Tyler McNaney can check a major goal off his bucket list.
The 25-year-old Milton native and Filabot founder was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list a few months ago. Humbly looking at the magazine last week in his Barre warehouse, he said being nominated is both exciting and frightening.
“It’s cool to get that acknowledgement, but we’re still chasing down that dream — that mission of recycling the widest range of plastics,” he said. “When we’re done, we can throw in the towel and walk away, but we’re still not done.”
Getting on the list gives him even more drive to advance the effort.
Filabot builds machines for plastic extrusion. The machines convert plastic into filaments for 3D printer use.
Forbes 30 Under 30 flaunts NASA and Google as Filabot’s customers, and McNaney had a few more notables to add: MIT, Yale, Harvard and Brown.
“There are so many colleges that I could never get into that have our systems,” the Milton High School grad and Vermont Technical College dropout said, smiling. “So, technically, we got into [them].”
The company has up to 5,000 customers and 3,000 systems distributed.
About six months ago, McNaney said Filabot shifted its focus to diminishing plastic waste streams. A program it kick-started a year ago allows users to send their failed 3D prints, for a fee, to the Barre warehouse.
Sifting through a chest-high cardboard box of failed prints last week, McNaney came across the usual filament and scraps and some intriguing figurines, too — a small astronaut, pink cookie cutters and a bust of a man sporting some thick frames.
Filabot’s collected about 5,000 pounds of the recyclable material, which is otherwise thrown away. Once processed, the waste will be donated to charities that can use the material.
McNaney is making a philosophical waste shift, too.
“If you look at our business model and how we operate, we’ve shifted to a self-directed culture,” he said. Efficiency-wise, McNaney is looking at time as an element of waste.
In this new work culture, he wants people to adopt projects they’re inspired to work on. Each team member is open to explore, create and imagine outside his or her core responsibilities, he explained.
Looking back, McNaney tracks this mindset back to his days tinkering around in his parents’ Milton workshop, building a go-kart (too fast to run more than once) and re-making old cars.
Filabot is constantly changing, he said, including its business plan, warehouse organization and partnership opportunities.
McNaney said there are some exciting transformations ahead, but he’s not ready to unveil them just yet. For now, he’s hoping some of the Forbes connections he’s made will open up new opportunities.
In December, he attended a party in New York City to honor the winner’s circle. Approximately 15,000 entrepreneurs were nominated for the accolade, which was then whittled down to about 600, McNaney explained.
Meeting others in the manufacturing and industry group was valuable networking, he added. He also met people from the other 22 categories, which include finance, energy sports, retail and ecommerce, celebrities and more.
While he didn’t get to meet Chance the Rapper – a nominee last year – McNaney is hopeful he’ll be able to check that off his bucket list sometime, too. He did, however, meet the choreographer for Beyonce, Britney Spears and Rihanna — useful resources if he ever makes an unlikely career switch to the entertainment industry.
What resonated with him the most in NYC, though, was the like-mindedness of those awarded.
“Everyone was really humble to be awarded, and they weren’t doing their work to get [the award],” he said. “They were doing their work to actually solve issues and work on problems.”
The award wouldn’t be possible without the whole Filabot team, McNaney said. Two other staffers — Whitney Trudo and Josh Heisler — also hail from Milton.
“Milton is a small town. Vermont is a small state. And if people work hard enough, they can really push past the limitations and issues regardless of who’s right or wrong,” McNaney said.
While he hasn’t namedropped the Forbes award often, he did (embarrassingly) admit he’s gained a couple “fan-boys.”
“I don’t have a [college] degree, and we’re in 30 Under 30,” he said. “So, just go do it. Come up with a plan, then hit the ground running. But definitely hit the ground running.”
Clarification: An earlier version of this story said Filabot has distributed 3,000 systems to about 5,000 customers. This was clarified to say that Filabot has nearly 5,000 customers and has distributed up to 3,000 systems, since the company serves clients that buy its machines and those who use its other services.