They say there’s a success story behind every failure in business. That’s why Bill Master’s story and background is intriguing and thought-provoking. He was the first person to patent 3D Printing. Unfortunately, in an attempt to scale his business, he lost control of his patents due to venture capitalists and ultimately faded out of what is now a $6 billion industry.
We had a chance to interview Bill and asked about his story, how he started his business and the future of Perception Kayaks.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I started by own business – Perception Kayaks – in the beginning because I could see a space in the market and kayaking was it. I began by building kayaks for myself. Soon, others asked me to build kayaks for them. I am a controlled risk taker and entrepreneur at heart and thought – I took the $50 in my pocket and said let’s go for it.
How did you come up with your business name?
I turned to the dictionary! Perception Kayaks was named by its definition. In the Webster Dictionary, perception means an awareness of the environment by physical sensation. It’s what kayaking is all about. It’s what we did.
Where we were different from others, is we built a kayak for everyone. You didn’t have to be super athletic, or a professional boater to be able to paddle a Perception brand kayak. Anyone could do it, and so we opened up the sport to the whole country. We also were the first to use roto-moulding in the design process. That was huge because it made our boats ultra durable. You can’t break them, and so they encouraged people to get out and paddle more.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
The roto-molding we used is really what made us unique and we were the first to use it in North America. Some people say Perception Kayaks is what put whitewater kayaking on the map in North America. Our roto-molded plastic kayaks changed the kayaking industry in large part because it made kayaking a more affordable option for a much larger customer base.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
I founded Perception Kayaks in 1975 and eventually sold it in 1998. Now I teach forums and mentory as I am 69 and retirement is on the horizon. I am still an entrepreneur though, and work on many projects and ideas on the side.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Owning and operating a business is very hard – but VERY rewarding. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to learn who your friends are, and who your enemies could be. Then stay away from them. There are many people who are not there for your best interests in business, and recognizing who you can and can’t trust at the beginning can get you a long way.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
I love this question! It’s “When riding a dead horse, dismount!”
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
Starting Perception Kayaks from nothing is such a huge achievement. I’m now known as the father of modern day kayaking, and in 2017 was inducted into the International Whitewater’s Hall of Fame because of it. Second – and this is a lesser known fact about me – but I actually held the very first 3D Printing Patent in 1984. I had the idea kayaking, laying on the bank of the river and looking up at the stars. I realized that if you could take one star and make that your seed point, you could add stars from any direction until you had the shape you wanted. I filed my patent (U.S. Patent 4,665,492 A) “Computer Automated Manufacturing Process and System” on July 2, 1983 – 2 years before anyone else did.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
To be successful you must jump in all the way. Focus, focus and focus. Hire people smarter than you and lean on their expertise. Don’t be afraid to be crazy 🙂