Launch Forth represents a new approach to product development
You’ve probably seen Local Motors’ unique and arresting automobiles around the Internet (the company is credited with creating the first 3D printed car), but what you may not know is that Local Motors has birthed a maker community and platform, Launch Forth, that engages more than 70,000 “solvers” who engage with projects from companies as diverse as GE, Boeing, and many more. In this short talk at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, Elle Shelley, lead at Launch Forth, walks us through an entirely new kind of innovation platform.
John Battelle: The next speaker, Elle Shelley from Launch Forth, a division of Local Motors. If you haven’t heard of Local Motors, you just got to go Google it because the cars that they make are insane.
Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared on CNBC last week to deliver some big news: The Company That Steve Jobs Built is placing $1 billion into a fund, which will then be invested in advanced manufacturing companies in the United States. This will presumably help Apple source more components for its computers and phones here.
“We can be the ripple in the pond,” Cook told Jim Cramer. “Those manufacturing jobs create jobs around them, because you have a service industry that grows around them.”
Manufacturing jobs take center stage every campaign season, but the reality is that when manufacturing leaves the country, it doesn’t come back. This is even more accurate for “low tech” manufacturing such as textiles, an industry decimated in the US by low-cost labor pools around the world.
But even as these low tech industries left the country, a new Maker Culture has arisen, driven in large part by DIY tech culture. This Maker movement can be as simple as crochet and pickled vegetables, and as complicated as bee keeping or making your own drones. While many see the maker community as mostly hobbyists, driving little impact in the economy, Mark Dwight, CEO and Founder of Rickshaw Bagworks, sees an opportunity to revive local manufacturing. By using high-tech tools and focusing on labor efficiency, Rickshaw Bagworks is thriving in San Francisco, a city with some of the highest labor costs in the world. The company produces custom-made bags in a brick and mortar factory in the San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, the epicenter of San Francisco’s Maker movement in recent years.
Small manufacturing operations can produce complex products without a prohibitively large capital investment
Local Motors was founded in 2007 by John “Jay” Rogers, an Ivy league-educated ex-Marine who wanted to marry his lifelong interest in vehicles with new economic models. The result: Local Motors, a company that, after eight years in business, now produces a series of vehicles built locally in a handful of facilities, but designed by a global community of enthusiasts.
Cincinnati-based accelerator First Batch isn’t helping companies develop apps, platforms, or services. It’s focusing exclusively on startups that want to scale the production of physical products. They want to make things. Companies with a prototype can apply to the 20-week program to learn how to navigate the manufacturing, branding, and marketing resources Cincinnati offers. Why Cincinnati? Ohio ranks third in the nation in manufacturing, and the Cincinnati metro area is second in the state.
First Batch is part of Cincinnati Made, a platform for makers to share knowledge and leverage resources to grow Cincinnati-based businesses. Up to eight startups receive a maximum of $10,000 per founder, space in the Losantiville Design Collective, mentorship, and free legal services from University of Cincinnati’s College of Law.