How can a space filled with tools, a 3D printer, and tinkerers spawn new business ecosystems, attract AmazonAMZN
Founder Jeff Bezos to invest, and impact the economic viability of developing countries with new forms of government? In the U.S. and Europe, makerspaces (or as they are commonly known, hackerspaces) are places for people to come together to work on projects, utilize tools, and share what they have made. People come to work on electronics projects, art pieces, robotics projects, or just because they have a sense of curiosity. The organizations that run the space are usually organized as non-profits and their members gain access by paying dues for the tools, overhead and maintenance cost. But it's not just a high-tech commune; it's grown into much more and spawned a larger industry. The open source hardware ecosystem is growing. Like the homebrew computer clubs where Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs debuted their new Apple computers, the maker movement is spawning real business. Three-dimensional printers used to be the domain of well-capitalized inventors and prototype shops, with costs exceeding $250,000 for a machine that can take a 3D image file and some input material and deposit that material to create a real 3D object. A project emerged that wanted to tackle this cost barrier to 3D printing. They put together an open source 3D printer calledRepRap
, which could create most of the parts for more RepRaps. RepRap was great project to bring down the cost, but the accuracy and precision of the machine left hobbyists wanting more. Members ofNYC Resistor
hackerspace were big fans of RepRap, but wanted to produce affordable kits for more reliable, accurate 3D printers. Demand was so strong for these kits, the founders left their day jobs to pursueMakerBot Industries
full-time, and just recently they received a $10 million investment form top flight investors, includingBrad Feld
. The economic and social impact of makerspaces in the community can be significant. Mitch Altman, founder ofNoisebridge
(a hackerspace in San Francisco) and creator of open source projectTV-B-Gone
, which turns off any television from your keychain, commented, “People need to express themselves through creativity. We need to make tools and share them with each other. Hackerspaces provide for this inner need.” Members can now be connected with other makers to create an original object from scratch and sell it to support their family, print spare parts for their vehicles, or just tinker with other makers in a supportive environment. Bilal Ghalib, who helped formed hackerspaces in Ann Arbor, was given an opportunity to meet at the Whitehouse with the agenda of how the U.S. can encourage countries with recent revolutions and was asked for his perspective on what the U.S. can do. As a response to this question, he started the Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space Initiative, orGEMSI
as he believes that developing countries and countries with new forms of government are primed for makerspaces as a community lynchpin to encourage economic stability and trading viability. Bilal will be traveling to Cairo with Mitch ahead ofMaker Faire Africa – Cairo
to help connect local makers and develop the case for more makerspaces in developing countries. They are looking for support on aKickstarter project
for this initiative and for potential advisory board members who are interested in novel forms of economic development that starts with the idea that everyone can Do-it-Yourself.
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