Maker Pro News: Hiring for Hardware, Bespoke Robots, and More

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Maker Pro News: Hiring for Hardware, Bespoke Robots, and More

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“Manufacturers are not makers’ enemies.” – Forge Greenboro’s Joel Leonard

Maker Pro Stories: Joel Leonard on Creating Maker Jobs

For a show-stopping case study in how makers can bolster the local economy, read Make: senior editor Caleb Kraft’s (@calebkraftnew interview with Joel Leonard (@SkillTV), who leveraged a lifelong love of tinkering and local industry into a career as a workforce development consultant who connects fledgling entrepreneurs at makerspaces with nearby manufacturing resources.

For instance, during his first year of Forge Greensboro (@ForgeGreensboro), Leonard helped to launch 16 companies that collectively created 50 new jobs while filing nine original patents. He also helped develop recession-proof strategies for local businesses in the Greensboro area, lobbied to develop training programs with area manufacturers and community colleges, and started a private technical training company. He subsequently became executive director of Forge and now travels extensively to consult and support makerspaces around the country.

Leonard’s takeaway? To build a healthy local business ecosystem, makers ought to embrace longstanding industries — and vice versa.

“If you’re managing, or a member of, a makerspace, please connect with your area manufacturers and don’t fall in the maker versus manufacturer trap,” Leonard said. “Manufacturers are not makers’ enemies.”

How to Build the Perfect Hardware Team

Hardware accelerator Bolt (@ BoltVC) this week published the first of a three-part guide to building an exemplary hardware startup team.

A well-tuned launch team is crucial — and fraught, especially with the web of consultants, designers, and manufacturers maker pros will likely need to contend with — but Bolt partner Ben Einstein (@ BenEinstein) breaks the hiring process down like an engineering problem that maximizes crucial resources, from skills and knowledge base to fostering a positive workplace culture. We’ll be watching closely for the second installment.

Manufacturing Local: Bespoke Robots

OhmniLabs (@ OhmniLabs) is working on a telepresence robot in Santa Clara, making it one of countless robotics startups in California. One thing it’s doing differently from the vast majority of its peers, though: it’s building each unit it sells right in its own lab.

That gives the company several advantages, according to co-founder Thuc Vu. They retain close control over privacy and security, there are no questions about manufacturing quality that stem from contract manufacturing — and, crucially, it allows the company to continuously experiment with changes to its bot.

“It allows us to iterate much faster and we can roll out a new model every week,” Vu said.

That could be a bitter pill for customers who’ll find themselves with a model that’s a little different from other buyers, rendering support tricky. But, if it’s communicated clearly, the idea of a unique, bespoke robot could be a key selling point.

Avnet Acquires Dragon Innovation

We’ve written previously about Avnet’s (@ Avnet) close work with Dragon Innovation (@ dragoninnovate) to develop resources for makers who want to scale a product for crowdfunding or retail. The collaboration is seemingly going well; Avnet announced this week that it had acquired the Cambridge-based Dragon for an undisclosed sum.

According to an Avnet spokesperson, it’s another strategic step by CEO Bill Amelio in the company’s plan to build a platform of web and hardware resources to help companies of all sizes ship and scale hardware products.

“We are thrilled to be joining Avnet,” said Dragon CEO Scott Miller.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Earlier this year, Krste Asanovic (@ kasanovicwrote for Make: about his work with SiFive (@ SiFiveInc) to develop an open source RISC-V chip. Now, SiFive has named semiconductor veteran Naveed Sherwani (@ drnsherwani) as CEO of the company.

Another worthwhile case study: how Origami Labs raised more than 10 times its modest $30,000 Kickstarter goal last week to develop a “smart ring” that helps navigate a technological world without using screens. What sets a smash hit crowdfunding campaign apart from a flub?

Make: contributor Gareth Branwyn (@ garethb2explored the legacy of the classic Mold-A-Rama vending machines, which would injection mold souvenirs on demand, often at highway rest stops, during the 1960s.

Inspired by the solar eclipse and the 40th anniversary of the Voyager space probe launch, Kickstarter this week launched a “Projects of Earth” collection of campaigns that explore the universe and our place in it, from a replica golden record to lamps modeled on heavenly bodies. (While you’re at it, don’t miss Make:’s eclipse coverage.)


DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian
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