The process of building houses has evolved over the centuries and into modern times. For example, one of our favorite examples of automation is the nail gun. Innovations that stick often result in higher quality, more standardized, and less expensive homes. But other innovations drive up costs because of the materials or labor involved.
The adoption curve of any new technology has certain key moments where it seems to have gained a stronger foothold in the future. 3D printed housing seems to have achieved one of those linchpins at this year’s SXSW: showcasing a curvaceous and beautiful 3D printed home that’s the kind of home that aspiring techies want to live in — not just build for others .
Austin Innos Article about the developments of this 3D house are the best coverage I’ve seen. It’s the first 3D printed house that looked like I’d want to live in it. Not only “wouldn’t mind living in it,” but “would want to live in it.” This home looks fabulous and does things that would be prohibitively expensive using traditional construction methods! Icon has typically focused on smaller or more affordable homes — but I see no reason why they can’t subsidize that mission with high-end homes that really bang.
This feels like the turning point reached in EVs (electric vehicles) when Teslas introduced their Roadster. It shouldn’t be a volume car – this isn’t a volume house. It should appeal to people of a certain income bracket and environmental credentials — and this home fits a similar appeal. It started making electric vehicles objects of desire, not just practical – and this house serves the same purpose (assuming it can be replicated on a small scale too. Tesla’s goal was to build electric vehicles for the masses – and they started with Electric vehicles that regularly cost more than $100,000 — maybe Icon can learn some lessons from this approach and apply them to the housing market.
Austin Inno: For Icon, one of Austin’s best-known and fastest-growing startups, the luxury home represents a new chapter in its evolution. The company has largely made a name for itself by being the first to develop a habitable 3D-printed home and using its technology mainly builds small houses for people with very low incomes or homelessness. It went on Build houses for the needy in Austin and Mexico, as well Projects with NASA.
There are other pivots that we have all lived through. I remember when smartphones went through a tipping point from “feature phone” to Palm Pilot and Blackberry. Each improves on the last. And then the iPhone came along and changed the game (ultimately also with the volume). But each of these products changed the game for a subset of the market. I can’t help but wonder if Icon now has a game-changing position for a certain group of homebuyers.
In my own process and automation market, a key turning point came when the industry agreed on a standard for process notation (called BPMN, or Business Process Modeling Notation). This standard helped pave the way for an explosion of business process tools and solutions, redefining the industry. I’m curious to see if certain standards and interoperability points will result from Icon’s progress.
Personal News: This past weekend our school – Magellan International School – which has been teaching our children Spanish, English and Mandarin for 13 years, celebrated its first personal fundraiser since 2019. I have been a parent, board member, treasurer and president of the board at the past (5 years) and I am now serving the rest of my term on the Board after passing the baton to a great new President – Arthur VanderVeen. Magellan is what my wife, Cindy Lo, and I call our “third startup” with equal pride and love – after RED VELVET and BP3. Magellan was a heart project for us. Together we helped found the Francis Lo iLab for Design+Making – a place for students to turn insights in concrete measures and results. Our desire was to combine the International Baccalaureate curriculum – amazing for its multi- and transdisciplinary approach – with entrepreneurship, manufacturing and tangible things. Magellan made this dream come true with the guidance of Erika Velez, Christen Wilson, Marisa Leon, Patrick Benfield, Andrea Norman and many others! We are so grateful – many kids tell us it’s their favorite part of school!
On March 26, Magellan presented me with the Erin Defosse Inspirational Leadership Award. As CEO, I helped bring this award to the previous two recipients (which I really consider to be the next highest award). Erin Defosse founded Magellan and inspired many of us to join it—by sending our children to school there—but also by giving our time and treasure to make Magellan one of Austin’s truly great educational institutions. Austin is a burgeoning international city and needs an international school that lives up to and helps create that future. Magellan has benefited from two visionary principals – Marisa Leon (our founding principal) and Scott Hibbard, our current principal – as well as a talented and experienced faculty and staff, 70% of whom are from outside the United States.
Receiving this award was one of the greatest honors of my life – and I consider it an honor for our entire family as it was a team effort with Cindy and our children also giving Magellan 100% back! To receive this recognition in front of my colleagues and friends at the Magellan Noche de Gala was inspirational for me and I hope for others!
I hope my little example will inspire others to invest in Magellan – or whatever else you are passionate about in your community. I have learned so much from my Magellan experience that has made me a better husband, father and CEO. And that experience changed me forever.
Listen to something else. SXSW only ended a short week (or two) ago. SXSW 2022 was the first live event since the 2019 edition. Three long years passed between the live conferences and for my part I was pretty excited to have it back. For the first time in years, I was able to connect with my peers in Austin and outside of Austin.
For a glimpse of SXSW from a first-time attendee’s perspective, visit the Austin next podcast – Jason Scharf and Michael Scharf discuss the event – Jason attended and Michael interviews him about his experiences.
I attended and enjoyed (and tweeted about) some of the same sessions he did. I also had a great experience at the Austin Technology Council Gateway Event (if you’re not a member, why not?!), the JP Morgan Chase Welcome Event, the Irish IDA Reception and the Austin Entrepreneur’s Lounge at the Fogo de Chao rooftop (really one of the best experiences of SXSW every year. If you are a guest entrepreneur, you should inquire about an invitation).
So good to have everyone back *in person* at SXSW and at Magellan!