Techie DIY projects creating a movement
Laser cutting, machine sewing, wood-working -- they're some of the skills used to build today's latest tech product. And more and more entrepreneurs are getting hands-on training to make their ideas a reality. Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop, talks to SmartPlanet correspondent Sumi Das about what is being called the Maker Movement.
Sumi Das: Laser cutting, machine sewing, woodworking, they're some of the basic skills needed to build today's latest tech products. And more and more, entrepreneurs are getting hands-on training to make their ideas a reality. Mark Hatch is the CEO of Tech Shop, one of the place inventors go to prototype their projects. And he's here to tell us more about what's being called the Maker Movement. Mark, thanks for joining me today. Mark Hatch: Thank you for letting me come, Sumi. Sumi Das: So let's first talk about this trend, the Maker Movement. Can you elaborate on what that is? Mark Hatch: Well, the Maker Movement started really with the launch of Make Magazine in 2005, 2006, that's an O'Reilly publishing magazine and they were really trying to just tap into the maker desire that they were starting see and feel across the U.S. and they launched the magazine in 2005 and they did the first Maker Fair in 2006, just kind of like a Twenty First Century version of a county fair. Sumi Das: It's grown. Mark Hatch: And it's grown from 25,000 the first year, they had like 110,000 people show up last, last year. So it's grown quite nicely and the magazine's doing quite well. Sumi Das: And what type of projects are the people involve in this movement making? What are they creating? Mark Hatch: They make everything from, you know, desktop things, little, simple things, you know, I brought one of these. This is a knitty knit needle gauge made out of bamboo and she's since launched a company and quit her six figure a year job to be able to focus on doing kind of craft stuff. Serious entrepreneurs who are launching major companies and then everything in between, artists, students, any who likes to make things, which, by the way, turns out to be about 64% of Americans, according to one researcher. Sumi Das: We're a crafty bunch, I guess. Mark Hatch: A lot of people like to make things. It's fundamental what it means to be human, or at least believe that. Sumi Das: So, what is the impact, the potential impact of this movement on the economy, the country at large? Mark Hatch: Well, there are some trends that are really working in our favor and specifically, the tools that we're starting to see come online are the cheapest, easiest and most powerful we've ever seen. As a result, people are making everything from lunar landers, electric motorcycles to, you know, frames for their bed to lawn art, to greeting cards, just literally anything and everything that you can make in small lots, people now have the ability to make. Sumi Das: There's also a big corporate push to support these inventors. GE has invested a billion dollars to bring craftsmanship back to the U.S., tell us about that. Mark Hatch: So, so GE's a natural kind of partner and what they see and think what, what we've seen is that, you know, maybe the major integrated manufacturing that does a million units of something isn't going to come back, but medium runs, 500, 1,000, 10,000 units of something where we use computer and robots and designers, instead of labor, that stuff's going to come back. And, you know, I like to say, you know, well, what, what kind of things are medium rums? Well, I don't know. Boeing Aircraft, jet engines, you don't sell a million jet engines ever. There are individuals on manufacturing lines doing this incredible crafty, you know, stuff, auto manufacturing land, what's happening is now those kinds of tools are becoming available for disposable income prices. And that is going to change, I think it has an opportunity to completely change the manufacturing economics in the U.S. Sumi Das: You are CEO of Tech Shop, you have five locations and you're expanding. Mark Hatch: That's correct. Sumi Das: You have more locations in the works. What happens at a tech shop? Mark Hatch: Wow. Pretty much everything, so students, artists, entrepreneurs, and people come in. We have 800 members at the local one here in San Francisco and they come in in the evenings and on weekends and hang out together and, and create amazing things. And they do real businesses. So, you know, one of our favorite stories has come out is Jack Dorsey and James McKelvey's square device, where in Menlo Park, this time, they were able to build the original three prototypes in a very short period of time, a window of maybe two or three weeks. They got through three iterations, were able to build the prototype on site, take it into their series inaudible and raise funds. Historically, that would have cost you $100,000. It would have taken six months. You would be shipping things back and forth between China and Latin America and, and other places. Now you can come into a facility like ours or a hacker space or other maker space, come in, use the tools, produce your prototypes and go take them to investors within weeks. And we've seen that happen routinely. Sumi Das: And of course, Square has gone onto big success. Mark Hatch: Square has gone onto amazing, amazing things. Yeah. So I think they have 250 employees now, a billion dollar evaluation, 140 million dollars series D or E. They're, they're doing quite well. Sumi Das: This reminds me of shop class, which used to be offered in high schools, but I don't think is anymore. Mark Hatch: Right. Well, it's shop class on steroids because we've, we've added the computer element. Sumi Das: More sophisticated. Mark Hatch: Yeah. Yeah and what's cool is the software tools are easy enough to use that we are routinely teaching people how to use those, that software in two or three class sessions. So instead of waiting a year to get good at using a machine, we literally will take somebody this week and at the end of the week, they can produce useful items. That's never been possible before. Sumi Das: Skip your coffee addiction and put that towards membership fees at inaudible. Mark Hatch: We'll all double down, right? It's only 3 bucks a day. Sumi Das: Mark Hatch, CEO of Tech Shop, thanks so much for joining us today. Mark Hatch: Thanks for your time, Sumi. Sumi Das: For Smart Planet, I'm Sumi Das.