Jon Bruner

Jon Bruner is a data journalist who approaches questions that interest him by writing and coding. Before coming to O'Reilly, where he is editor-at-large, he was data editor at Forbes Magazine. He lives in New York, where he can occasionally be found at the console of a pipe organ.

Yancey Strickler on Kickstarter and public benefit corporations

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Kickstarter’s CEO on different models for viewing a company’s success.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

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Kickstarter is one of just a handful of large companies that have become public benefit corporations — committing themselves legally to social as well as financial goals.

In making the transformation, Kickstarter’s leaders have taken a pragmatic, active position in promoting social good — neither purely philanthropic nor purely profit driven.

In this episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Kickstarter’s co-founder and CEO, Yancey Strickler, about his decision to take the company through the public benefit process and his promise not to go through an IPO.

Strickler will be among the speakers at the Next:Economy summit, November 12-13, 2015, in San Francisco.

Discussion points:

  • Kickstarter’s reasoning behind its decision not to go public. Why not just sell the company and devote the proceeds to charity?
  • The difference between a B corp and a public benefit corporation
  • The “public good” principles in Kickstarter’s Benefit Corporation charter
  • Determining metrics that can quantify public benefit goals
  • Strickler’s thoughts on how Kickstarter’s PBC designation might influence a corporate model “different than hyper-growth, hyper-capitalist models that aren’t good for anyone other than people investing money”

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Tobias Kinnebrew on robots as paint brushes

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: How using robots for artistic purposes changes the way we perceive art.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

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The short film Box caused a sensation in 2013 by effortlessly blending industrial robots and projection mapping — physical and digital. Bot & Dolly, the studio behind Box, specialized in robotic cinematography until it was bought by Google in 2013, becoming part of Google Robotics.

Sometimes overlooked amid the spectacular effects it developed in-house was the significance of Bot & Dolly’s software platform: it was an abstraction layer that worked as a plug-in for Autodesk’s Maya design software, putting otherwise arcane industrial robots in the hands of any production designer who could wield a mouse.

In this episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Tobias Kinnebrew, strategist at Google Robotics and formerly the director of product strategy at Bot & Dolly and principal creative director for HoloLens at Microsoft. Read more…

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Julia Ko on developing a different kind of smartphone

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Entrepreneurship, niche product development, and spotting business opportunities.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

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Many of the hardware creators we speak with come into their work through the enthusiast route: they start with an engineering problem they want to solve or a piece of technology they think is interesting, then look for an application that would support a business.

Julia Ko, our guest on this week’s episode of the Solid Podcast, started her company SurePod a very different way. She saw the business opportunity first, studying wholesale mobile contracts and the sales networks that distribute medical devices, and she developed a plan for a simplified mobile phone for older people. Only then did she learn the technical aspects of hardware production.

In this episode, we talk about Ko’s development as an entrepreneur, the challenge of creating a product for which you aren’t the target audience, and the best mobile phone carrier (Ko says it’s AT&T).

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Joe Biron on what’s new about the IoT

The IoT entails a flexible platform approach to accommodate new applications that haven’t been conceived yet.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

350px-Fan_blades_and_inlet_guide_vanes_of_GEnx-2BMachines have been able to talk to each other and to computers for a long time, so what’s the big deal with the IoT? That’s the first question I ask Joe Biron, my guest on this episode of the Solid Podcast. Biron is VP of IoT technology at ThingWorx, a PTC business that offers a platform for rapid development of Internet of Things applications.

The answer, says Joe, is that where the machine-to-machine (M2M) model is stovepiped and specialized, the IoT entails a platform approach. Machines on the IoT are abstracted, which makes decentralized application development possible. And it’s more flexible: the platform will eventually be able to accommodate new applications that haven’t been conceived yet. Read more…

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Buddy Michini on commercial drones

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Drone safety, trust, and real-time data analysis.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, we talk with Buddy Michini, CTO of Airware, which makes a platform for commercial drones. We cover some potentially game-changing research in localization and mapping, and onboard computational abilities that might eventually make it possible for drones to improve their flight intelligence by analyzing their imagery in real time.

Among the general public, the best-understood use case for drones is package delivery, which obscures many other promising applications (and perhaps threatens to become the Internet-connected refrigerator of autonomous aircraft). There’s also widespread (and understandable) fear of drones. “We need to make drones do things to improve our lives and our world,” Buddy says. “That will get people to accept drones into their lives a little bit more.” Read more…

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Jim Stogdill on cloud-based typewriters and smart watches

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Distractions, wearables, and reference peanut butter.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

In this episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Jim Stogdill, one of the key figures behind the launch of our Solid conference, about some of the cool pieces of hardware that we’ve come across recently.

Stogdill starts off with the Hemingwrite, an ultra-simplified Internet-connected typewriter for writers who need to isolate themselves from distraction. It duplicates, at significant expense and austerity, a small part of any modern computer’s functionality. The Hemingwrite’s existence — along with that of its oversubscribed Kickstarter campaign — demonstrates the new economics of hardware: development costs have fallen enough that clever entrepreneurs can isolate and solve niche consumer problems like needing a browserless computer because you sometimes don’t want to be distracted by your browsered computer. Also, I’d like one. Read more…

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Quentin Hardy on Facebook’s drones

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: The New York Times' deputy technology editor talks about technology, people, and power.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

350px_Signaling_by_Napoleonic_semaphore_lineIn our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with New York Times deputy technology editor Quentin Hardy. Hardy recorded with us just after visiting Facebook’s Aquila drone project, which promises to extend Internet access to remote parts of the globe — and to advance a slew of aerospace and communication technologies through open sourcing.

Projects like Aquila can challenge traditional government, but have their own tendency to create new mechanisms for control. “What’s clear is that existing systems of power will morph or collapse in decades to come because of these new technologies,” Hardy says, noting the contradiction that, in today’s world, “people have never been more empowered, and they’ve never been so controlled and repressed.”

We also talk about what’s happening in Shenzhen, China (which has been called “China’s Silicon Valley”), and the hardware hub’s dynamic mix of entrepreneurship, knockoffs, and innovation. Read more…

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Brady Forrest and Renee DiResta on advising hardware startups

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Hardware startup success stories, pitfalls, and best practices.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

John_Sell_Cotman,_Norwich_Market_Place,_1806_(low_resolution)Hardware startups are starting to look like software startups: a lean company can bring a reasonably simple piece of consumer electronics to market for a few hundred thousand dollars.

Behind that low figure are technological advances (like 3D printing and CNC machining that make prototyping faster and easier) as well as organizational advances — in particular, hardware incubators and accelerators that offer funding and help founders work their way through the product development process.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Renee DiResta and Brady Forrest, co-authors (along with Ryan Vineyard) of The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business and Brand. DiResta is vice president of business development at Haven, a marketplace for ocean freight shipping, and Forrest runs Highway1, a leading hardware incubator.

Forrest and DiResta take us into the trenches on a wide range of topics, including design for manufacture (DFM), idea validation, crowdfunding, cost control, marketing, packaging, and shipping. It’s a quick tour of the tricky areas of expertise that hardware founders need to develop. Read more…

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Ben Einstein on accelerating hardware startups

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: A discussion about critical issues for hardware startups.

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Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

Hardware is getting more accessible, which makes hardware startups more appealing. A small team can develop a viable prototype for a simple product on a few hundred thousand dollars, and even tricky problems like autonomous cars are within the reach of startups.

Incubators and accelerators like Highway1, Lemnos, and HAX have played an important role in making hardware accessible; they help their portfolio companies work through the tricky engineering, manufacturing, and marketing problems that software startups don’t have to deal with.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I have a wide-ranging discussion with Ben Einstein, co-founder and managing director of Bolt, one of the leading hardware startup accelerators.

Einstein, who spoke at Solid 2015 in California, talks about the importance of hardware marketing and customer development, including branding, crowdfunding, and virality (which is “much more possible with hardware now than it was 10 years ago,” he says). Read more…

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Coming up at Solid Amsterdam

A look at our unified program for unified creators.

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Register now for Solid Amsterdam 2015, our conference exploring the intersections of manufacturing, design, hardware, software, and business strategy. The event will take place in Amsterdam on October 28, 2015.

Creating a great product means knowing something about many things: design, prototyping, electronics, software, manufacturing, marketing, and business strategy. That’s the blend that Solid brings together: over our one-day program at Solid Amsterdam on October 28, 2015, we’ll walk through a range of inspiration and insight that’s essential for anyone who creates physical products — consumer devices, industrial machines, and everything in between.

Start with design: it’s the first discipline that’s called on to master any new technology, and designers whose work has been confined to the digital realm are now expected to understand hardware and connected systems as well.

Design at Solid begins with our program co-chair, Marko Ahtisaari, who was head of product design at Nokia from 2009 to 2013, and is now CEO and co-founder of The Sync Project. We’ll also hear from Thomas Widdershoven, creative director at Design Academy Eindhoven and co-founder of thonik, a design studio whose work specializes in interaction and motion design. Read more…

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