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For a hardware startup, a patent serves as a form of insurance. – Vicara Co-Founder Abhishek Satish

Chinese Manufacturers Are Looking to Partner with Maker Pros

The contemporary models for funding and producing a hardware product — typically, creating a concept and prototype before looking for venture capital or starting a crowdfunding campaign — are fraught with uncertainty.

But a new VentureBeat feature explores an alternative model that could serve maker pros well: startups approaching manufacturers directly to form mutually beneficial relationships for both funding and building a product. The dynamic sometimes hinges on Chinese factories that are eager to become stakeholders in entrepreneurial projects instead of contractors for overseas clients.

Take Gi FlyBike (@GiFlyBike), a group of Argentinian maker pros who developed the electric bicycle shown above. After building hype with a $400,000 Kickstarter campaign, the startup struck a deal with Yadea Technology Group, a Chinese e-bike maker. Now, FlyBike is entering mass production inside Yadea’s manufacturing space.

And speaking of overseas manufacturing, famed Xbox hacker Bunnie Huang (@bunniestudioswrote this week about his experiments tracking product shipments and recalls using Bitmarks (@BitmarkUpdates), a system for tracking inventory back to the factory where it was made using a blockchain ledger.

Adafruit Bulks up IoT Subscription Offerings

Open source hardware outfit Adafruit (@adafruitlaunched IO Plus this week, a new subscription service for Adafruit IO that costs just $10 per month for 60 data points per minute and 60 days of data storage — a clear bid for open source oxygen in the crowded IoT space. The company says it already has more than 30,000 feeds online, with some 82.1 million new data inserts in the past week.

Speaking of Adafruit, the company representative Phillip Torrone (@ptorrone) recently made waves by uploading instructions for stamping Harriet Tubman’s face onto $20 bills bearing the likeness of Andrew Jackson.

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India’s Maker Pros are Using Patents to Protect Their Work

We’ve written before about India’s burgeoning maker pro scene — and its struggles with investors who have been reluctant to become involved. But a new Forbes report points to a heartening trend: patent applications, especially by hardware startups, are on the rise in the subcontinent.

“When we created the technology, we knew there would be competition,” said Abhishek Satish (@Abishake96), a co-founder of Vellore-based wearable technology outfit Vicara. “It doesn’t take long for someone to copy your work and pass it off as theirs. For a hardware startup, a patent serves as a form of insurance.”

Food Maker Frontiers

Make: correspondent Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) is back this week with two new reports about makers in the vanguard of the culinary world.

First is a profile of Ben Cowden (@twenty7gears), a Massachusetts maker who uses cutting edge automation and design tools to build automated cocktail mixing machines. And the second is about CentriSeed Innovations, an organization that creates sustainable open space solutions to communities around the world, with the aim of developing students’ professional skills.

We also spotted Finding Farmland, designer Ben Fry‘s (@ben_frynew website that helps young farmers — the original food maker pros — get access to the land and capital necessary to start a new farm.

And one more food story about a whimsical project that reinvents the entrepreneurial icon of the lemonade stand: maker Rob Adams hacked together a mobile lemonade stand — shaped, naturally, like a giant lemon — that sits on a go-kart chassis.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

More details are now available on Inventables (@Inventables) CEO Zach Kaplan’s (@zkaplan) experimental new book, Getting Started with 3D Carving. “You can participate directly in the process,” Kaplan said. “You’ll be the maker of knowledge.”

Make: senior editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) is back with more information about how makers can help areas devastated by hurricanes, this time with a series of challenges to assist communities in desalinating water, cooking sustainably, maintaining the telecommunication grid and more.

An intriguing event from Built In Austin (@builtinaustin) is scheduled next week in Texas to explore reasons that hardware startups fail — and offer ways to fight feature creep, keep investors happy, and prototype effectively.

We’re fans of anything that analyses failures to discover how other maker pros can do better in the future. Case in point, this podcast interviews Japanese maker pro Takuro Yoshida (@yoshida_takuro), the founder of Logbar(@Logbar), about how he avoided pitfalls that have tripped up other Japanese IoT startups.

Finally, a heartwarming feature: a decade ago, Thomasville Furniture (@ThomasvilleFurn), moved its manufacturing to China, snuffing out jobs in the community. But the Forge Greensboro (@ForgeGreensboro) makerspace recently organized a Chaircity MAKERspace pop-up in which community members collaborated to once again build bespoke wooden chairs. We’ll be watching to see where this story goes.