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Showing posts from May, 2010

Our Motivations - Dan Pink - Inventables on Friday

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Every Friday at Inventables is a free for all. Employees do whatever they want to do. Whatever they think is most important.
Ask yourself, is this Crazy? or Obvious?
Dan Pink gave an interesting TED Talk about the surprising science of motivation. The summary is that through a number of social psychology experiments he has boiled down what motivates a worker taking on tasks where there is more than one answer to three things.

Autonomy - Mastery - Purpose
At Inventables his findings were not so surprising. We haven't used those 3 words before but we've set up our company to benefit from this kind of approach for many years. In 2002 when we were just starting out and had very little money we established an $1200 exploration budget for every employee. The only rule surrounding the budget was the money was earmarked for exploration. There were no approvals required, no expectations of ROI, no timeframes. Each employee was given that money, trust, and autonomy to go explore. …

Creating a Startup Environment where Software Developers Thrive

On Wednesday May 19th I'm giving a talk at The University of Chicago’s co hosted by the Student Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Group from Booth. If you're interested in coming please RSVP for the event.

The topic for the talk is "Creating a Startup Environment where Software Developers Thrive". One challenge in growing a startup is building a strong technical team that is focused on solving a problem your customers care about enough to pay for. Sometimes software engineering teams get distracted by technology and lose focus on what's best for the customer.

I will talk about my experience creating an environment (physical and digital) that allows the software development team at Inventables to thrive. I’ll discuss his strategy, process, and specific tactics that he’s used successfully at Inventables.
This talk is targeted at Computer Science and Business students.

Here's a taste for technical fo…

Time and Temperature Sensitive Labels

These self-monitoring freshness timers have already been integrated into Febreze refillable air fresheners, but their usefulness goes beyond household appliances.



These smart strips are useful for monitoring any sort of material with a shelf life, be it food and beverage products, medicines, lab materials and more. Another great thing that goes with easy readability of the monitor is the fact that once activated, the strips are self-contained and thus tamper-proof. Moreover, there are strips available for use at all sorts of temperatures, and even ones that account for differences in elevation.

The form of the strips has evolved beyond the simple "peel and stick" method. The manufacturer has developed a way to embed the strips in any flip-style cap so that it activates upon the initial opening of the product, so that you can see throughout the lifespan of the product exactly how old it is. Which is great, because I'm sick of smelling milk to see if it has turned.


In Februar…

Tips and Tricks for Inventables

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We are constantly learning how the most successful buyers and vendors operate on Inventables Marketplace. In recent weeks we've been sharing these anecdotes with folks that stop by our office for usability tests. We found ourselves answering similar questions in each meeting. This led us to believe that lots of other folks probably had the same questions on their mind about how to get the most out of Inventables.

In response to this, we launched a new site for Inventables customers called Inventables Tips and Tricks.


Our goal with the site is to provide all sorts of information to help buyers and vendors get the most out of using Inventables Materials Marketplace. Since it's not practical to meet with thousands of buyers and vendors we're going to attempt to offer up tips, tricks, and answers to common questions through this new website. Our intention is to do this in a personal, easy to understand format. At the bottom of each article you'll see the name of the pe…

Makerbot - Part 2 Building the Y stage

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The first step in building the Y stage is finding all the components that are needed. They give you a picture of what they all look like here:


I wish they had put all the components needed for each sub assembly together in one plastic bag. It would have made it much easier and given me confidence I had the right pieces. In my bag marked "Build Surface Kit" it had the Build Platform wood and Orange Makerbot plaque but it only had 5 magnets, 6 nuts, and 6 screws. In the picture they provide there are 10 magnets, 12 nuts, and 12 screws so it's not clear if I am missing pieces or if I am supposed to mix and match from the different bags. To add to the confusion the picture has 12 of each but the bill of materials calls for 6 of nuts and bolts.

6 M3x16 bolts
6 M3 nuts

Despite the ambiguity I just dug in and started building. About 30 minutes later I have this to show for my work, a completed Y Stage:

Beyond the Pedway Interview

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Tim Jahn from Beyond the Pedway Interviewed me about Inventables

Makerbot - Part 1 Unboxing

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While I was in New York at a party thrown by our investors True Ventures I met the founders of Makerbot.


I chose to enroll as a mechanical engineer at the University of Illinois because I love building things. That passion for building, science, and technology drove me to start Inventables in 2002. Our mission all these years has remained the same but our approach to realizing the mission has made three major transformations. We are always trying to realize the mission in a way that has the largest impact on the world without compromising the integrity of the mission.

The concept for our Exploration Budget came from thinking about how we could achieve our mission. Exploration budget gives every employee budget and license to go explore and innovate. The natural tendency of a company is to incrementally improve their main product. This is healthy in the short run as it delivers immediate benefit to the current customers but it does not encourage disruptive ideas or lay the ground wo…