What the heck is all this “Maker” business? The word pops up everywhere and seems to refer to all manner of activities. Wikipedia defines “Maker culture,” as, “a contemporary culture or subculture . . . that intersects with hacker culture . . . revels in the creation of new devices as well as tinkering with existing ones . . . interests . . . include engineering-oriented pursuits such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and, mainly, its predecessor, the traditional arts and crafts.”
I’ve pointed out that we have a large and, seemingly, expanding “maker” culture. I’ve written articles focused on a number of our local “makers,” from Maker’s Donuts (see, they even used the term!) to Paulk and Company, Fork Design, Striped Light, High Resolutions and many more. Whether you call it “making,” or “light production” or “boutique production,” it’s a trend locally and nationally. It’s something we need to nurture as a city for many reasons, but for one, some of these small enterprises will become tomorrow’s massive success story and we want our city to have its share of those stories.
The movement has spawned a large online presence, including Makezine. The Institute for the Future has developed an online collaborative game called Maker Cities based on the ethos of the movement. Etsy, which is an example of maker culture is defined by Wikipedia as, “peer-to-peer (P2P) e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items.” Interestingly, one of our very own local “makers,” Pretentious Glass consistently holds down the number two sales spot in the world on Etsy.
And now Etsy is stepping up their representation of “maker culture,” with their Etsy Maker Cities initiative. Its intention is to pair, “strong municipalities that value entrepreneurship, sustainability, and responsible manufacturing with the creative and innovative spirit of the Etsy community.” The intention is to develop, “Empowered micro-businesses, strengthened local economies, and collective commitments to change how we buy, sell, and create goods.”
They started the effort by inviting cities and others to submit applications to be selected to attend the first Etsy Maker Cities Summit. Out of 126 cities, thirteen were chosen and Knoxville was one of those. A contingent from Knoxville attended the two-day meeting in Brooklyn, N.Y. This Monday at The Mill and Mine, the results of that conference will be on display as the Mayor presents her Summit on Entrepreneurship and the Etsy Maker City Summit. Sponsored by Innov865 and the Entrepreneur Center, the Kauffman Foundation is also involved.
The theme of the day will be, “Rethinking Economic Development,” with a focus on meeting, “the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.” After the morning sessions, the Etsy Maker City Summit officially starts in the afternoon, “celebrating local entrepreneurs and leaders in the Maker movement and showcasing some of our regional innovators with panel discussions about Maker spaces, growing a business and creative manufacturing.”
The theme continues on Wednesday when the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center joins Scripps Networks Interactive to present, “The Works: Demo Day 2016,” billed as a, “showcase highlighting the area’s newest media and software companies.” The Works is made up of two 12-week accelerators, MediaWorks and CodeWorks. The event is filling rapidly (registration is required, but is free) and you must make reservations by tomorrow.
MediaWorks is a “media-focused accelerator designed to support four online content creators and social influencers in launching new startup ventures. These nationally recognized digital media personalities and lifestyle content creators featured on outlets such as HGTV and YouTube, among others, have been selected to develop new lifestyle startups as part of this $100,000 accelerator backed by Scripps Networks.” The four participants in this area are Travelista Teri, Duzertv, Engineer Your Space and DateBooth.
CodeWorks is designed, “for four software developers, programmers, and hackers who want to grow their startup as fast as possible. CodeWorks participants will be funded by Knoxville-based Angel Capital Group . . .” Participating in Codeworks is ImmersaCAD (virtual reality), RDI Technologies (motion amplification), Review Box and AirFlair.
The week ends with Startup Day 2016 showcasing local developers at the Bijou Theatre from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM. Paul Singh, “nationally recognized entrepreneur and seed stage investor” will be present. The focus of the afternoon is on the, “power pitches from six Knoxville-area startups competing for a $5,000 cash prize presented by Three Roots Capital and SouthEast Bank.” The UT Federal Credit Union Traction Award will be given to, “Startup Day alum that has made the most progress.”
I hope to immerse myself in these events next week and to fill you in on what I learn, as well as, perhaps focus in a little more closely on a couple of the participants. Events like these help us realize as a city that we’ve got a lot of creative people. We just need to find ways to encourage and help them lead us in innovation and creativity as we explore our common future.