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We’re not just looking for suppliers, we’re looking for partners. – Wyze co-founder Elana Fishman

Hardware Cup Plots a Global Push

The group behind the Pittsburgh-based Hardware Cup, a notable hardware-only startup competition, has partnered with Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (@IEEEorg) to bring the contest to more than 160 countries worldwide — an expansion that could bolster the visibility of maker pros on the stage of international entrepreneurship.

AlphaLab Gear (@AlphaLabGear), the Pittsburgh hardware incubator that organizes the Cup, has created a “starter kit” that any IEEE chapter can use to host its own Hardware Cup competition, similar to how Ted Talks (@TEDTalks) gave rise to local TedX (@TEDx) events. Like the original Cup, investment prizes will be awarded by panels of judges to companies that are working on physical products.

The big picture: a hardware startup is a risky investment at best — see item #3 for the gloomy details — but for many makers, a fledgling company is a labor of love as much as a business endeavor. That sense of community gives rises to support systems, funding networks, and knowledge-sharing communities that crop up outside the high gates of venture capital. Kudos to AlphaLab and IEEE for working to scale those collective resources.

How Makers Can the Environment

To celebrate Earth DaySeeed Studio (@seeedstudio) and Hackster (@Hacksterio) are teaming up to launch a contest called Seeed for Earth, which will reward projects that help the environment. The top prize is a round-trip flight to the maker pro destination Maker Faire Shenzhen (@MakerFaireSZ) and Seeed Conferencethe deadline is May 19.

To get your ideas flowing, Make: ran a list of real-world environmental projects ranging from an open source, unmanned sailboat that cleans up after oil spills to a distributed sensor system and a project that draws attention to light pollution by recreating constellations on the ground.

How Startups Can Compete With Big Tech

A new quarterly earnings report shows that the Alphabet-owned smart home system Nest (@nest) is bleeding money in spite of strong sales — losses that the Google parent company can afford to take in order to grow a hardware ecosystem, but which shine a spotlight on the enormous difficulties that face small companies trying to do the same.

We’ve been tracking the difficulties that confront startups that go head to head with tech giants, and the outlook is grim. One bright spot this week, though: a new interview explores how smart home camera Wyze (@WyzeCam) is managing to undercut competitors including Nest’s own security camera. The whole conversation is worth reading, but one crucial takeaway is the importance of efficiently leveraging overseas manufacturing resources for startups that want to compete with an industry price point.

“We’re not just looking for suppliers, we’re looking for partners that believe in our mission of creating quality products at affordable prices,” said Wyze co-founder Elana Fishman (@WyzeElana).

Fabrication Frontiers

There was a flurry of fabrication news this week. Here’s our roundup:

3D Hubs (@3DHubs) released its quarterly Digital Manufacturing Trends report [PDF] — and it’s shifting the focus from 3D printing alone into a range of fabrication technologies from CNC machining to injection molding.

Overlord Robotics’ upcoming desktop mill impressed Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft), who said the unit is “unlike anything we’ve seen in the maker community yet.”

Glowforge (@glowforge) finally opened up sales of its flagship laser cutter to the general public. It’s been a long journey from crowdfunding to production.

This resplendent Roman-style helmet might be the most beautiful 3D printed metal object we’ve ever seen. Shout out to Custom Prototypes (@prototypeme), which documented all the techniques they used on the build in this post.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

The latest sign that machine learning is going mainstream: Google’s (@GoogleAIY machine learning kits — both a voice and vision version — are now on the shelves of superstore Target.

The Maker Village startup hub in Kochi, India — which we’ve had our eye on for a while — has now partnered with Mentor Graphics (@mentor_graphics) and Dassault Systèmes (@Dassault3DS) to collaborate on product design packages with participating startups.

new post by design firm Altium (@altium) lays out a no-nonsense roadmap to launching a hardware startup, from financing and sourcing components to testing and scaling manufacturer relationships to meet demand.

YouTube maker April Wilkerson has been documenting her journey to build the perfect workshop — which, to a perfectionist like Wilkerson, means constructing the building from the ground up to meet her specifications.