On The IOT: The Idea Is the Easy Part

Hacker Spaces (like the one pictured at University of Maryland) play a pivotal role in fostering innovation and community on the Internet of Things.
Hacker and maker spaces (like the one pictured at University of Maryland) are an engine of innovation on the Internet of Things. Marc Blackmer of Cisco highlights one that also helps bring products to market.

I have a thing for makerspaces and hackerspaces, if you haven’t already noticed from my previous posts. To me, they are the epitome of what I love about the Internet of Things (IoT). It is something I call the democratization of innovation.

The maker and hacker movements are global and are changing the landscape. They help to put technology and equipment, the opportunity to learn, develop ideas, prototype, and socialize and network in the reach of many who would not have otherwise had the opportunity just a few years ago. They are, to me, the nucleus of an evolution, if not revolution, of both innovation and society.

I like to visit local hacker or makerspaces when I travel. At last year’s Internet of Things Solutions World Congress (IoTSWC) I learned about MADE Makerspace Barcelona, but just couldn’t make it there in person. A visit to MADE was locked into my agenda when I returned for the second annual IoTSWC last month. Over the past year, though, MADE co-founder Ian Collingwood and I kept in touch, and he had some exciting news to share when we caught up at the Congress.

Marc Blackmer, Cisco Systems
Marc Blackmer is a Product Marketing Manager for Industry Solutions at Cisco Systems.

A few months ago I’d written about Berlin-based Green City Solutions and the importance of their pragmatic business approach to sustain and maintain the passion that inspired them to begin their work in the first place. That combination of creativity, passion, and business sense are a rare combination. That’s what has impressed me about them.

But what if you have a great idea and no clue how to get it to market? This is what Ian was so excited to discuss.

Ian shared with me an example of a particular maker who’d come up with a brilliant idea that would save small businesses in a specific field quite a bit of money. (I’m being deliberately vague so as not to give away this person’s identity or idea.) But beyond creating a prototype of the invention at MADE, the maker in question had no idea how to get his invention to market, what kind of team he’d need to put together, or really where to start. This maker was an idea person, but getting to market just wasn’t his strong suit.

Enter Pollen. Ian, Andrea Gini, and Nathan Parker are long-time makers and have seen their share of innovative makers without the contacts or funding, or sometimes the awareness, to get from idea to market. They launched Pollen to help make those connections for makers by providing coaching and workshops to develop a sustainable business model. Unlike venture capital firms, Pollen doesn’t claim equity in the organizations they help. It’s an approach that Ian says means that Pollen is focused on the long-term sustainability of the start-ups they foster, rather than focusing on accelerated earnings and an exit strategy.

The IoT is changing the world. It has the power to change our lives and how we do business. Pollen is a perfect example of the grassroots evolution of new business models driven by the passion to create and contribute back to the community.

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