Ever wondered what it would be like if isolated hardware startups with variable or partial engineering and production requirements invested in shared ownership and control of their own engineering lab with advanced equipment and custom manufacturing capabilities? I addressed this question and the underlying problematic in a previous post on LinkedIn Pulse (click here to read it). Last week we actually held a microfactory cooperative strategic planning session. It was made possible by our N100 2017 Winner Ambience Data, and facilitated by Russ Christianson from Rhythm Communications in Campbellford, who has launched hundreds of cooperatives and is an acknowledged expert in this field. After a tour of the Venture13 construction site, the group headed to the Creative Collective at the historic 1871 McCallum Block in downtown Cobourg, for a half-day planning session. The purpose of the meeting was to brainstorm how physical technology startups could work with each other to solve common challenges and to scale up together. Thanks to Chris Lotton for capturing photos which we posted to our Facebook page.
The basic premise we have developed is a producers cooperative for physical tech startups: entrepreneurs share capital and labour costs associated with prototyping and engineering, as well as small-scale custom manufacturing (where acquiring such capabilities would otherwise be too difficult with each acting in isolation). And instead of relying on third parties (expensive or substandard private suppliers, sub-optimal shared public labs) this model would give member startups the opportunity to invest in actual ownership and control of the means of production and in the development of the capabilities they need to advance their product design and manufacturing. It is a powerful and flexible model (and incidentally, one that would seem as natural as the air that is breathed in places like Emilia-Romagna, Italy).
With Phil Mandryk from Northumberland Makers and Darlene Robertson from the Northumberland Manufacturers’ Association, we worked through a fully costed scenario for microfactory start up and an initial financial model and we are working on the second iteration to refine our understanding of the economics involved. With guidance from Russ, we explored different initial governance and cooperative structures that would best facilitate our objectives. It was very exciting and we are moving to the next phase of pre-launch.
Hardware is hard… so hardware startups, unite! Email me if you are a physical tech startup (in or outside of Northumberland) and want to join a microfactory producers cooperative at Venture13.
If you are a digital/SaaS/ICT startup with no physical production, you can join our Venture13 co-working space (VentureZone) at our soon to be opened technology and entrepreneurship centre in Cobourg. We’ll have information on that announced on May 17th.
John Hayden, N100
PS: We will also have some exciting news to share very soon about another major investment Ambience Data will be making in our community. Stay tuned!