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“Exceptional execution is usually the driver of startup success today, not unique ideas.” —Alex Mittal
From the editors of Make:, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Please send items to us at email@example.com.
Estimote Shrinks Its Beacons
Last year Estimote introduced chunky, plastic Bluetooth LE Beacons to enable smartphone connectivity in retail settings.
Now the company has shrunk the idea: offering much smaller, thinner Stickers that are designed to be more portable. These new devices also feature accelerometers and temperature sensors.
They are calling the category “nearables.”
A developer’s pack of 10 stickers is available for pre-order for $99; it comes with suggestions, and code for some sample applications, including tracking bicycles, pets, retail display items, and doors.
The company is promising to ship these tiny transmitters by late October.
An Affordable Desktop SLS 3D Printer on the Horizon?
Up until now, Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS, 3D printers have only been found in industrial settings, crunching on costly, high-end projects. They are that expensive, and that good.
But a trio of developers in Switzerland is planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign for a desktop SLS 3D printer, the Sintra, this fall, for around $5,300.
Make:’s digital fabrication editor, Anna Kaziunas France (@akaziuna), thinks this could be a MAJOR development.
Make: has the details.
MakerBot Filament Club
MakerBot has launched the MakerBot MakerClub, which enables members to save 10 percent on MakerBot filament.
Adafruit Named #1 Manufacturing Company in NYC by Inc.
Online hardware and electronics retailer Adafruit just got the news that it ranked #570 on the latest Inc. 5000, which tracks the “fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.”
In NYC, where it is based, Adafruit was ranked #1 in Inc.’s hardware category.
Maker Data Illustrated
The Maker Movement
This infographic from The Grommet illustrates a number of datapoints that describe the maker movement.
The information is aimed not just at makers, but also at retailers, because a growing part of The Grommet’s business is wholesale, providing maker-created products to store owners.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things has attracted plenty of attention from prognosticators, but this infographic, from the manufacturing services company Jabil, is unusually comprehensive, ranging from transportation, to sensors, to smart homes and smart cities.
The Wearable Market
The wearable band market grew 684% on a worldwide basis in the first half of 2014 compared with the first half of 2013, according to the latest device shipment estimates by industry research firm Canalys.
Canalys tracks wearable device shipments and segments the market into smart bands, which are capable of running third-party applications, and basic bands, which are not.
Despite the strong numbers, Canalys VP and Principal Analyst Chris Jones says that wearable band manufacturers are under pressure to keep consumers interested.
“The challenge all vendors face is keeping consumers engaged with the devices, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he says.
Don’t Let Crowdfunding Distract You from “Market Fit”
Crowdfunding is becoming a de facto milestone and financing hurdle for many startups that are planning a product. But entrepreneur Vijay Sundaram (@vijayssundaram) wants to remind everybody that crowdfunding success only measures how many and how much people will pay you to solve the problem — not whether you’ve actually solved it.
Sundaram warns that you shouldn’t forget “market fit,” which means figuring out exactly what the product will do, why people will want it, and use it, and how it will enable customers to do these jobs.
His advice: don’t let the pursuit of crowdfunding success distract you from old-fashioned pre-product pursuits like feasibility studies, prototyping, studying users, running marketing tests, etc.
The good news is that it’s not either/or, Sundaram writes. You can plan for crowdfunding and market fit at the same time.
Get Ready for Equity Crowdfunding
Equity crowdfunding is coming, eventually, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stops dragging its feet.
That means that makers will have to decide which flavor of crowdfunding they want to offer: the traditional “reward-based” version favored by Kickstarter and Indiegogo, or an equity version where they offer a piece of their startup in return for a smallish investment.
The crowdfunding audience will also have to decide whether they want to back a project, or invest.
In fact, equity crowdfunding is already an option, if you are an “accredited” investor: that is, you make more than $200,000 a year (or $300,000 together with spouse), or have a net worth over $1 million (excluding the value of your primary home).
So what have we learned so far, based on this small sample?
The founders of an early equity crowdfunding firm, FundersClub, share their experiences in an interview with the guys at First Round Capital, and they offer their advice to startups that are considering crowdfunding.
Much of what they say is biased in favor of the equity model, naturally, but there’s also lots of background and wisdom about crowdfunding and the startup world in general, such as, “Exceptional execution is usually the driver of startup success today, not unique ideas.”
Nomiku’s Mission to Manufacture in America
Two years ago, the sous vide cooker Nomiku splashed on the food scene with a spectacular Kickstarter campaign, raising more than half a million dollars. Right now, in the midst of campaign #2, for an improved, wi-fi-enabled version, they are on track to triple their $200k campaign goal, surpassing their earlier crowdfunding success.
But version #2 is also interesting and significant because the team has committed to manufacturing it in the U.S., not China — where the original model was made.
And you can follow along at home, via a series in Make: that will document Nomiku’s journey into manufacturing in America through the conversations of the founding team: Lisa, Abe, and Bam. The first installment just went live; read it here.
10 Crowdfunding Projects Worth Considering
Speaking of crowdfunding, Make: has ten crowdfunding projects for you to consider before they are over.
Nomiku (see previous item) is one of them, so you already know about that. But there are nine more you may not have heard of, like maybe the T100 Thruster?
It’s an efficient, rugged, affordable underwater thruster to propel the future of marine robotics and ocean exploration.
Startup Spotlight: World Maker Faire New York
One of our favorite tents at last spring’s Maker Faire Bay Area was the one that was chock full o’ startups.
So we’re pleased to report that World Maker Faire New York (happening September 20 and 21, btw) will host a similar tent. To celebrate, we’ve been featuring previews of some of the young companies that will be there. Here are three.
3D Hubs facilitates transactions between 3D printer owners and people that want to make 3D prints.
Printer owners can join the Hubs listing in their city to offer 3D printing services in their neighborhood, and customers can locate printer owners to get stuff printed nearby.
The fast-growing network currently has around 7,000 3D printers connected in hundreds of cities around the world.
The Carbon Origins team at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, showing off two alpha-prototypes of Apollo (the tiny gadget they are holding in their hands).
Imagine a really tiny Arduino board with wi-fi, Bluetooth, nine degrees of motion sensing, six degrees of environmental sensing, GPS, a data logger, an OLED display with a trackball for navigation, a powerful Arduino-compatible 32-bit microcontroller, and built-in power management. All that, and smaller than a flash drive. Derived from a rocket flight computer, that’s Apollo: the world’s smallest and most integrated embedded sensor and Internet of Things prototyping platform.
Apollo is designed to be an all-in-one tool for the next generation of hardware and software entrepreneurs. Carbon Origins is a startup aerospace company with the goal to democratize space exploration, by developing rapidly reusable and affordable rockets and spacecraft to take small-to-medium-sized payloads into space.
Catch Carbon Origins in the Innovation Showcase event at MakerCon.
The Mighty Mug
Mighty Mug is powered by the innovative and patented Smartgrip Technology. Simply place Mighty Mug down on your desk and it creates a powerful airlock which allows Mighty Mug to resist accidental knocks to help avoid spills.
When you lift Mighty Mug, the pressure is instantly normalized allowing the airlock to release and Mighty Mug to lift naturally. You need to try it to believe it, or at least check out some of the videos.
Two more speakers have been confirmed for MakerCon, in New York, September 17 & 18, just days before World Maker Faire New York.
MakerCon, btw, is a conference by and for makers. MakerCon connects individuals at the forefront of the maker movement, focusing on the technologies, services ecosystem, manufacturing models, and funding trends that provide new ways of making things and getting them to market. The two new speakers:
Eric is a partner at Lemnos Labs, the San Francisco hardware accelerator.
His passion is imagining and building delightful products. His experience includes founding startups, managing large teams in highly successful corporations, and angel investing. Eric previously enjoyed product roles at Nokia, Sun, Real Networks, Palm, and Apple. He is also an active angel investor, focused on consumer, media, and entertainment startups.
Eric is planning to talk about how makers should decide what ideas to pursue. His session will explore how to set up the right business structures, expectations, and prototyping time for your ideas.
Lauren Joseph, posing with an actual grommet.
Lauren is the Director of Business Development for The Grommet, a launch platform for early-stage products.
The Grommet, which is mentioned a half-dozen items ago, gives makers a stage from which to tell their stories, connect with people who believe in supporting innovation, and springboard into brick and mortar retail.
Lauren plans to talk about how to launch your product from an interesting project to a market success. The maker movement is giving viability back to innovative products, and The Grommet serves as a platform to launch these designs into the market. She will cover the art of product launch, the economic impact of the maker movement, and the role that The Grommet can play in these dynamics.
Special note: MakerCon attendees have exclusive access to tour two iconic maker facilities: Underwriter Labs and Shapeways on Friday, September 19. So get your MakerCon tickets today and mark your calendars for these two tours on Friday!
Maker Pro Tool of the Week
The LightBlue Bean Bluetooth LE Device is a microcontroller that can be programmed with no connection to your computer or phone. It can also be used with an app that detects the presence of the Bean.
The LightBlue Bean is Arduino compatible, meaning that you’ll use the Arduino IDE to program your Bean. This low-cost microcontroller is powered by a small coin cell battery (just pull the battery tab to get started). It’s also low-energy, so it can be powered virtually anywhere for long periods of time. The LightBlue Bean is now iBeacon compatible and has an accelerometer + temperature sensor on board.
Check out our blog post on the Bean here.
Buy it in the Maker Shed for $29.99.
Upcoming Maker Faires
Here’s what’s happening in the few weeks:
- Maker Faire Trondheim (Norway): August 29 & 30, 2014
- Halifax Mini Maker Faire (UK): August 30, 2014
- Grand Rapids Mini Maker Faire (MI): August 30 & 31, 2014
- Des Moines Mini Maker Faire (IA): September 1, 2014
- Midcoast Mini Maker Faire (Camden, ME): September 6, 2014
- Lewiston-Auburn Mini Maker Faire (ME): September 6, 2014
- Brighton Mini Maker Faire (UK): September 6, 2014
- Calgary Mini Maker Faire (Canada): September 6 & 7, 2014
What’s ahead further down the road? Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest Faire to you.