The Maker Movement Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
Since you are visiting the Formaspace website, we’re curious to ask if you appreciate high-quality, American-made goods. We hope you do! And you are not alone. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of what we might call the Maker Movement, a movement that has inspired people across the country to rediscover the joy of inventing, designing, developing and manufacturing their own unique, personalized products. Are you a maker? How do you know? Well, if you’ve got a hot melt glue gun, a needle and thread, an electronic breadboard, a soldering iron or an X-Acto knife on your workbench, you probably are! We are too 😉
Ten Year Anniversary: The Influence of Make Magazine
So what exactly was happening back in the year 2005? It was an era when a lot of American manufacturers (Not Formaspace btw!) gave up manufacturing here at home in favor of outsourcing production to places like China and Viet Nam. But over time, there was disappointment in the quality and ‘lowest common denominator design’ characteristics of these cheap overseas imports. Soon customers realized that, in the words of Ben Franklin, “the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
Something else was missing too. It was the satisfaction that comes from making something by hand, something unique, something valuable and something long-lasting. So it was back in January 2005 that the bimonthly magazine Make came on the scene. It really helped propel a new spirit of do-it-yourself (DIY). Make offers up step-by-step instructions to create utterly fascinating projects, ranging from cool computer electronic interfaces and robotic devices you could build yourself to new techniques to create your own household goods, personalized clothing and children’s toys.
Ten Year Anniversary: Advent of the Arduino Board
The year 2005 was important in another way. This was the year the Arduino board was introduced — a milestone in the open source hardware movement. The Arduino offers a simple, standardized and inexpensive way to create electronic devices that interact with their environment — via external sensors, motion detectors and thermostats. Here are just a few of the sample Make magazine projects based on the Arduino board:
- Voice-Controlled Arduino Robot Responds To Simple Commands
- Making Fun: Kid’s Room Spacecraft
- Hooked On ‘Ponics. AGponics is an Arduino-controlled modular aquaponics system.
Ten Year Anniversary: Etsy.com, a Marketplace for Makers
The third event from 2005 that helped build the Maker Movement was the launch of Etsy.com, a website which has grown to become one of the largest outlets for selling handmade products. The original founders of Etsy, Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik started their venture in hipster central: the New York borough of Brooklyn. Kalin, who became Etsy’s CEO said “I admire the makers of the world.” And the makers of the world admired him back. By the time Etsy celebrated its fifth birthday, they had acquired over 400,000 maker customers, who collectively sold more than $315 million dollars worth of merchandise that year.
Etsy Announces Its Plans for an Initial Public Offering
As Etsy’s growth exploded, there were gut-wrenching changes. The visionary but business averse Rob Kalin was pushed out, replaced by veteran tech executive Chad Dickerson. In 2012, Etsy raised $40 million in venture funding to support expansion in overseas markets. In 2014, online transactions reached nearly $2 billion dollars, and membership (both buyers and makers) grew to 54 million users. To quote U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen, “a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.” And, at long last, Etsy disclosed this past week it had filed paperwork to take the company public, with a tentative valuation of $100 million.
Maker Faire reaches the White House
Just as Etsy has grown up over the past ten years, so has the influence of Make magazine and its spinoff ventures, the Maker Faire and the MakerShed.com e-commerce website. The first Maker Fair — a celebration of all things do-it-yourself — was held in San Mateo, California back in April 2006. In its second year, Maker Faire came here to Austin, Texas.
Since that time, the movement has expanded across the world with major events held last year in Norway, Paris, Rome and Germany. The Maker Movement has truly become a world-wide phenomenon. There was even a Maker Faire held at the White House last year, where Pres. Obama announced new educational initiatives, start-up grants and industry partnerships to encourage the Maker Movement in the US.
Crowdfunding Sites Indi-Go-Go and KickStarter Fund Maker Projects
We also can’t overlook the way that crowd-sourced funding mechanisms have fueled the Maker Movement. Two of the leading websites, IndieGoGo (founded in San Francisco in 2008) and KickStarter (a New York City operation which opened in 2009) have provided an “open-source” means of raising capital for maker projects. And while most of the individual contributions are small, the total funds raised by some projects have been impressive, in some cases accruing millions of dollars. Here are some examples:
- Solar Roadways raised $2,200,961 for a project to make solar panels that you can drive and park on. They double as a mechanism to remove snow and ice.
- Scanadu Scout raised $1,664,375 to build a working version of the fictional Tricorder medical scanner featured prominently in the Star Trek television series.
- The Tesla Museum raised $1,370,461 to purchase inventor Nikola Tesla’s original laboratory (Wardenclyffe Tower) and refurbish it into a museum.
- And finally, Oculus Rift famously raised $2,437,429 to build a virtual reality head-mounted display for gaming. The project was quickly bought out by Facebook for a cool $2 billion dollars in March 2014.
As the SEC changes its rules for investment in public companies, it’s likely that crowd-sourcing mechanisms will give stock markets a run for their money sometime in the near future.
Website The Grommet helps match Innovative Makers with Retailers
We’ve written before about the curated “flash sale” retail trend that’s emerged in the past few years. The website “The Grommet” started in 2008 as a daily flash sale e-commerce site that promoted interesting new products selected by The Grommet staff. Over time, the company has pivoted to position itself as a e-commerce platform that helps early stage companies sell innovative products to retailers.
At the White House Maker Faire (see above), The Grommet announced it was expanding its offering to include a new Wholesale Platform designed to help makers bring products to a wider national distribution. According to founder Jules Pieri, the crowd-sourced funding can help launch new products, but that’s just the start. Building a marketing and sales channel that connects products to customers is the real work of making a business achieve success.
Are You a Maker? So Are We!
Have you heard about Formaspace 5.0? We’ve just launched our fifth generation of workbenches. Now you can get our top-quality, made-in-America workbenches — we build it just for you in just 5 days here in our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
We invite you to join the roster of satisfied Formaspace technical, manufacturing and laboratory furniture clients — including Apple Computer, Boeing, Dell, Eli Lilly, Exxon Mobile, Ford, General Electric, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, NASA, Novartis, Stanford University, Toyota and more.
Give us a call today at 800.251.1505 to find out more about the Formaspace line of built-to-order computer workstations, industrial workbenches, laboratory furniture, lab benches and dry lab/wet labs — as well as our design / furniture consulting services. Like all Formaspace furniture, it’s backed by our famous 12 year, three shift guarantee.