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The maker movement is a remarkable new source of innovation. We are starting to see what results from a powerful combination of open hardware + personal fabrication tools + connected makers. Sometimes this innovation is hard to identify in the excitement that surrounds Maker Faire. Yet at Maker Faire, you can find new products and new startups at various stages of development that you will see almost nowhere else. Business people tell me they come to Maker Faire expecting to have a good time with their family but unexpectedly walk away impressed by the creativity and innovation they find there. As the song says, “there’s something happening here.” Even now, the pace of development is quickening and the number of hardware startups is rapidly growing.

Tim O’Reilly has been urging that the opportunity is now to showcase makers as professionals who are starting new businesses and developing new products. So, I’m happy to announce a new business conference during the week of Maker Faire, taking advantage of the makers who are already coming to Maker Faire. Presented by MAKE, the Hardware Innovation Workshop will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, May 15-16, at PARC, a Xerox company, in Palo Alto, CA. (I’m excited to have PARC host us and this event because of its long history as a source of technology innovation.)

The Hardware Innovation Conference will present a number of hardware-related startups and review the major platforms and the new toolset for prototyping and personal fabrication. It’s an intimate setting to meet the leaders of the maker movement and understand how makers are changing the technology landscape, in much the same way that enthusiasts once helped to create the personal computer industry.

Our presenters will include:

  • Massimo Banzi of Arduino, an Italian interaction designer and engineer who created this open source microcontroller. The Arduino platform has become the Linux of open source hardware and it is found at the heart of many maker projects.
  • Carl Bass of Autodesk, a maker himself whose new consumer division, which acquired Instructables, is exploring the software and services needed by this emerging maker market.
  • Jay Rogers of Local Motors is creating an open source car through collaborative design and he’s built a micro factory for assembly of these cars by the owners themselves.
  • Ayah Bdeir of Little Bits is one of those non-traditional product designers who has developed a new educational product.
  • Allan Chochinov of Core 77 is starting a new program called Products of Design at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, which is reshaping product design around what makers are able to do.
  • Nathan Seidle of SparkFun Electronics runs one of the major suppliers for maker projects. He’s also a partner for makers who have the idea but not the factory to build a new product.
  • Bre Pettis of MakerBot will explore the 3D printing opportunity in consumer markets. MakerBot is the Apple II of the personal fabrication revolution. Brad Feld of Foundry Group will tell us why he’s invested in Makerbot.
  • Mark Hatch of TechShop, whose membership model for a community workshop has become a hub for hardware innovators.
  • Bunnie Huang of Chumby and author of “Hacking the Xbox,” who understands how Asia’s manufacturing capacity might be tapped by makers.

Check our event website for full program details.

The lesson for us from makers is that hardware isn’t as hard as it used to be. It’s benefiting from the same forces that allowed open source to reshape the software industry and create the web economy. Makers are part of a prototyping revolution that is inviting a new audience to design and develop products. Open technologies and new collaborative processes just might change the face of manufacturing by making it much more personal and more automated. Unlike traditional manufacturers, makers are able to pivot easily to serve niche markets. In addition, larger companies are hiring makers and maker advocates to infuse their own teams with creative ideas and keep track of these new market opportunities.

The conventional wisdom is that Silicon Valley investors don’t like hardware startups, but that’s not stopping makers. We even see hardware startups raising capital from non-traditional sources such as Kickstarter. (Twine raised over $850,000.) This is causing some investors to pay attention. As an angel investor said to me recently: “Everybody’s just looking at mobile/social. I want to look at things outside that well-developed space and that’s why I’m looking at makers.”

Please join me along with Tim O’Reilly and the creative team of MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire for a program focused on maker-led innovation at a historic location in the Silicon Valley. Due to the venue, we are limited to 300 participants. If you’re coming from outside the Bay Area, you can stay for the weekend of fun at Maker Faire, May 19-20th.

Event: Hardware Innovation Workshop
Dates: May 15-16
Location: PARC, a Xerox company, Palo Alto, CA

Dale Dougherty

I’m founder of MAKE magazine and creator of Maker Faire. I am CEO of Maker Media, the company that produces MAKE, Maker Faire and Maker Shed. I am Chairman of the Maker Education Initiative (www.makered.org).


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