Intelligent Machines

Marina Hatsopoulos, SM '92

Entrepreneur builds success in 3-D printing venture

Even as a kid, Marina Hatsopoulos dreamed of running her own business. She studied her passions—math and music—at Brown University and then landed an ideal first job at Chase Manhattan on Wall Street. But soon she felt something was missing. “I felt like I wasn’t creating anything,” she says. To get closer to operations, she went to work in 1990 for her dad, George Hatsopoulos ‘49, SM ‘50, ME ‘54, ScD ‘56, at his technology company Thermo Electron. Working in mergers and acquisitions, she found that she needed more knowledge herself, so she came to MIT for a master’s in mechanical engineering.

While she worked on that degree, Hatsopoulos and her husband, Walter Bornhorst, SM ‘64, PhD ‘66, bought and rehabbed some decrepit buildings in the Back Bay. Hatsopoulos did the CAD design work and fabricated three-dimensional models. In 1994 when she was researching potential business opportunities in MIT’s Technology Licensing Office, a 3-D printing technology jumped out. The machines could quickly produce inexpensive prototypes for everything from bleach bottles to motorcycle engine blocks. “I understood the value of a physical model for the architectural application, and I could imagine the same to be true for the design market,” she says. She licensed the technology and started Z Corporation with her husband and Jim Bredt ‘82, SM ‘87, PhD ‘95.

The company grew rapidly, and they sold it to a Danish conglomerate in 2005. “In retrospect, we were incredibly lucky with the technology,” she says. “It proved out much better than we had hoped. The whole thing was a fantastic experience.”

Hatsopoulos has long maintained her MIT connections through a vibrant network of entrepreneurs. “Jon Hirschtick ‘83, SM ‘83, the founder of Solidworks, is an alum,” Hatsopoulos says. She brought him onto Z Corporation’s board, where he was “enormously helpful” as a mentor. Today, Hatsopoulos is in that role herself. A founding member of the advisory board for MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, she regularly advises alumni and students and serves as a director at Tea Forte and Cynosure, a medical-appliance company.

Boston is home for Hatsopoulos, her husband, and their four kids; they all enjoy snowboarding and golf. Now she’s living another lifelong dream, taking writing classes and working on a novel, but she’s still an entrepreneur at heart. “I’m looking for new opportunities,” she says. “I’d like to do another startup, but instead of having the CEO role, take on the role of active chairperson and help some MIT grads get some other new technology off the ground.”

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