In this day of transition from 2014 to 2015, it’s a good time to think about where the maker pro movement is going.
2014 was a year of growth. Taking an idea from prototype to product is not only reserved to companies with massive capital and local experts anymore. Small maker businesses and individuals are now invited to the party.
It started with the gathering of a like-minded community in the last 10 years. Spaces opened. Events happened. Hackerspaces, fab labs, Maker Faire, Meetups and Techshops are a reality for hundreds of cities around the world. This first essential step is still in a dynamic process. I saw it in Istanbul in October for example.
From electronics to 3D printing, rapid prototyping tools equip spaces and makers’ desks. So far, this is where open source hardware plays a central role.
Maker companies are online businesses. Makers can pre-sale and test their offer on crowdfunding campaigns, sell online on dedicated marketplaces, get helped by third-party manufacturing experts and benefit from funding and mentoring of hardware incubators.
2015 is a year of opening of the supply chain for makers pro. Pieces of the hardware development puzzle are coming together. Product supply chain is about to be accessible to makers entrepreneurs.
Key areas to be facilitated for makers pro this year: Design for Manufacturing, shipping and international logistics, online selling. And of course more prototyping tools and electronics. New companies are popping up and old ones are adapting to the specific needs of makers.
I see 2 sides of this opening. A bad one and a good one:
On the risky side, this opening leads to a steep increase of corrupted hardware projects that are courted by financials and get sucked up in the startup world.
Hardware entrepreneurs end up following the likes of software startuppers: making popular gadgets, raising a lot of money, getting bought, joining the rank of giant tech companies and disappearing, closing data for personal profit.
Many hardware projects are not impactful. They are designed to enroll consumers, not free them.
That is not what the maker movement is about. Education, ethical supply chain, local production and freedom of thinking are at the heart of it. And that’s what makes it so appealing.
On the positive side, this opening also means there is room for hardware companies with an impact.
Makers pro have more and more the means to create independent hardware companies, respecting people at each step of the chain. Like Mitch Altman, it can mean making sure the factories you’re working with respect their workers. It can also mean using marketing strategies that are in line with your vision, such as Adafruit’s position on advertising.
Maker pro companies have the potential to create actual innovations, may they be very niche projects or massively ambitious ones.
This is what I’m planning to keep covering and supporting on MakingSociety.
Excited to see what 2015 will bring and help you get your hardware company off the ground.