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Michael Smith

Zea solves equipment documentation problems for manufacturers. We organize service information into digital twins, and our cloud-based 3D platform is the foundation for next-generation technical communication.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m curious and passionate. I love understanding how and why things work the way they do. The downside of learning how things work is that it leads to tinkering. The desire to tinker with processes and tools in search of better outcomes led me to an impasse within the context of a larger company.

I was tired of doing things as they had been for 20 years, yet management needed more time to prepare for a change.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, whether cutting grass in my teens or running a car repair shop out of a rented garage to help pay for university. When I crossed paths with Philip Taylor, we started exploring what we could do with 3D on the web for equipment documentation. About a year later, I quit my job and embarked on this new journey.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Set fewer and clearer goals, and don’t overthink them.

What problem does your business solve?

We are delivering consistently accurate and up-to-date equipment documentation at scale.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

I’ve spent half my professional career fixing equipment and the other half working with teams at BRP to document and provide technical training to the worldwide after-sales network.

Both experiences taught me the importance of high-quality technical documentation and manufacturers’ challenges in creating and maintaining that content. Philip Taylor and I teamed up to solve those challenges in an economically scalable way.

What is your magic sauce?

We repurpose 3D models from engineering for after-sales by augmenting them with service information.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

To organize service information for manufacturers into digital twins.

The plan is to continue building the most user-friendly cloud platform, helping manufacturers save time and money by using their 3D models to replace traditional forms of printed and online equipment documentation.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

One of our biggest challenges is overcoming the resistance to 3D on the cloud. Companies have policies to protect their intellectual property, and some believe keeping it on-premise is safer.
Other people will argue that printed manuals are still needed; however, anchoring an after-sales support strategy around printed documents in 2023 is a recipe for disaster, so time alone will handle this problem.

How can people get involved?

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