Today’s Venture Connectors’ Luncheon celebrated what’s shaping up to be “Makers Month” in Louisville. The keynote presentation was a panel of prominent locals in the maker movement moderated by Louisville Mini Maker Faire co-founder Campbell Boyer.
Appropriately, it was also the last meeting for which maker Alex Frommeyer would serve as chairman of the programming committee for the event after two years of service. As we previously reported, Frommeyer and his partners received $5 million in capital for their Beam Brush — an app-connected toothbrush — contingent on moving the company to Columbus, Ohio.
Frommeyer did not stand for any sentiment in his send-off and handed off introduction duties to his replacement, Dayna Neumann of Exsellerator.
The topic of the panel: “Making money by making things.”
Boyer said he is often asked what a maker faire is, to which he answers, “The world’s greatest show and tell.” People “his age” were raised differently than youth today, he said: “We were allowed to experiment, to take things apart, to blow things up.” So his main focus with the maker faire is to encourage kids and foster their curiosity about building and creating.
Often people muse on how Louisville could be the “next hotbed” of something, Boyer said, but because of our history and because of current advances in the local maker movement, we really could be the “next hotbed” of manufacturing.
Venkat Venkatakrishnan is the lead facilitator at FirstBuild but says he “still gets his paycheck from GE.” Venkatakrishnan said GE’s first intention was to create FirstBuild at the Brooklyn Navy Shipyard in New York. But because local employees of GE were so enthusiastic about the project and because U of L was interested in getting involved, the tides changed and GE opened it here.
FirstBuild, Boyer pointed out, is the first organization of its kind in the world. Venkatakrishnan said he searched for a long time and couldn’t find another large company working with the public to crowdsource ideas and do rapid prototyping. He said FirstBuild has the capability to take a product to market in three months. If it’s your idea and they decided to take it to market, you get royalties but you still retain the intellectual property.
“You can take it to Samsung if you like,” said Venkatakrishnan.
FirstBuild is a major sponsor of the mini Maker Faire, which is Sept. 27.
Of course, FirstBuild probably wouldn’t have happened — at least not in Louisville — without significant support from the LVL1 Hackerspace community. President Brad Luyster was on the panel and spoke about the GE/LVL1 Hackathon (he was on the winning team). He also invited everyone to visit LVL1 at the Pointe in Butchertown on any Tuesday at 8 p.m., which is when they have a weekly members meeting and an open house. The address is 1205 E. Washington St.
Deanna Mitchell, senior visual designer for Mad*Pow, was also on the panel to talk about the ReSurfaced project, which will transform a downtown vacant lot into a performance space and beer garden (and much more). Mitchell is working on tech integration for the space, which will include free wifi. Mitchell also is creating a 3D projected video game that interacts with the human body; some part of that system will debut during the mini Maker Faire.
Other updates on the Faire: The Device from Lexington’s Newton’s Attic will return (that was the funky roller coaster) and some parts of the Faire will remain open until NuLu Fest closes (last year the Faire closed at 6 p.m.). I believe the beer garden will be located on the same block as the Device … I’ll just leave that thought there.
At the beginning of the luncheon, Lisa Bajorinas shared some particularly spectacular news in her monthly “Who’s Been Funded?” presentation. While everyone was abuzz about Frommeyer and Beam raising $5 million, Apellis Pharmaceuticals quietly raised $17.8 million last month. You’ll hear more about that in this week’s “The Closing Bell” column.
In addition, Onovative, a banking software firm founded by Michael Browning, raised $400,000.
That means, year to date, 33 companies in Louisville have been funded to the tune of $39.6 million, double where we were this time last year.