Hardware Startups' Heaven!

Hardware Startups' Heaven!

The Makerland Conference

For three days (17-19.03) Warsaw, to be more specific Copernicus Science Center, became a land of makers. They came from various countries to exchange their skills and experience, build cool stuff and have fun at the same time. The key feature of Makerland are asynchronous workshops where you can join and leave any time during conference. The idea is also to have inspirational talks in the morning so everyone could be full of positive energy to create. Ewa and I were part of organizing team and these are our afterthoughts.  

Makers

There were about 320 attendees. All of these people formed multicultural environment focused on creation. We all made it happen. Because of the asynchronous formula there were about 100 people who took active part in organization process. 36 of those guys were speakers and workshop leaders.

Talks

First day was kicked off by keynote by Daniel Friedman - CEO of Ninja Blocks. Then we had awesome people like Kate Drane from Indiegogo talking about power of crowdsourcing, Emile Petrone founder of Tindie - store for indie makers.

The second day was started by Brady Forrest who is CEO of Highway1 - hardware startup accelerator in Silicon Valley. Our favourite thought from his keynote was: investors doesn’t put money in teams which has been already formed just for given particular project. According to him it’s too risky because many teams break in a year period of time.

During that day there was also awesome talk by John Biggs, East Coast Editor at TechCrunch. Still we have in our minds one of his quotes: “Hardware makes software sticky for users.”

Closing talk followed by long Q&A session was led by Zach Supalla, CEO of Spark. He told his story from home maker to large scale company thanks to successful Kickstarter campaign. One of his best tip for makers was to avoid the company stage when you are too big to produce hardware on your own and too small to produce big batches in China’s factories. Whatever you do you have to think big in order to easily scale your idea later.

See agenda to check out all the speakers.

Workshops

There were a huge variety of workshops from hard skills with hands on Arduino, Raspberry Pi and Spark Core device, through 3D modeling and printing, to soft skills one like hacking your career and design thinking. Attendees had a chance to play with flying robots, build underwater robot on Arduino Nano, control dancing bots and much much more! Code filled a conference center to the brim.

Everyone really like the idea of asynchronous workshops in one big open space. It was up to you what are you working on right now and it was very easy to grab your bag and jump to workshop next to the current one. The view of all people cooperating together was awesome and really motivating!

The most helpful thing to go through each workshop was a book with tutorials which was inside every goodie bag. It was key point that allowed for asynchronous formula and everyone could dive smoothly into each workshop. It was first this kind of “hands on” conference ever on the world! What’s more the book is open sourced on Creative Common NonCommercial ShareAlike license (CC-NC-SA) as well as it is also available online and on dedicated tablets apps on App Store and Google Play. Due to big number of workshops it was difficult to attend all of them but thanks to the book you can still reproduce them at home.

There were also some power-ups for all attendees like ordering system for 3D printers where everyone could print whatever they wanted and live Twitter wall created after hours by our team at StartupWorks. We were pleased to get positive feedback from attendees like "it’s the fastest Twitter wall I had ever seen".

Hackathon

The last day was a challenge for all the makers. In the morning everyone had a chance to present their idea for a project. Everyone else could join a team he/she liked. After 6 hours hacking teams had to show demo of their projects. There were 27 hacks! That was quite something!

It’s really difficult to describe how awesome projects people build during that time! All of them were amazing! Our favourite one was the turtle which is hardware implementation of Logo language.

We also really liked a bag light - from our point of view the simplest and the most practical project!

We also love the idea of developer punisher which points the guy who broke the tests in continuous integration servers.

In our opinion the best interface had ultrasonic drums project. You can wave your hands to control the game like Guitar Hero.

The last mind blowing project which is worth mentioning is a prototype of RHex robot inspired by Boston Robotics company. The vehicle is controlled by Spark Core. The amazing thing is that whole skeleton was 3D printed during the hackathon! This project is a proof there is no limits for your creativity!

The most important thing is that there were a lot of people who tried Arduino for the first time during the conference and they built awesome projects on the hackathon! It shows Makerland is for everyone!

Entertainment

There were two parties: an opening one and a closing one. Both of them were private so we shouldn’t reveal any info but just to let you know, makers are party animals!

Closing party was sponsored by SendGrid and there was a robot serving drinks which was really cool.

It’s difficult to express the feeling when you see all of those people you met on conference dancing and jumping around!

Opinions

During the conference we got a lot of good feedback. Firstly people were amazed with content of our goodie bags! It’s completely crazy that everyone got their own Spark Core device. We all should say big “thank you” to the Spark team for their effort to ship the hardware right before the conference!

Secondly attendees loved the formula of the conference and really well prepared substantive content!

Thirdly all of us were surprised that we have so big community of enthusiastic, inspirational and friendly makers.

Except the above people really liked the food and they found Copernicus Science Center a very suitable venue for this kind of conference.

Many many people were praising the design and the scenery of the venue. It's all thanks to all the volunteers!

It’s difficult to talk about the failures on the conference as everything was executed almost perfectly. From an attendee’s point of view probably the biggest disadvantage was that there was not enough time to attend all the workshops. (Did anyone manage it?). Also, there were some Iternet connection issues during the first day, but thanks to our StartupWorks team it was solved quickly and it worked pretty well during the two remaining days

Future of Makerland

The second edition of Makerland is already in the works! As we get a lot of good feedback and suggestions to organize US edition of Makerland it may take place in San Francisco next year! Are you excited?

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