I often tell this story during an introduction round at a meeting because it is a fun story. I don’t want to forget it, so I am writing it down here to remember it later.
On April 22, 2014, I visited Geldermalsen for a first meeting with Erik de Bruijn from Ultimaker. I arrived at Roozeveld van der Venlaan, an old farmhouse that had been converted into an office and production hall. When I met Erik, I knew something special was happening here. He was wearing a Google Glass and gave me a tour. It felt like being backstage at a concert.
Initially, I assumed Ultimaker would primarily consist of robotics enthusiasts, but meeting Erik changed my preconceptions. While he was undoubtedly a nerd, his passion for the 3D printing technology extended beyond its technical capabilities. Rather, he was driven by the impact it could have on people’s lives and the possibilities it opened up for democratizing production. He was really on a mission, and his story about democratizing production gave me goosebumps.
Not long after, I was hired as a freelancer to work on YouMagine. It was a great team, I worked with Wilco, Davy, Martijn, Aike, and occasionally Erik himself. In the first week, I immediately noticed that there was a missing link in the team: someone who could think about interaction, the goal, and the design of YouMagine. A few days later, I stood outside with my laptop with one of my best friends, Rowan (there were no meeting spaces available anymore due to growth). After a conversation of a few minutes, he was also hired by Erik. In front of the Ultimaker building. No portfolio was needed; the trust was there.
Months passed, and we created more and more beautiful things for the YouMagine platform. Rowan and I took over the role of product owner and scrum master in the YouMagine team, and with Erik’s help, we planned sprint after sprint.
At some point, Erik came up with a new idea, a print farm. Not one 3D printer making something, but a whole wall of printers. And so we created software that allowed you to send a job to a whole range of 3D printers.
I worked as a freelancer for Ultimaker until April 2017, always with great pleasure, but after all those years, the company had completely changed. The old farmhouse had become a neat building. The company went from startup to a big corp. For me, this was the moment to move on.
Of course, I still kept in touch with Erik. And on January 18, 2019, I sent Erik a message asking how his project was going, which he had told me about a few times, I asked if I could help. He told me he needed something to price charging sessions at a public charging plaza in Culemborg, the existing solutions were not good enough.
A week later, I was sitting with Erik at his home. I thought we were going to program together for just one day, hacking something so he could make invoices for his project in Culemborg.
That one day turned into two days, three days, one fixed day a week, two fixed days a week. Until Erik and I worked on Stekker full-time half a year later.
One year in, Erik van Boekel and Eric-Paul joined. Erik is an expert in energy and could tell us all about how the energy system actually works. Eric-Paul had helped a few times already on his free Fridays with making the native apps.
And so it began…
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