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“We are building an industrial system where very experienced carpenters and people with few qualifications work together.” — La Fabrique founder Fabrice Poncet

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The Perils and Promise of Equity Crowdfunding

Recent legislation has opened the door to raising venture capital from groups of small-time investors, much like crowdfunding a project on Indiegogo (@Indiegogo) or Kickstarter (@kickstarter) — except that instead of buying one unit, your investment could potentially make you wealthy.

Or it could bankrupt you. A few years in, equity crowdfunding shows enormous promise, but there’s also continuing concern about fraud and incompetence that could fleece less-savvy investors.

“Investing in startups is really risky, and it’s very different than buying a used couch,” Ryan Feit (@ryanfeit), the founder of equity crowdfunding platform SeedInvest (@SeedInvest), told the New York Times. “We definitely do not think you should treat it like Craigslist.”

For maker pros, the law could represent a new pathway from idea to market. Take Beta Bionics (@BetaBionics), a medtech startup by a Boston University professor who says he’s developed a bionic pancreas. Or Play Impossible, a gaming company that’s using tiny sensors to turn balls into high-tech gaming controllers. Wherever this goes, we’ll be watching.

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Kickstarter: Secrets of the Sages

Serial entrepreneur Natasha Dzurny (@TechnoChicShop) kicked off a six-part series on Make: this week that will document how she prepares to launch her latest crowdfunded project, a set of light-up paper bowties, from workshopping and prototyping to manufacturing and promotion.

Speaking of crowdfunding, we spoke this week with Travis Hancock (@HancockTravis), who represents half of Facade Games (@Facade_Games), the husband-and-wife team behind the breakout board game Salem. Hancock’s advice, if you want to succeed like they have: playtest exhaustively. The couple spent eight months, he said, iterating their latest game, a pirate saga called Tortuga 1667 that’s already raised nearly $200,000.

“Rather than worry too much about how to market the game or build momentum, we knew that if the product was awesome that people would back us on Kickstarter and share the project with others,” Hancock told us.

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Meet the Maker Pros

Open source hardware outfit Opendesk (@open_desk) just ran the second in a marvelous Q&A series about the maker pros who use its platform. First we heard from Fabrice Poncet and Nicolas Autric at the Lyon-based la Fabrique (@LaFabriqueDIY), and then from Enrique Hernandez, who runs Ensambleria (@Ensambleria) in Mexico City. Each was accompanied by beautiful photography of the subjects’ work.

We hope Opendesk keeps running these, because each provides a captivating peek into the lives and processes of successful maker pros.

Take Poncet, for instance: “We are building an industrial system where very experienced carpenters and people with few qualifications work together, organised in a team that makes interesting work for all,” he said of la Fabrique.

How to Grow a Robotics Business

Writing for Make:, DJ Sures details his journey from a hobbyist to the founder of EZ-Robot (@EZ_Robot), a robust robotics platform used by educators in some 80 countries. Sures’ saga is a must-read for any would-be hardware entrepreneur — it traces the journey from concept to angel investment and beyond.

A key decision when Sures was designing an early model was to build in mobile phone support in order to leverage handsets’ comparatively juicy processing power. He soldered the first 100 bots in his basement, and when they sold out in a week, he knew he was poised for something big.

Sures’ story is just one from the latest issue of Make:, which explores the world of DIY robotics. For further reading, check out this interview with Seeed Studios (@seeedstudio) founder Eric Pan (@256ericpan), this profile of an autonomous robot boat, and this piece by a 16-year-old who developed a robotic Lego walker.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

It wasn’t immediate, but tech leaders soon came out against the Trump administration’s controversial travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority nations — and their ranks included maker pros. “High-technology companies need the caliber and volume of engineers countries like India and China produce because unfortunately the United States’ output alone does not meet the demand of employers here,” goTenna (@gotenna) CEO Daniela Perdomo (@danielaperdomo) told Inc.

Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) reviewed Andrew “Bunnie” Huang’s (@bunniestudios) new book, The Hardware Hacker. Kraft was impressed; Huang’s life, he wrote, reminded him of “something that was ripped right out of a William Gibson (@GreatDismal) cyberpunk novel.”

More grim news for the wearables market: Fitbit’s (@fitbit) stock price tanked after it announced that it’s laying off more than a hundred employees.

Canadian outdoorswoman Inna Morgan (@innanat) invented a foldable kayak that weighs just 5.7 pounds. She’s currently funding it on Kickstarter.

If you need a private place to rock out — or scream in frustration — consider this soundproof, human-sized cardboard box by Japanese outfit Danbocchi.