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“It looks a lot like alien surgery.” — MycoWorks Co-Founder Phil Ross

Shark Tank Startup Courts a New Investor: You

If you read this newsletter, you probably know that we’re intrigued by the possibilities that equity crowdfunding could present for maker pros. So naturally, we were interested to see that Shark Tank (@ABCSharkTank) darling Keen Home (@KeenHome), which makes a smart vent system for heating and cooling a house, has jumped on the bandwagon with a fundraising round on SeedInvest (@SeedInvest).

The campaign has already made a splash, with more than 700 investors raising more than $1.5 million by press time. Part of that success probably has to do with the company’s Shark Tank appearance, but it’s also likely influenced by the venture’s reassuring track record: Keen Home has secured shelf space at Best Buy and Lowe’s, shipped more than 30,000 units and, in response to an underwhelming CNET review, rolled out substantial hardware and firmware upgrades that prompted the publication to upgrade its appraisal.

Needless to say, we’ll be excited to see how the campaign plays out.

Meet the Enchairpreneurs

It’s easy, when we rest our weary legs, to forget that an enterprising maker pro can still improve on an object as ancient as the humble chair. Here are a few of our — dare we say — sitting favorites:

It’s difficult to top the sheer dedication of Full Grown (@FullGrownFuture), which uses a combination of grafting and nurturing to grow entire trees into the shape of a comfortable wooden chair.

That’s to say nothing of MycoWorks (@MycoNews), which grows a leather-like material out of fungus — and then turns it into beautiful furniture, including stools and seats. “It looks a lot like alien surgery,” Co-Founder Phil Ross told Scientific American of the process.

European designer Máximo Riera (@tresmstudio) doesn’t use biological materials to create his chairs, but he does draw inspiration from the natural world: the chairs in his “animal collection,” created with selective laser sintering, are almost spooky in their resemblance to a rhino, a blue whale, an octopus, and more.

And if you prefer M.C. Escher to National Geographic, check out this beautiful optical illusion chair by maker pro Peter Bristol, which uses a hidden plate to support a seat that seems to defy the laws of physics.

Maker Faire Kuwait

The first annual Maker Faire Kuwait sounds like a smashing success, according to former Make: editor Goli Mohammadi’s (@snowgoli) writeup — and, we were heartened to see, it featured an impressive selection of maker pros, especially in medtech.

In an interview with Make:, organizer Ahmad Alsaleh discussed the importance of the event for the Persian Gulf nation’s burgeoning maker scene, where participants ranged from hobbyists to entrepreneurs. “Kuwait has been the Arab region’s main driving force behind science and technology innovation and is flourishing in the scientific research sector, with 384 patents registered, the second highest figure in the Arab world,” Alsaleh said.

Standouts from Mohammadi’s report included a firefighting drone prototype called Auxilio, a diabetic wound detector that uses near-infrared radiation and image recognition, a voice-controlled wheelchair, and a system that uses a webcam to capture hand gestures and interpret them into computer-generated speech.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

Predictable Designs Founder John Teel (@JohnTeelEE) is back with an invaluable guide to estimating the cost of manufacturing an electronic hardware product. It’s crucial to understand the challenges involved in bringing a product to market, according to Teel. “This is one of the primary reasons so many hardware startups fail,” he wrote.

MIT roboticist Bradley Knox launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund bots_alive (@botsalive), a line of delightful robot pets that use “playful artificial intelligence” to teach kids about programming and robotics. The project quickly doubled its modest $15,000 funding goal, so we’ll be watching to see when the kits hit the market.

The government-funded Innovate UK (@innovateuk) is providing £624,000 — that’s about $781,000 in USD — to Additive Manufacturing Technologies Ltd to develop what the company says is a game changing technology to post-process 3D prints.

From the archives, the Make: blog is revisiting the seminal MakeShift series written by MacGyver creator Lee Zlotoff that were staples of early issues of Make: magazine. This particular challenge asked readers to design a water filtration system using $10 in mixed coins and various broken-down junk like a bicycle with flat tires. The entries showcased the full range of maker pro ingenuity: one called for growing plain old coconut palms to purify water; another detailed a DIY activated carbon filtration system.

Former SparkFun CEO Nathan Seidle (@ChipAddict) has started a new venture, SparkX, an experimental hardware laboratory. Phil Torrone (who tweets from the @adafruit handle) has assembled some known details, and a lot of fascinating historical context, into a post on the Adafruit blog. (The post is also featured in Adafruit’s Maker Business newsletter, available here.)