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We were a hacker product from the get-go.” – Pebble founder Eric Migicovsky

Insights from Building Up and Selling a Startup in Four Years

Jake Levine (@jrlevine), the founder of Electric Objects (@ElectricObjects), a hardware startup that crowdfunded a wall-hung display meant for showing off art before being acquired last year by Giphy (@GIPHY), has just kicked off a series of Medium posts that use the company’s story to illustrate the maker pro journey.

In the invaluable first part of the series, Levine — who has software cred as well, as a former general manager of Digg (@digg) — looks at the world of funding. Levine analyzes the risks and rewards of crowdfunding, bootstrapping, loans, and equity, and while he doesn’t sugarcoat the tradeoffs of each approach, his enthusiasm for creating high-concept hardware is infectious.

“Building a physical product is as moving as it is challenging,” he wrote. “There’s nothing quite like knowing that something you dreamed up lives in thousands of homes all over the world.”

Do Robo-Cats Dream of Electric Mice?

The maker pros at Petronics (@PetronicsInc) are working on a robot companion for your cat — which poses unusual user feedback problems, since cats can’t talk. To surmount that obstacle, the designers needed to dive deep into the vagaries of feline psychology in order to create a mouse-bot that knows when to peek around a corner and when to run away.

“If there’s one certainty about cats, it’s that hiding things really attracts them,” said co-founder Dave Cohen. “Most cats, most of the time, will look kind of bored when they can see our robot. But as soon as they can’t, they’ll instantly go after it.”

3D Printing Frontiers

Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraftwrites about Stephen Graybill(@Oranhunter0), a maker and digital modeler who created a fairing — that’s an aesthetic or aerodynamic outer shell that goes over hardware — for his 12-year-old daughter’s prosthetic leg.

A stock fairing would have cost $400, so Graybill designed his own. There’s a detailed image gallery of the build, which needed to be strong but lightweight as a 3D print — the latest in a rich history of hobbyist and professional makers using new fabrication tech to create better, cheaper and more functional prostheses.

Pebble Founder Joins Y Combinator

Eric Migicovsky (@ericmigi), the founder of early smartwatch builder Pebble (@Pebble), will be joining the storied accelerator Y Combinator (@ycombinator) as a partner and adviser to hardware startups. In a worthwhile new interview with Tech Crunch Migicovsky talks about his plans in the new post — as well as how he’ll use the lessons he learned from Pebble’s demise to counsel other maker pros.

“We were a hacker product from the get-go,” Migicovsky said. “We were building a watch that anyone could program for, but under pressure from competitors that came in, we didn’t find the one thing to stake our claim on.”


In last week’s newsletter, we said that Avnet (@Avnet) had announced a new product called Cloudio. That wasn’t quite right — in fact, Newark element14 (@Newarkelement14), which Avnet owns, announced the new system.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Remember the third-generation Particle (@particle) line of boards we mentioned in last week’s newsletterMake: Executive Editor Mike Senese (@msenese) has more detail about Particle Mesh, the company’s foray into mesh networking and lower-cost LTE.

Brisbane’s Arc Hardware Incubator (@ArcIncubator) will be Australia’s first hardware incubator, according to a new report. According to founder Victor Vicario (@vicario_victor), the space will incorporate elements of a makerspace, with in-house experts and equipment, as well as business resources like a traditional incubator.

Speaking of Australia, a breakfast event in Melbourne next week will look at steps that the makers and engineers at hardware startups can take to protect their intellectual property.

MHub Chicago (@mHUBChicago) is an innovation center that connects early-stage innovators in robotics, energy tech, and more with mentorship and access to players in the city’s manufacturing center. A new walkthrough video explains the organization’s extensive resources.

This year’s HardwareCon, by Hardware Massive (@hardwaremassive), will be on April 19 and 20 at the San Jose Convention Center. This year’s event will look at new trends including machine learning and blockchain technologies.