Makers of the world please take note: design is everything and iteration is key.
Today everyone is a “maker” with a couple 3D printers and piles of prototypes in their basement. The crowdfunding and incubator market is becoming increasingly saturated with makers all making the same stuff. When scanning through the many iterations, it’s near-impossible to tell the difference between the next Einsteins vs. the Elmer Fudds.
Leading artificial intelligence innovator, Chris Boos arrived from Germany to sunny South Florida for the SIME digital conference earlier this month with a reality check for entrepreneurs in South Florida who self-identify as disruptive technologists.
“You hear a lot about disruptive technologies,” Boos said. “There is a difference between innovation and disruption. Today, it’s those who are the most successful at iterating that are really in the game.”
The accessibility of the 3D printer has leveled the field for innovators and put greater emphasis on the importance of design. The craze has several engineering firms emphasizing that anyone can cry wolf in the Decade of 3D print technology, but that effective prototype iteration requires that design thinking and engineering become an integral part of product development.
Jaycon Systems in Space Coast, Florida is one engineering design firm that is in the business iteration for the sport of it. Congress’s action to double down on budget cuts to planetary science by 20 percent earlier this year led them to recruit the restless pool of engineering talent into the startup sphere. These designers, technologists, engineers, and computer programmers are punks of iteration in the global maker movement. They aim to relaunch the Space Coast as the place where cutting-edge, “moon shot” ideas are engineered into reality.
With a 3D printer to their right and a pick n’ place machine to their left, co-founders Derek Blankenship and Jiten Chandiramani challenged the saturated market of key-finder app technologies to a design duel.
“Why’d we make the Hiro?” co-founder of Jaycon, Jiten Chandiramani asked, “because we could.”
They began by both designing and assembling the keyfinder in the United States, then drew schematics that made it smaller. Next, Jaycon sliced the price in half and injected molds in every color. Finally, they made it water resistant and released the mobile app code as open source.
Thus, the Hiro key-finder app was born. Their engineers watch the kickstarter clock and grasp at disruptive marketing campaigns. Many of their competitors like Tile and Tracker raised more than one million dollars through crowdfunding.
As these players enter the Kickstarter market, skeptics unite. The allure of overnight success stories on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo has made it increasingly difficult for backers to know whether they’re buying into the next latest and greatest gadget or a total maker scam. An informed union of crowd funders are demanding that great technological claims be backed by any means of evidence to support their investment.
As an example, the key finder app called StoneTether just completed its Kickstarter campaign and walked away with $400,000 and one dozen commenters who claim to have withdrawn their funds because their demands for more photos of the hardware were never fulfilled.
StoneTether says it has twice the range of any other keyfinder at 500 feet, a range that seemingly informed, online pledge haters say is not possible according to the current frequency limitations of bluetooth technology. Whether justified or not, the comments page on Kickstarter has become more of a Jerry Springer episode than a club forum for backers.
“Some technical videos of the PCB, device, production process, are all valid requests from backers,” said commenter Srijit. “These would give more credibility to your work.”
Or the more aggressive:
“Your excuses for not posting photos are poor at best,” said commenter, James.
Whether these products are bluffing or not, the SIME opening statement made by Boos sets the tone for the next generation of fairy tale 3D print projects. The new frontier of next generation iteration via crowdsourcing will likely have goldilocks backers tiptoeing through the forest as entrepreneurs climb into sheepskin.