The walk was long (Ugh, from 7th ave to 11ave) , but I finally made it to the Hardwired NYC Meetup February 2014 event, Hosted at Quirky. Even though I was late I was early. People were just flowing in to Quirky’s offices located on the far West 28th street. As a life long New York’r going this far west is a trek. I am not sure I could get use to that commute. LOL
Before going to the event I noticed a link on the event page. I am did not see it before. So I may have missed it. The link was to Quirky’s NDA. I read it and it was simple, but strange that they would imply the use of this for this event. I have heard other people complaining about these NDA’s at events at the Makerbot offices. They require you to sign the NDA before you enter. At this event you did not sign anything, but the NDA was implied. I have no idea how Quirky could in force this, but anyway. We are here to hear peoples hardware startup stories. Of which I love to hear.
First up are the gents, Brian Garret and Bram de Zwart, from 3D Hubs. 3D Hubs helps connect people that need something 3D printed to the people that have the 3D printers. They do this globally and by building a community of enthusiast that are in the know about 3D printing. They realized the need when they were working for Cubed. They saw that most 3D printers are idle about 98% of the time. Damn, that is a lot of idle time. I later asked them how long do you think it would take on average to use 3D Hubs to help pay for your 3D Printer itself. They said it was about 100 prints or about 2-3 months of constant use of 3D Hubs market place community. That is amazing. Makes me want to go out now and get a 3D printer now!! This could push me over the edge. I do own a Printrbot Simple, but I have not been liking it lately.
Next up was Emile Petrone, founder and CEO of Tindie. Tindie is a market place for all things hardware and tech focused. An artisanal hardware market place. I have bought things on Tindie before. The interface is very simple and easy to use. He talked about how Tindie started. It started via a Reddit post. He asked the Reddit community about his business idea, got feedback and then knew he should try it out. If I remember correctly he mentioned he did a trial of this at an Apple WWDC event. Please correct me if I got this wrong here. Tindie does remind me of Etsy. The difference and similarity is that they both do products that focus on a type of product category. Handmade verus Artisanal Hardware. The value in this business is the audience (eyeballs) Tindie brings to their customers that setup a store front on the website. I am wondering though if after the uniqueness of this blows over what will they do to keep the eyeballs coming back. I hope they have thought of that. I love the idea of these market places. They give the maker-going-pro a place to tip their toes into ecommerce in a safe environment.
The fabulous founder and CEO of Makie, Alice Taylor was up next. You have to love her. The Brits talk very smoothly and eloquently. Even with the jet lag she gave a great presentation. They make customizable 3D printed dolls for girls. I have hear very little of her company. I give them a lot of credit for entering into the toy business. Wow. Just wow. Their product is very very professional looking for a 3D printed product. I wonder, I forgot to ask, which 3D printer they use. Her presentation was a mix of how she got started and lessons learned. Their two revenue stream business is fascinating. They sell the customizable dolls and they are now starting to go into online gaming. Their first game is a dress up game. They may have a boy’s doll in the works. I know little about the toy business, of what I know is that it is a very hard business to break into. She has done it. I think it is cool that she has used 3D printing to create such a unique toy.
The last presenter, before the interview with the CEO of Quirky was Hugo Fiennes, founder and CEO of Electric Imp. Electric Imp is a platform for IoT. I have heard of them before, but never heard his startup story. He worked at some very important companies like Apple, Nest and IBM as an Electrical Engineer. He started Electric Imp while he was working at Nest. The idea of having a platform for how smart things communicate over the web is brilliant. It makes the job of the electrical engineer easier. From my standpoint our customers will get an IoT product prototype quicker. However, the downside is when you want to go to production and scale to higher quantities. As the number of products increase the manufacturing cost don’t scale because you need to include the SD card package in your product. However if they can shrink it down to a chip package and manufacture that in large quantities the costs will definitely go down and scaling will happen. He mentioned they are looking into that. Quirky is a partner of theirs and uses the Electric Imp in their smart plug. Check out some of the pictures below in the gallery section of this post. In them he shows a diagram of how Electric Imp works. I like it. Again I would love to give it a try.
The interview of Ben Kaufman Quirky Founder by Matt Turck was interesting. Ben’s story is one of those “it is great to not know anything and just jump right in” stories. Just do it as on your Nikes says Ben. The interview was a bit uncomfortable at one point as Ben mentions how FirstMark, the VC firm that Matt works at, screwed him. From what I see from Quirky’s fab offices, they are not hurting in the least. The Quirky offices are beautiful. The comments got some groans and laughs from the audience, but obviously you could feel the energy was a bit tense. Matt was great at continuing and asking Ben questions to get the interview on track. Some Ben did not answer. Ben did talk about the Quirky process of which everyone knows about. I do think it is interesting that Quirky has created a global manufacturing community in which they do all the product development and heavy lifting for the manufacturing process. They even do distribution. If you are a manufacturer you have to admire them. Ben has a sense of pride in that they treat the designer and IP maker as king. Quirky owns the IP and the designer has a forever license. This creates a lot of value for Quirky as they bare all the risk. I admire them, their capabilities, their relationships with GE and their retail distribution channels. Way to go Quirky!!!
After the stage act was over the networking began. I saw a lot of old faces that I have gotten to know on the hardware scene. Until the next Hardwired NYC event.
Check it out. I have more pictures of the event below. Sorry for the low light conditions, but you should be able to make out the slides and the speakers ok. I did my best to caption the images. Enjoy.