moe said. “And once a month we have a companywide meeting so everyone in the company knows what everyone else is doing — from manufacturing and marketing to IT.”