Mark Hatch is widely seen as a leader of the Maker Movement, which is defined by Adweek as “the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers.” Hatch is also CEO of TechShop, a do-it-yourself workshop for makers both experienced and new, with locations across the United States. TechShop provides its members with the necessary tools — woodworking, electronics, textiles, 3D printers, laser cutters, etc. — so that they can construct prototypes and products. As Hatch tells us in his Big Think interview, TechShop has been the birthplace of numerous and myriad inventions including the world’s fastest electric motorcycle, the very first Square devices, and the life-saving Embrace Warmer infant blanket.
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Hatch first got involved with TechShop after overhearing founder Jim Newton describing a “Kinko’s for geeks” at a tech conference:
“And so he described TechShop, 20,000 square feet, all of these tools. And so I went and visited it and I talked to three different entrepreneurial groups back-to-back. And each one of them told me that they had saved 98 percent or so – it was like 97, 98, 99 percent of their development costs by working out of the TechShop.”
Hatch speaks of TechShop success stories like a proud uncle detailing vast family accomplishments. He tells of the one-time roadie who came into TechShop with a vision of an infrared pet warming device. Instead of taking out massive loans to pay an initial $250,000 bid, he invested $2,500 in a TechShop membership. The invention was a hit and the roadie made millions (though I’d guess he’s probably not a roadie anymore).
Returning to the Embrace Warmer blanket, Hatch describes how the innovators behind the product sought to invent something that would give premature infants a better chance at survival. A baby born two weeks premature lacks the ability to regulate its own body temperature. The child will likely die if not transferred to an incubator within an hour. With the Embrace Warmer, which is a specially designed polymer blanket, that vital timespan becomes 4 hours. The invention has since saved 87,000 lives and made its maker, Jane Chen, the subject of international acclaim.
Hatch describes the Maker Movement as an emerging force that “captures the dreams and aspirations of a pretty large portion of the United States.” He also points to the power of makers to control innovation and harness wealth:
“There are about 40 million of them in the United States. This comes out of Dr. Richard Florida’s work over a decade ago. The book called Rise of the Creative Class. They actually control something like 70 percent of all the disposable income in the U.S. – 470 billion dollars.”
And for Hatch, TechShop is a place where both established entrepreneurs and fledgling inventors can innovate and tinker. Some of the results may end up being novel products but others have the potential to make major social impact:
“And so that’s what I like to say. It’s not only do these spaces enable you to pursue your dreams but they can also enable you to change the world in very positive ways.”