Maker Pro Newsletter – 03/06/14

Maker Pro Newsletter – 03/06/14

“Create a business, not a startup.”

From the editors of MAKE magazine, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends.

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* The team working on Google’s modular smartphone, Project Ara, is planning to incorporate 3D printing.

3D Systems is developing a new 3D printer capable of printing enclosures for Ara modules in volume, Time magazine reports, allowing for phones to be both mass-produced and custom-designed in a way that’s new for any consumer product. Even electrical elements such as the antennas might be 3D printed.

“If this is successful, it could become one of those watershed moments for 3D printing,” 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental told Time.

We’ll know a lot more after the Ara developer conference, which will be held at Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum on April 15-16. Google is hoping to ship a product in a year or so.

* Are you thinking about holding a hardware hackathon? Octopart has been to a bunch recently — at MIT and elsewhere — and is publishing detailed reports on its blog.

* It’s not too late to enter the drawing to get your makerspace a free LulzBot 3D printer.

Submit a proposal to speak at MakerCon today!

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Crowdfunding Ecosystem Expands with Pre-Orders and Certification


The cumulative amount of dollars pledged to Kickstarter projects from its launch on April 28, 2009 until March 3, 2014, when it crossed $1 billion. The day Kickstarter launched, April 28, 2009, 40 people pledged $1,084 to seven projects.

This week Kickstarter pledges hit $1 billion, which makes it easy to explain why the crowdfunding ecosystem continues to grow in new and helpful ways.

Over the last five years (Kickstarter was founded in 2009; Indiegogo a few years earlier), a variety of new companies have emerged to help aspiring, and successful, crowdfunding entrepreneurs optimize their use of this disruptive new funding option. Among them: online stores, fulfillment centers, advertising products, video producers, and public relations firms.

Launch a crowdfunding campaign, and you’ll hear from them.

Entire new categories have also appeared. Like the pre-order. This is the ability to take orders for a product that has already had a successful crowdfunding campaign, but hasn’t started shipping yet.

Traditional payment services charge a credit card as soon as a customer submits the information. Pre-order firms allow a customer to place an order for a product that isn’t ready to ship. When the product is ready, the credit card is charged. That allows crowdfunding graduates to maintain the momentum generated by their campaigns, and keep taking orders, even as they hustle to make their dreams a reality.

Three of the best known pre-order services are CeleryShopLocket, and the newly re-launched Grand St.

But what happens if an entrepreneur meets the crowdfunding goal, starts taking pre-orders, and still doesn’t have enough money, or time, or expertise to manufacture and ship the product?

Dragon Innovation, the hardware consultancy and crowdfunder based in Boston, is glad you asked that question. Because this week they’ve launched a new service into the world of crowdfunding: certification.


Dragon, which has helped companies like MakerBot and Pebble navigate the wilds of manufacturing, will review pre-launch products to ensure that they can be built at a reasonable cost. They are calling this feature “Dragon Certified.”

Atlas Wearables used the service in advance of their Indiegogocampaign, which has quadrupled its $125k goal with a few days to go.

To see the certification in action, scroll down the Atlas Indiegogo page, where you’ll find the certification: “The team at Dragon Innovation has reviewed the design, manufacturability, reliability and cost of Atlas and helped us determine that we can manufacture the wristband if our minimum funding level is reached.”

Seems like a good service to pair with a pre-order, and a crowdfunding-specific PR campaign, and a crowdfunding-tuned fulfillment house…

Consider Yourself… as a Maker, Entrepreneur, Manager, Fisherman, Explorer

The Maker Effect

Artwork by Lee Bretschneider

Where do you fit, ideally, in the expanding universe that is makerdom?

You may glean some insights by taking the Maker Personality and Skills Assessment, recently described in MAKE. This is a tool designed to help makers understand their strengths in areas like idea generation and execution — and let makers see if they are wired more like entrepreneurs or corporate managers.

James McBennett (@mcbennett), whose own self-assessment is “creative thinker + design geek,” has also been thinking about personality types and how they map to startups and small businesses. He explains the difference between the two business models by contrasting fishermen and explorers.

Example of a fisherman: Jason Fried (@jasonfried) of 37Signals, who advises, “create a business, not a startup.” Explorer examples: Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Vasco da Gama, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Maker Pro Update: LightUp


LightUp’s Learning App uses augmented reality to animate the current flow in the snap-together, magnetic pieces.

The LightUp prototype was a hit last May at MAKE’s Hardware Innovation Workshop. It was the clear favorite of the knowledgeable audience, which voted it the most promising of six startup teams that presented to the conference.

Voters were impressed by the way that LightUp founders Josh Chan (@joshchan) and Tarun Pondicherry (@tarunpondicherr) planned to combine a magnetic, snap-together electronics kit with an augmented reality mobile app that lets users see how electricity flows through the circuits.

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Josh Chan (left) and Tarun Pondicherry

Since then, Josh and Tarun have been pushing their idea from prototype to product: organizing a successful Kickstarter campaign, spending two months in China working with a contract manufacturer, and hustling to get the first LightUp kits to some of their Kickstarter backers before Christmas, in some cases with a single day to spare.


Picking up LightUp’s first shipment at the San Francisco Airport, a few days before Christmas. FYI: a Honda Accord can transport 25 cartons of LightUp Mini Kits, uncomfortably.

The team has also made a good deal of progress on the companion LightUp Learning app. It recently went live on both Google Play and the iOS App Store.

“This first release of the app is an early version that we’re improving by the day,” Josh Chan tells us, “but we’re happy to finally have something out in the world.”

Next for LightUp: raising a first “seed round” of funding, to accelerate development of the platform.

And lessons learned? Josh and Tarun came up with two right off the bat:

1. Find the right partners (to fill in your gaps)

“We think this is true for any startup, but especially true for a startup like us that wants to ship a tangible product out into the world,” Josh reports. “It’s unrealistic (and unproductive) to learn every aspect of mass production, so we had to seek out partners who believed in our potential and could fill in the gaps in our knowledge and skills. We found a sourcing agent that helped us find crucial components at good prices and low lead times, a great manufacturing partner that helped us produce our first kits to our specifications, and a fulfillment house that helped us ship the first LightUp kits to our Kickstarter backers just in time for Christmas.

2. Work with people you like

“It’s tempting when starting out to try to shave corners and be as lean as humanly possible, but it’s important to realize you’re going to spend a huge amount of time with these people,” says Josh. “We spent two months living and working with AQS, our contract manufacturer, while getting LightUp ready for production. Working with people we believed in and who believed in us made that time fun and productive and gave us a product we’re all proud of.”

Maker Pro Tweets of the Week

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Maker Faire Bay Area & MakerCon


The 9th annual Maker Faire Bay Area, our “home game” that started it all, is taking place May 17 and 18 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds.

And, hey, Maker Pros! MAKE is hosting its first MakerCon, May 13–14, the week of Maker Faire Bay Area. MakerCon will look at the impact of makers and making on education, the economy, and emerging markets. It offers makers of all stripes — from hobbyists to makers pros — a chance to discover new tools and technologies; available resources and services; and learn more about topical trends and new markets emerging from the maker movement.

If you are interested in submitting a presentation proposal, please visit MakerCon 2014.

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Mini Maker Faires

Here’s what’s coming in the next few months:

What’s ahead further down the road? Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest one to you.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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


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