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“No one’s ever going to give you permission to quit your job.” –Fiber Artist Windy Chien
Venture capital firm Root Ventures (@rootvc) launched a $76 million fund this week that it will use to invest in engineering-based startups. Make: Executive Editor Mike Senese (@msenese) headed down to the group’s Mission District headquarters in San Francisco to talk with Root co-founder Avidan Ross (@AvidanRoss) about maker pros, seed funding, and the notoriously difficult world of hardware entrepreneurship — and to see an espresso machine Ross had hacked in the office.
“We need to be very careful not to celebrate entrepreneurship at the expense of what truly makes a maker,” Ross said. “There are tremendous opportunities for makers to become entrepreneurs but it should be done for reasons that are rational business decisions, and we shouldn’t then make anybody who is a celebrated maker feel less successful if they are building something that is truly just heart-and-soul-maker, and not necessarily a perfectly viable business.
Root has long seen investment potential in maker pros. Back in 2015, the firm launched a $30 million fund focused on entrepreneurs from the maker movement. And over the years, the firm has invested in a who’s who of maker ventures, from Particle (@particle) and Shaper (@shapertools) to Skycatch (@skycatch) and Plethora (@plethora).
A new Motherboard documentary looks at Rich Benoit, an auto enthusiast and YouTuber who’s carved out a name for himself salvaging derelict Teslas (@Tesla) and using his maker savvy to put them back on the road — without any tools or training from Tesla itself, which prefers to handle all repairs in-house.
Benoit dreams of opening a third-party auto shop that would only repair Teslas, which he says would help to spread repair know-how and lower service prices for the electric vehicles, though he worries that the company will fight back if he tries.
“If you drive around, you’ll see a place that only fixes only Saabs, or they fix only Volvo,” Rich said. “Places like that are so important. You have to have these little mom and pop shops that know these cars well, that’ll fix it for a decent price, so that the manufacturer can’t monopolize the repair.”
A new Make: interview with fiber artist Windy Chien (@windychien) is worthwhile reading for anyone who wants to understand the day-to-day lives of professional artists. Chien, whose work has won accolades in the San Francisco Chronicleand the New York Times, opened up not just about her creative process but about the difficulty — and promise — inherent in trading in a comfortable life for a creative one.
“No one’s ever going to give you permission to quit your job; your employer isn’t going to invite you to quit your job; your parents aren’t going to be like, ‘Why don’t you just stop with that paycheck thing and do something else,’” Chien said.
Maker Faire Detroit, which took place this past weekend, gathered maker pros from far and wide. There was architect Iddris Sandu (@iddris_sandu), who created the Nipsey Hussle (@NipseyHussle) smart store, as well as 17-year-old food maker and cookbook author Will Coleman (@chefwillcoleman) and Aliya Farrand, who started a business creating lip glosses at age eight.
The Faire also drew design firm Moving Beautiful Studios, which brought a mobile letterpress to the show, as well as seminal synth maker Moog Music(@moogmusicinc) and a wide selection of Michigan’s makerspaces including i3 Detroit (@i3Detroit), the Lansing Makers Network, Maker Works, and Factory Two.
A new profile of Microscale Embedded (@msedesign) looks at how the electronics seller has succeed in Nigeria — with a cameo appearance by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
NASA (@NASA) awarded a total of $100,000 in prizes for the third phase of its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, which we’ve written about in past years. Next, each team will have to print a scale model of their entries for a shot at the $2 million prize.
The Economic Times reports that India’s hardware sector — which we’ve written about previously — is bolstered by the nation’s strong workforce of coders. “Unless your hardware is coupled with a strong software play, few ventures will scale,” said Tonbo Imaging (@TonboImaging) executive Arvind Lakshmikumar (@arvindkla).