Just a few weeks ago we reviewed the book Makers: the New Industrial Revolution, a book focusing on the growing movement toward “small batch” manufacturing, enabled by the powerful combination of computers, the Internet and an exploding array of very capable high quality tools. In the few short weeks since, there have been some interesting developments and comments, underscoring the points raised in the article.
Chris Anderson, the author of the book and editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, announced he’s leaving Wired to become the full time CEO of 3D Robotics, the company he created to build DIY Drones. It’s been growing rapidly, just received some big funding and was literally built from nothing except an idea and is now on track to $5 million dollars in sales this year, not bad for a keyboard jockey trying to get his kids interested in technology.
While everyone talks about the hot new tech startups with great new software or a flashy app for your iPhone, there’s a growing trend of companies building hardware, real things, imagine that! What’s different now is the convergence of computers and tools that can do things the home tinkerer couldn’t even dream of not many years ago. Paul Graham of Y Combinator wrote a nice little essay about the number of hardware companies getting funding.
There is no one single force driving this trend. Hardware does well on crowdfunding sites. The spread of tablets makes it possible to build new things controlled by and even incorporating them. Electric motors have improved. Wireless connectivity of various types can now be taken for granted. It’s getting more straightforward to get things manufactured. Arduinos, 3D printing, laser cutters, and more accessible CNC milling are making hardware easier to prototype. Retailers are less of a bottleneck as customers increasingly buy online.
Many of you work on hardware every day. You already have a lot of skills in the “hands on” technical world of things, and if you look around you’ll see you’re in a great position to take advantage of this new “hardware renaissance” as Paul Graham calls it.
It’s easy to be disheartened by the economy, but look at the possibilities. The new industrial revolution is within the grasp of many of us, the same people, people like you, who love the technical world of real, tangible things, can start companies of your own. It’s all around you, don’t let it slip out of your grasp. Opportunities to get in early as a huge trend is beginning don’t come along every day.
It isn’t easy, as the old saying goes, “If it was easy, anybody could do it” but it is possible, like never before. Learn what you need to know, you can learn anything today at no cost or low cost and then dive in. Don’t look back in ten years asking “Why didn’t I?” instead, start now, so you can smile in ten years and say, “Look at what we did!” It’s your choice.