Jump on the Frugal Innovation Bandwagon

There are tons of ways for makers, hackers, and founders to innovate on the cheap.


One Commonwealth Club panel on "Frugal Innovation" was a call to action for American innovators stuck in cubicles and pondering their next move. General Electric is looking for small-scale innovators they can hire as engineers. CFSI wants small banks to create products for the underbanked market. Rock Health is developing cheap medical devices that graft onto existing technology. TechShop is launching maker-spaces and developing curricula for DIY inventors.

DARPA's iFAB program is helping launch this phase of the Industrial Revolution. I'm particularly intrigued by TechShop's partnership with DARPA and the VA to open maker-spaces to veterans. TechShop's CEO Mark Hatch was right on the money when he said existing educational institutions will never meet the training needs of the maker revolution. I could not agree more. My own MBA in finance won't be worth the ink used to print it when the maker revolution gets into full swing. Classes from TechShop and General Assembly will be much more useful to capitalists. Veterans need to check out the VA's Center for Innovation to get into TechShop's pipeline.

I asked the first audience question about how crowdfunding can support frugal innovation and got some good answers. Many projects launched from TechShop got crowdfunded and some portals can be good sources for early validation of market demand. My membership in the Commonwealth Club pays for itself with these events.

Here's one more frugal innovation worth a mention. The BIL Conference has started as a frugally innovative answer to the TED Conference. It's a play on the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure from the 1980s. The thinking behind BIL is that TED has become too high-concept and unapproachable, so BIL aims to be smaller for the DIY crowd.

These are the kinds of things creative people need to be doing instead of congregating around a water cooler and playing nice with stupid supervisors. I'll be watching my favorite crowdfunding portals to see whose DIY idea gets traction.


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