By Emily Pavlik
As an undergraduate at Old Dominion University, Blade Taylor had a business idea he knew had potential. He also knew he didn't have to wait for graduation to get started. He tapped into the many on-campus resources built for entrepreneurs and today, the 2018 alumnus has a successful, growing business.
Taylor's 3DXtremes, an end-to-end product development firm that offers in-house services such as product design, 3D rendering, physical prototyping and launch + manufacturing strategy, started in the Student Shared Working Space at the ODU Strome Entrepreneurial Center (SEC).
It then moved to the ODU Innovation Center in downtown Norfolk for more space — its first big step in getting out of the safe zone of having a rent-free space on the campus. He subsequently moved to Percolator for more space and is now in a building behind IP Configure/The Colony in the Norfolk Innovation Corridor with interns and four employees.
Taylor graduated with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. A primary focus during his time at ODU was to grow 3DXtremes. He took advantage of the SEC to help build and grow his business.
"Individuals like Nancy Grden, executive director of the SEC, played such a crucial role in helping me grow my company and entrepreneur-oriented skills so that I would be ready for that transition from full-time college student to full-time entrepreneur," Taylor said.
"Blade is a leader who exemplifies entrepreneurship," Grden said. "He has a vision for his company, plans his time and resources, and gives back to others along the way. 3DXtremes has been embraced by the Hampton Roads community directly through programs like the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and 757X, as well as through partners, mentors and customers."
Now, 3DXtremes is participating in events like 757DemoDay. The event presents an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate technology being developed in the 757 area and the global solutions each can provide.
"757DemoDay was a fun way to update the 757 entrepreneurial community on our growth at 3DXtremes, as well as to introduce a software tool called CADSCADE that I've been working on for the past year," Taylor said. "I was thrilled to be able to demo at SVT Robotics and am very excited about their company growth and how their mission will continue to impact and serve the Hampton Roads entrepreneurial ecosystem and beyond."
CADSCADE is a 3D model collaboration software tool built for teams that design and develop new physical products (such as 3DXtremes). In running and growing 3DXtremes, Taylor has seen firsthand how impactful decisions during the design phase can be regarding the production price of a product.
It's easy to focus on designing the product to function and to look "cool," but the cost to manufacture a product plays a crucial role in the overall success of that new idea. It can be difficult to calculate those costs when you're working on the first version of a product design. This is one of the main problems that CADSCADE helps solve.
3DXtremes is always working on new products. Its team recently helped design, prototype and prepare SpiderBracket for manufacturing. The product, a bracket that turns a laptop into a personalized mobile workstation, was funded on Kickstarter and is moving into mass production.
Taylor believes the best thing aspiring entrepreneurs can do is focus on their strengths and to hire the right people to fill important roles that may be their weaknesses. Taylor's focuses are continuing to scale 3DXtremes as a service company, working with clients across the U.S., and to launch and grow CADSCADE.
"I have no idea where I'll be in five or 10 years, so instead I focus on annual growth with three-year targets for life in general," he said. "One thing I am truly striving for is to be considered one of many individuals in the 757 area who are helping to attract and retain tech-talent for private industry, as I think this will be a major determining factor of the overall success of the 757 in the years to come."