makerbot Businessweek Predicts Culture Clash Between Open Source and VCs

Bloomsberg Businessweek has a piece on the maker movement, its drift into the mainstream, and its attracting of venture capital interest. The usual suspects are here: MAKE, Maker Faire, Adafruit, MakerBot, DIYDrones (3D Robotics), and some are quoted. The surprising twist is that, after extolling the virtues of open source and the maker community that’s spawned it, the piece suggests that real money can’t come to open source hardware businesses (that whole giving stuff away part), and that OSH will likely be a hard sell to investors. The first suggestion runs counter to the experience of the very companies it quotes and the only example it gives of an actual VC experience is the Foundry Group’s $10 million dollar investment in MakerBot. And they quote Bre Pettis of MakerBot saying that Foundry Group gets it.

I’m not surprised that the only negative comment in the piece is by a venture firm that specializes in manufacturing. I wouldn’t expect them to be in the vanguard of open source investment. Foundry Group’s past investments include Zynga, the social network game developer. That’s the sort of direction one would suspect open source venture money to be coming from.

All that said, it’s encouraging to see the mainstream news and business media catching up with the maker movement. And it’s great that the wider business world is starting to take this space seriously.

The piece even contains a whopper of a quote from the Wharton economist Jeremy Rifkin:

“The maker movement is ‘as significant as the shift from agriculture to the early industrial era.'”

Wow. Take that, shift from industrial era to information age! (And take note of that, venture capital firms.)

The DIY ‘Maker Movement’ Meets the VCs

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.

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