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The Hardware Renaissance (Hat Tip To The Makers)

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Maker culture started out as a DIY movement…

By Renee DiResta (Associate, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures)

Paul Graham wrote an interesting post today about the emergence of hardware companies in the Silicon Valley startup scene. It’s great to see an increasing number of investors get excited about physical products. I want to take a moment to talk about the people who’ve been driving that renaissance: the Maker community.

Building a hardware business is feasible today in a way that it previously wasn’t, and it’s largely due to the trail-blazing of this group of people.

Maker culture started out as a DIY movement.“Technology on your time” was the phrase that Dale Dougherty and Tim O’Reilly used to describe it in 2005 when they launched Make Magazine. It’s a culture that celebrates ingenuity, creativity, hands-on craftsmanship. It’s about bringing an idea to life, tinkering, sharing. There’s a playfulness underlying the movement, a desire to understand the world. Some of what is produced solves a problem, some of it is about artistic expression (like the life-size Mousetrap game pictured, from 2012 World Maker Faire).

Now we’re seeing the rise of companies that are outgrowths of Maker culture; MakerBot and Arduino are two of the biggest, but there are so many more. The cost of prototyping has dropped – which itself is partially because of Arduino and MakerBot. A number of hardware-specific incubators have popped up to give hardware startups the specific kind of support that they need (including help with manufacturing, logistics, industrial design and supply chain issues). So if you’re looking to start a hardware company, make sure to check out Lemnos Labs, Bo.lt, PCH and Haxlr8r.

On the investor side, we’re seeing more startups that are hybrid hardware-software companies – “software wrapped in plastic” is the phrase that Brad Feld has used. Crowdfunding and active communities are facilitating early product development, Shapeways, Ponoko and TechShop are making tools more accessible, and widespread news coverage is increasing awareness. Hackerspaces are popping up across the country. There’s also a thriving Open Hardware community, which has an inspiring ‘remix’ culture that’s helping to push the boundaries of innovation.

There’s an incredible amount of energy in the space right now… I’m excited to see where things are headed.

This post was originally posted at No Upside.

Women 2.0 readers: What are your favorite MAKER startups, accelerators and hackerspaces? Let us know in the comments.

About the guest blogger: Renee DiResta is currently an Associate at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, where she researches emerging technology trends and supports portfolio companies. Prior to OATV, she spent six and a half years as a trader at Jane Street Capital, a quantitative proprietary trading firm in New York. Renee holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Political Science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Follow her on Twitter at @noupside.