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“We’ve got enough components to build 5,000.”
–Vernon Kerswell, who bought the leftover hardware from the failed Zano drone
Catching Up With New York Maker Pros
Another dispatch from World Maker Faire (@makerfaire): Make:’s Executive Editor, Mike Senese (@msenese), wrote this week about catching up with two indispensable maker pros businesses, Adafruit (@adafruit ) and littleBits(@littleBits).
Adafruit, which started out of founder Limor Fried’s MIT (@MIT) dorm room, has grown to be a sort of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of hackable, open-source electronics — and it’s gotten there by defying all conventional logic about how to build a business. For starters, it manufactures all its wares in Manhattan, one of the most expensive locations in the country. It took no outside capital. And that’s without getting into its impressive lineup of electronics and 3D printing livecasts, many filmed on-site in SoHo.
Senese visited Adafruit’s manufacturing facility, and wrote that he “left even more impressed than I was before the visit.”
Senese also got a chance to catch up with littleBits founder Ayah Bdeir(@ayahbdeir). Nowadays the snap-together edtech company has more than 100 employees and has inked deals with Lucasfilm, NASA (@NASA) and Korg(@KorgUSA) — but it too has scrappy roots: it got its first product order ever at Maker Faire.
How Jawbone Clawed Its Way Back From Bankruptcy
But Recode reports on how CEO Hosain Rahman (@hosain) has brought the hardware startup back from the brink. Granted, it’s down just a hundred employees from 600 during its heyday. But by bringing in new investors to refocus the brand as a medtech platform that helps doctors make diagnoses by collecting huge swathes of user health information — it’s now called Jawbone Health — he’s given the company a future.
“We have half a million minutes a year in our lives,” Rahman told Recode. “If you’re good, you spend 15 minutes a year with a doctor, maybe four times a year. That’s a very small percentage of the population. So the idea is to give people tools.”
Build Something Great Our of a Failure
You probably remember the Zano drone, which raised more than 3 million dollars before imploding spectacularly.
It turns out that they might still get put to some good. At World Maker Faire, Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft (@calebkraft) caught up with Vernon Kerswell(@VernonKerswell), who got his hands on the source code and leftover parts from the failed project. After more than a year of tinkering, he says he’s got the drones working. While he’s not entirely sure what he’s going to do with the equipment — his day job is at Extreme Fliers (@Extreme_Fliers), another dronemaker — Kerswell says his priority is to get them out into the community.
“We’ve got enough components to build 5,000,” he said. “So we’re probably going to give them away to anyone who’s interested.”
A Cheat Sheet for Funding Your Hardware Startup
The general idea: the conventional wisdom is that your startup needs to lock down traction, a team, its core tech, and convince investors that its timing and target users are strong. In reality, Joffe argues, success often hinges on knowing the right people and getting the right endorsements.
A few of Joffe’s hacks: know how to get human interest stories in the media, try to get a true believer celebrity who can champion your idea, demonstrate that you know how to manufacture a product efficiently — and much more.
Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web
GeekWire reports on the life and times of Human, which has raised an extraordinary sum — north of $21 million to date — to bring a smart over-ear headphone that supports touch and swipe input. It first launched on Indiegogo(@Indiegogo).
Maker Faire Eindhoven (@EHVMMF) had its share of maker pros. Take Hiber(@HiberGlobal), a satellite-based data retrieval system, or hardware developer Devlab, which brought an entire “escape room” built with micro:bit(@microbit_edu).
Vapemaker Juul (@JUULvapor) is in trouble with the FDA because of its popularity with teens. But in a new interview with TechCrunch, founder James Monsees defended the company and sang its praises as a maker-inflected hardware company. “We are a hardware company,” he said. “We’re a hardware company that makes and sells millions of products a week. We’re a hardware company that has produced those products at incredibly high volume, all five of them, all of which we manufacture on equipment and tools that we built from scratch.”
Japan’s private sector has a long history building world class electronics. Its latest frontier: spacetech, according to the Wall Street Journal, with startup ispace saying it wants to create a 1,000-person industrial city on the moon by 2040.