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“We don’t care about sales as much as what our customers are making” –Voltera Co-Founder Alroy Almeida

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This past weekend’s World Maker Faire in New York attracted a dizzying crowd of maker pros. Here are a few ongoing conversations we noticed that could help bring your startup to the next level — or even launch a new venture.

Crowdfunding Grows Up

At the Maker to Market stage, where entrepreneurs rubbed shoulders with inventors and hackers, no topic attracted as much attention as the evolving role of crowdfunding.

Kickstarter Director of Technology and Design Julio Terra (@julioterra), for example, facilitated a riveting panel with a trio of crowdfunding veterans: Kano Creator Alex Klein (@alexnklein), Gravity Sketch Co-Founder Daniela Paredes(@danielaprds), and Voltera Co-Founder Alroy Almeida (@alroyalmeida).

Crowdfunding tech is a fraught topic, because alongside high-profile success stories, the archives of Kickstarter and Indiegogo are littered with failed, abandoned, and underwhelming campaigns. Key takeaway from Klein, Paredes, and Almeida: prototype early and often, invest in user testing, and keep paying attention to feedback after your product ships.

Relatedly, Technology Will Save Us Head of Product Aaron Johnston framed product development as an exercise in storytelling. He encouraged would-be hardware entrepreneurs to iterate a concept until it arrives at what he calls a “eureka moment” — the point at which an idea becomes a self-contained story that potential customers (or backers!) can instantly grok.

Chariot Solutions Director of Consulting Don Coleman (@doncoleman) put the same sentiment even more bluntly. “Build the worst version you can,” he said, “and go from there.”

The recently-launched startup Maker’s Brand (@makersbrand), notably, is capitalizing on the growing role of crowdfunding expertise: bring them a concept and they’ll assess its feasibility, design a campaign, and arrange manufacturing logistics. This is all for no money upfront; the outfit intends to produce revenue by taking a sales cut of the finished product.

Do you have insights or experience in the fickle world of crowdfunding? Shoot us an email at [email protected].

Fabrication Station

Elsewhere at World Maker Faire, the smell of freshly drilled wood drifted from the table of ShopBot, a venture that exemplifies the maker community’s expanding repertoire of homegrown fabrication startups that have banked, often successfully, on makers’ appetite for competitively priced, hackable tools for rapid prototyping.

Alongside ShopBot and other established fabrication players like Glowforge and Shapeways were a host of rising stars. There was constant buzz, for example, at the tent where Wazer showed off its upcoming — and potentially game-changing — desktop waterjet. Miniaturization, in fact, was a general theme: desktop laser cutter Mr. Beam also turned heads, as well as CNC solutions Tormach, Vectric and Shaper as well as desktop pick-and-place Chipsetter, and many more.

Back at the Kickstarter panel at the Maker to Market stage, Voltera’s Almeida relayed a telling anecdote about the fabrication sector. At Voltera’s office, he said, an alert that sounds every time the company sells a unit generates only mild interest — but when a customer posts to the company’s message board about something they built using the company’s circuit board prototyping machine, everybody gathers round with great interest.

“We don’t care about sales as much as what our customers are making,” he said.

Medtech Makers

At the intersection of nonprofit and industry was a cluster of tables dedicated to bringing the maker ethos to the fields of medicine, biotech, and accessibility.

Representatives from HealthSpace, a new medical makerspace at the University of Texas Medical Branch, showed off a variety of printed medical models that their surgeons have been using to better understand surgeries before patients go under the knife. MakerNurse, an organization of nurses who bring the hacker mindset to patient care, was also in attendance, as were staff from Walter Reed Hospital who displayed a number of beautiful, custom-printed cranial implants.

Elsewhere on the landscape of projects confronting issues of well being and accessibility, the organizers of Cliked Industries, who were demonstrating an elegant prototype that translates text into Braille lettering near the Walter Reed station, expressed what may be an archetypal anxiety for maker pros: though they’re convinced their device could be enormously helpful for the visually impaired, they don’t have time to take the concept into mass production.

“We want someone to steal our idea,” laughed Cliked’s Jason Viovagnoli.

We’re planning an issue of the Maker Pro Newsletter about makers in the world of medicine and biotech. Do you know any people or projects we should highlight? Email us at [email protected].

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

The dramatic rift between the founders of Arduino may be drawing to a close. Make: Executive Editor Mike Senese (@msenese) reports that the two groups have signed a settlement agreement. The Genuino branding, it appears, will continue.

For Forbes, Oddup CEO James Giancotti (@JamesGiancotti) makes the latest case for launching a hardware startup in Chinese manufacturing hub Shenzhen.

Reporting from Kathmandu Maker Faire, Make:’s Nathan Parker draws a distinction between charity and the type of empowerment represented by Nepal Communitere and Burners Without Borders’ makerspace at the heart of the Faire. “This kind of work, this humanitarian making, gives the recipients not charity, but agency, self-governance, and dignity,” he wrote.

And in the LA Times, Paresh Dave (@peard33) muses that while the Internet of Things sometimes seems inevitable, it’s still not remotely clear which companies will build those devices in the long run: aping Snap Inc., will Spotify start peddling connected speakers and Amazon building its own smart bookshelves?

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