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You talk to 20 customers and it feels like that’s what you’re supposed to be building, but that’s actually when you have to talk to 50 more. – Comet Labs partner Adam Kell

The Maker Pros of CES

We’re midway through CES (@CES), the annual consumer electronics convention in Las Vegas. The event has long generated headlines for the latest gadgets made by established brands, but in recent years there has also been an undercurrent of entrepreneurship at the event. You can read our ongoing coverage here.

The Kickstarter booth, for instance, is dedicated to Hardware Studio, the company’s collaboration with Avnet (@Avnet) and Dragon Innovation (@dragoninnovate), which is intended to help hardware startups successfully bring products to market. Together, the three companies are hosting livestreams with notable hardware creators, sharing resources, and holding office hours with would-be entrepreneurs.

There is also be a wealth of notable hardware startups on site. HAX (@hax_co) alumni including movement capture system Notch (@wearnotch) and portable projector Cinemood (@mycinemood) are there, as well as Israeli AR headset maker Lumus (@LumusVision), 3D printer hotshot Markforged (@Markforged), and edutech star Kano (@TeamKano).

We want to hear your stories of maker pros at CES! If you know of a company that we should include, email us at [email protected]. Check back next week for more CES coverage.

Startup Advice From a Robotics Mastermind

In a new interview with the Huffington PostComet Labs (@CometLabs) partner Adam Kell (@adamhkell) dishes on what he’s learned by working specifically to incubate robotics startups. A key takeaway: he often sees founders stumble by trying to take on too much fabrication on their own. Above all else, he said, it’s important to understand the needs of potential users.

“Before you cut a piece of metal or screw a single screw, you talk to 20 customers and it feels like that’s what you’re supposed to be building, but that’s actually when you have to talk to 50 more,” he said. “The customer development process is a short loop but building a prototype and testing it is a long loop and that’s the place you spend all your money and waste all your time.”

Helping Startups Sell Hardware in China

We hear so much about the role of China in the world manufacturing ecosystem that it’s easy to forget about the country’s huge gadget purchasing power. A new profile of VeeShop explains how the company partners with international hardware makers to sell — and promote — their products among Chinese consumers.

Successfully advertising in China requires a nuanced understanding of the nation’s media, influencers, and tech culture, according to the company’s leadership. Knowing which channels to focus resources into, they say, can make or break a product’s chances in the market.

“Hopping on the hottest trend is the work for investors,” said co-founder Wendy Wang (@gogirl_wen). “The popularity of a field among venture capitalist does not necessarily coincide with that for the consumers. Likewise, it would be too early for mass users to consume current hot technologies like AI.”

Harry Potter and the Accidental Email

Cellular connectivity startup Hologram (@Hologram) sent out an unusual mea culpa this week.

“A couple of hours ago we sent you an email noting your acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” it read. “Unfortunately for the Harry Potter fans among you, this email was sent to you by mistake while we were testing some new email software. We want to apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”

Just a reminder: don’t do your testing in the production environment.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

This week, Make: correspondent Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchiniinterviewed Miguel Valenzuela, the creator of Pancake Bot (@thePancakeBot). Valenzuela, who recalled that he was first inspired to pursue the project while reading Make: Volume 2, explained his journey from a Lego prototype to the mature product you can now buy for your own breakfasting needs.

Adweek ran a list of AR and VR projects to watch in 2018. The list runs the gamut from ultra-establishment incumbents like Facebook’s Oculus Go and the Vive Focus to next-gen challenges like Magic Leap (@magicleap) and Jaunt VR (@jauntvr). Will this finally be VR’s year to shine?

A neat examples of makers working to make existing products more accessible: gamer Julio Vazquez 3D printed an adapter to make the Nintendo Switch controller easier to use for gamers with motion disabilities by holding it in place during use.

Australian startup Flintu (@weareflintu) is leveraging an anachronistic adapter idea — using AA, C or D batteries to charge a smartphone — into a hopping business that’s already raised nearly $80,000 on Kickstarter. The everyday carry also acts as an external storage and includes a built-in Li-on booster cell.

Troubled home security startup Canary (@canary) is betting its future on software that it says will differentiate it from competitors. New algorithms, it says, will recognize people in the frame and even generate alerts when packages have been delivered by mail.