Makers in San Francisco
How has a workshop become a hardware producing startup?
When I am in San Francisco I often realize that we pass the offices of well-known brands as if it were the most common thing in the world. And it is. Locals definitely don’t have butterflies in their stomachs when they stroll away in front of the headquarters of Twitter or Linkedin. These are just normal, everyday people who work there and as we get closer to these places we can see that life here is very similar to other startups. The only difference is that these companies are already in the unicorn phase, so the evaluation of the company reached 1 billion dollars.
However, all of them started at some place and the rocky road to fame has not led through market evaluation.
That’s why sometimes it is worth looking behind the story.
That’s how I came across with Noisebridge hackspace I mentioned earlier. Thanks again to Meetup, we found an event they organized in Noisebridge. Since we commute from Palo Alto to San Francisco we always try to organize an evening meetup with the day meeting. This is how we got to Stranger Parts already known by Scotty. If somebody happens to be in San Francisco, they should see this place in Mission Street.
Mission Street is not the coolest place, it is rather authentic. This way we get to the first floor through an electric gate with a camera. They might find our looks friendly because after ringing the bell the gate buzzes and lets us through.
Noisebridge is the first hackspace of the area
It is a makerspace, where anybody can go in and work on their ideas. The purpose is creation, hacking, improving, the innovation of things. We can manage all this in a friendly communal area equipped with tools and devices. This location or group is also called anarchists in the US but there is nothing extreme here.
The point of the hacker movement does not entirely fit the capitalist society we are familiar with because local makers’ credo is “what I can’t fix or open does not really belong to me”.
This is typical for a growing number of products nowadays and let’s put aside the fact that they take away your warranty if you want to look under a new car or the cover of a new device. As for the principles of the makers’ movement, it is not right to have a product you paid for but didn’t get any assembling instructions. So the case is, you will find a black box under the plastic cover of your newly bought car, which can be decoded only by the brand service. Makers have this kind of problem with the present world.
That’s why they do not really like when somebody goes along Noisebridge and makes recordings of the faces of people there. Some people are not bothered by this but others came up and asked the shooters to respect this rule. That’s why it took days to cut the video on my phone. The result can be seen here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/BwX7osRg6bt/
You can find a textile workshop, programming, VR-corner, wood workshop, metal workshop, CNC miller, 3D printer and a lot of helpful people who won’t quip on what you are doing but help if you need advice.
Later I got the big picture (and it really gives me goosebumps how synchronicity is present in our lives).
Then I bumped into Mitch Altman’s TEDxBrusszel presentation and guess what, Mitch was the one who founded Noisebridge in San Francisco after a German makers’ conference (and that is not the end of the story).
It turned out in the meantime that an accelerator named HAX — specialized in hardware developing startups — is also worth a visit. As we found out later, the leader there is also Mitch, who had already handed over the management of Noisebridge to the community for over a year. HAX helps you realize your idea all the way to the finishing: they take you to China, where the proper mentors take you over the stages of carrying out the prototype until the completion of serial production.
It’s a small world, isn’t it?
We could say this because ENVIENTA project is exactly about that. Except the developers don’t need to travel anywhere, everything happens online, decentralizing the development of the prototype, raising capital and production (meaning that the product you ordered is being manufactured by a local expert or company in your town or village).
In the meantime we have visited HAX, too, we would like to work with them. They also have a biotech section (It is going to be important to us later).
Every night we go for a walk before we return from San Francisco. That night we went to the 2nd street railway station, walking a long way over the hills because this city is famous for its streets built on hills. That was when I took this photo:
If you would like to follow or participate in the ENVIENTA project, come and join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1549322302054465/