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Meet the founders – MakingSociety – Mathilde Berchon
The Meet the Founders column goes forward with this interview with Mathilde Berchon a French girl currently living in San Francisco, involved in the open hardware and 3D printing scene. She’s the person behind MakingSociety, a platform dedicated to open source hardware entrepreneurs. Its goal is to help open hardware entrepreneurs by providing useful resources for building their business: prototyping, funding, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and more.
Mathilde told us that It all started as a 3 months trip in the Bay Area two years ago to meet makers doing awesome projects and it’s now a website covering open hardware startups.
[Open Electronics] What’s your learning path in creating a business around storytelling for (open source hardware) makers? What are the needs you’re trying to answer. Is that a universe that deserves more visibility?
[Mathilde from Making Society] Definitively. Many makers are now entrepreneurs. Many of them are primarily engineers and know their way around building awesome projects. But going from a DIY project to a real business is hard matter. It takes all kind of skills and knowledge (marketing, manufacturing…). That’s also why it’s so fun. MakingSociety is here to share valuable information for open hardware makers so that they can acquire these new skills more easily.
[Open Electronics] And what do you see in the future of your MakingSociety project?
[Mathilde from Making Society] Right now, content is the key. I want to publish much more resources. I’m also preparing the launch of a podcast specifically dedicated to open hardware entrepreneurs.
[Open Electronics] My, impression is that you’re betting much on sharing entrepreneurial experiences between OSHW Makers (you also created the OSHW Group on Linkedin) is that something that people value? Are they inclined to learn from each other? I mean, entrepreneurial approach to Open Source Hardware is pretty at an early stage still, and we need to develop a lot of skills and methodologies.
[Mathilde from Making Society] Yes, I think there is a real need for sharing business skills related to open source hardware. In my opinion, the open source hardware movement is now pretty well structured. It has a legal structure, very successful companies and a vibrant community of aspiring makers-entrepreneurs. MakingSociety is here to help the entrepreneurial side of the movement. The Open Hardware Entrepreneurs Linkedin group counts more than 100 members to date, and is growing every day.
[Open Electronics] The other interesting approach I’ve found on MakingSociety is about mapping resources: you’ve mapped stores to distribute products, investors, etc… What are some other relevant resources that you have listed and you want to point out and what new resource recaps are you looking forward to map in the future?
[Mathilde from Making Society] Lists are a good way for makers to find content they need more easily. Like, “hey I want to distribute my open hardware kit in the Middle East, what are the 10 biggest open hardware stores there?” or “Ok, I have a prototype and a strong business plan, who should I send it to and how to find the contact information?” This kind of answers are on MakingSociety.
I also listed open source hardware furnitures in an article which had a great success. I’m currently preparing an extensive list of Arduino and Arduino-like projects playing with light and a map of documentation platforms for open hardware projects. Among many others!
[Open Electronics] How is the OSHW ecosystem growing in the US? you’re directly experiencing the Silicon Valley from the inside, would you tell us what’s going on there in relations with the OSHW Movement? Is there a different approach in Europe respect the US or this is going to be a global community?
[Mathilde from Making Society] The Open Source Hardware movement is clearly growing, in the US but also everywhere else in the world. The main difference holds in the fact that US open hardware makers are more often entrepreneurs than in Europe for example. Adafruit, SparkFun, Evil Mad Scientist, DIY Drones… are all open hardware companies based in the US. It can be explained by the ecosystem that is already well identified. Events like Maker Faire and spaces like Techshop and local hackerspaces are really driving the hardware innovation here.
The open hardware community is a global one. Everyday, new people from all over the world discover Arduino, RepRap
[Open Electronics] You’re also a mentor on KissKissBankBank for what regards Open Source Hardware projects. Have you already mentored european OSHW entrepreneurs? What are the suggestions you would give to an OSHW entrepreneur that wants to kick off a crowdfunding campaign?
[Mathilde from Making Society] Yes, I’m currently helping DOOD, a French collective, to launch on KissKissBankBank the Digital Object Maker, a fully open source 3D printer that they created at FacLab, a Fab Lab located near Paris. Crowdfunding is a really good way to test your demand and go from prototyping to small batches, or even to production. The suggestions I would give is: prepare your campaign at least 2 months before the launch date. Get the help of a filmmaker and try to find an angle that really makes you special. Campaigns don’t succeed magically, it takes time and creativity. So, get ready for sending many emails and Facebook updates. Feel free to get in touch with me for more suggestions.
[Open Electronics] Good Luck Mathilde! A lot of great resources for Makers!