Maker Pro News: The State of Hardware Funding, Yogurt Maker Pros, and More

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Maker Pro News: The State of Hardware Funding, Yogurt Maker Pros, and More

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When you retrofit an old thing, you’re making a new thing. – Hologram CEO Ben Forgan

Why do Maker Pros Fail?

A detailed new Wired report explores the complex topography of hardware startups, crowdfunding, and venture capital. At its core is a new report by research outfit CB Insights (@CBinsights) demonstrating that investors funneled some $4.4 billion into hardware startups in 2016 — the highest figure on record.

Getting access to those funds, though, involves more than designing a quality product. One tried-and-true route backed up by the data: demonstrate consumer demand with a successful crowdfunding campaign, then leverage that into a pitch to investors.

But even the most promising can eventually go down in flames, like Jawbone (@Jawbone) or Pebble (@Pebble). Why? Because hardware is hard, according to the report. The stakes of failure on hardware, which can’t be updated as easily as software, are simply too high.

Hologram Launches on Modern Hardware

The maker pros at IoT connectivity outfit Hologram (@Hologram_io) announced the Nova today, a USB modem that connects to the company’s cellular network.

Is Hologram trying to compete with Particle (@particle), another company selling both hardware and IoT connectivity services? Not exactly, said Hologram CEO Ben Forgan (@bforgan) in an interview with Make:. His vision is that customers will take what they want: either buying cell connectivity for an IoT device with its own hardware, integrating the Nova into a design, or modifying Hologram’s open source designs to create something entirely new.

“It’s almost a Voltron type of thing,” he said. “The sum is greater than the parts.”

Casa Jasmina

The latest issue of Make: explores the future of the smart home. In a thoughtful new essay, sci-fi legend and longtime Make: columnist Bruce Sterling (@bruces) discusses the house he built over the past two years with his wife Jasmina Tesanovic (@jasminatwitter) as a prototype “house of the future” located in Turin, Italy.

The structure is optimized for many roles: the couple hosts guests, and also use it as a space for workshops, art events, and parties. It’s also a sandboxing environment where, if a new innovation is successful, allows them to “port” it to their apartment across town.

Key to the experiment has been emphasizing the welcoming aspect of the home. Too much imposing technology, they worry, could be alienating to non-experts, which would violate essential goals of the project. The entire thing is an enlivening read; you can pick up the physical issue here.

Culture Wars

Countertop yogurt-making system Yomee (@YomeeYogurt) naturally draws comparisons to Juicero, the notoriously over-complicated juicer that failed spectacularly this year. But a CNN report makes the case that the blender-sized gadget — which blew through its modest Kickstarter goal in 24 hours — is a well-designed unit that’s likely to deliver impressive results.

“We are more traditional than [Juicero],” CEO Ashok Jaiswal told CNN.

Speaking of makers in the foodtech world, don’t miss two new stories by Make:contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) — one about a coffee machine you can text for a fresh cup of joe, and another about a plush robot that teaches children how to milk a cow.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Old school retail chain Ace Hardware (@AceHardware) took a step into the 21st century this week when it acquired Massachusetts ecommerce startup The Grommet (@TheGrommet), which has been a jumping off point for maker pro brands including Fitbit (@fitbit) and OtterBox (@OtterBox).

The first time Victor Ciccarelli set foot in Maker Faire Bay Area, at 50 years of age, he immediately “knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Now he’s the founder of STEAM Maker Workshop (@STEAM_Maker), a small business that makes hands-on education accessible in schools and communities.

Hardware isn’t just hard for startups. Mindtribe (@Mindtribe) engineer Tom Hsiu published a guide this week for established companies — and the maker pros who work for them — that want to produce their first connected product.

Make: contributor and Predictable Designs founder John Teel (@JohnTeelEEshared 10 tricks this week that can help a hardware startup succeed, from designing with the manufacturing process in mind to making sure to rigorously test for quality.

The “lean startup” model is a buzzword du jour. But development firm 3D Innovations (@3D_Innovations) published a worthwhile piece this week about how hardware startups can build a better product — and better support their users — by embracing some of its tenets.

Sick of your old-fashioned battery-powered drone? The maker pros at Canadian hardware startup Pegasus Aeronautics (@PegasusAeroNews) are working on a quadcopter powered by a small gas engine that they say will vastly increase flight times.

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian