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11 Dec


A tipping point for bio

December 11, 2014 | By |

Bio hacking lab at Share Conf 2013

It’s both my job and a great pleasure to be looking out for signals that point to something fundamentally new and interesting. Something that might be driven by a technology (or a combination of technologies) that will have a massive impact on the way we live – or at least offers that opportunity.

Over the last ten years, just to name a few, these mega trends (or tectonic shifts) include the whole way we connect more deeply online through what today is called Social Media and a normal part of our everyday lives; the way these connections started following us around more seamlessly through the mobile web; the way manufacturing and “reproduceability” changed through 3D printing and the fabbing movement; how the physical world joined us online in the Internet of Things, turning our physical environment more responsive.

Let’s look at all things bio

But for a couple of years now, there have been more and more signals – weak and odd and quirky at first, but quickly gaining strength – around biology: bio synthesis, DIY bio hacking and the like.

Just like 3D printing before, this all very much happens in the space of atoms – or of the organic – but with the thinking of the web overlaid. A combination of atoms & bits in the most literal way. And much like what later became known as Social Media started out with a myriad of competing terminologies (ubicomp, social computing, web 2.0…), I don’t think that the final terminology has yet emerged, making it somewhat harder to follow the many parallel discussions around bio/organic hacking in a structured way.

This phase of competing ideas and terminologies is usually a good sign that something is interesting enough that stakeholders from different angles are feeling out the same area, trying to figure out what’s going on there and where to take it. It’s when stuff is at Peak Interesting, long before the real impact becomes tangible. And no doubt, this area will have massive, profound impact on society, business, medical, industry. And no doubt this impact will come in many unexpected ways.

Tipping point

We’ve been talking about this for a while, and just a little while back I remember mentioning that the the signals are still just a little bit too scattered for me to fully engage. Not quite there yet, for the way I operate. But just now, this recent brief blog post over on O’Reilly Radar about the BioFabricate Summit kind of put me over the edge. I mentally mark this as a personal tipping point for the signal-to-noise ratio that triggers my dig-deeper impulse.

So I’ll be reading up on bio fabrication, bio hacking, bio synthesis. If I find enough interesting stimulus, the next step for me will be to think about a new conference around the issue: I still find it the best way to dive in and get all the players together.

If you’re aware of interesting stuff happening around this, particularly in Europe, please do share. Thanks!

22 Apr


Status update: 10 days to ThingsCon

April 22, 2014 | By |


Cross-posting this from the ThingsCon blog.


It’s 10 days to ThingsCon. Time to take stock of where we stand!

Speakers & program

As far as we can tell, there will be 35 speakers. This may be hard to believe, but it’s actually kind of tricky to figure out the exact number as there’s lot of fluctuation and last minute tweaking. Including all workshops it’s even more.

The program is two days packed with goodness ranging from open source medical hardware to building a Rube Goldberg Machine, from maker 101 to robotics, from startup pitch to designing for large-scale manufacturing, from design to business models, from personal founders stories to ethics & sustainability. It’s going to be wild.


We don’t have easily accessible stats to the geographic distribution of all ThingsCon participants. From a quick scan, we know a few things, though: You are from all over Europe, plus quite a few from the US (including a solid contingent of West Coast folks).

We’re excited that through the Global Innovation Gathering program a group of over 40 entrepreneurs, makers and innovators from Africa, Latin America and Asia will join in. On top of that, it’s great that a large group of students will join, too.

As for professional backgrounds, that’s harder to tell without digging deeply into the company websites (which we did very superficially a while ago to show which organizations will be represented at the conference). We know of individual tinkerers, engineers and designers, entrepreneurs, startups, agencies, academics, researchers, software and hardware people, students, hackspace operators, investors and many, many more. It’s a great and very diverse group.

Supporters, partners & sponsors

With TinkerSoup, Github, Spark, Electric Imp, Postscapes, IotPedia, Capscovil, gestalten and Highway1 we have a great network of supporters across the board. A special shout out to our advisors, too: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Bethany Koby, Brady Forrest & Reto Wettach. Thank you all!


There’s plenty of stuff happening on the fringes of ThingsCon, and we expect lots more to pop up spontanteously. (Follow the #thingscon hashtag on Twitter!)

At this point, we’d like to mentioned particularly the pitch we’re setting up with Betahaus, Betapitch|Hardware. For the 40 fastest ticket holders to sign up, attending the pitch is free (please ping us if you haven’t received a ticket code), everyone else needs to register here. During and after the pitch, we’ll kick off the ThingsCon party at Betahaus, too.


You haven’t signed up yet? Whaaaat? Do it. Do it now. You know you want it, too:

23 Mar


DIY pipe shelf

March 23, 2014 | By |

When I saw the really nice pipe shelf over at the Brick House, I had an itch to also build a pipe shelf to replace our coat and shoe racks.

So after some quick doodling, off to the hardware store to stock up on pipe and shelves. This was the game plan:

Which translated into this stash. Roughly at least – turns out I forgot a few pieces, and had to adapt the plan a few times throughout.

Some red spray, cause it’s good fun and turns dull steel pipes into awesome red steel pipes.

First, I sprayed all pieces individually for grounding. Pro tipp: Don’t use newspaper but plastic as underground.

Then, later, once more assembled to get all surface covered equally and turn the red nice and vibrant.

Holes to fit the pipes through. Make sure to measure where the holes need to be after a test-assembly. Turns out pipes aren’t produced as smoothly as I expected, so this isn’t an exact science and you don’t want to re-drill these holes.

A long evening of wood staining and waxing later, assembly is relatively quick. Et voilà!

Still missing in this photo is the actual coat rack. Missed a few screws for that.

The shelf is drilled into the wall just at the top end, and rests on its own weight below. Between that and the shelves that provide horizontal stabilty, it seems very solid.

How much effort? Well, first of all if I can do it then you can too. It’s not complicated, just fuzzy. Planned it throughout the course of a week, then the actual procurement of parts, spray painting, wood staining, etc., took up the better part of one and a half days including drying time. (Allow for a bit more if possible, ahem.) The assembly itself was pretty quick.

All parts were easily available at a local hardware store, the wood cut to spec there, but based on available planks.

The full shopping list:

All pipes are 1/2″ (turns out pipes are measured in inch even in Germany, who knew!)

  • 12x pipe 40cm
  • 23x pipe 20cm
  • 3x pipe 15cm
  • 3x pipe 8cm
  • 3x simple pipe connectors (one in, one out)
  • 6x base flange (as feet and wall connection)
  • 18x t-intersection pipe connections
  • 17x 90° angle pipes
  • 2x shelf 128,5 x 30cm
  • 2x shelf 88,5 x 30cm
  • 2x shelf 48,5 x 30cm
  • 3x red metal spray color
  • 2x wood staining dark nut
  • 1x wood wax

Edit: This list doesn’t include the actual coat racks, consisting of another 2 base flanges, 1 80cm pipe, and 8 90° angle pipes each.

A few of the measures are slightly odd to exactly fit our needs, but that’s all pretty easy to customize.

The whole thing is about 2,40m high and 1,30m wide.

Thanks, Morgan, for posting the great tutorial that inspired this!

17 Feb


ThingsCon Update: We have a program

February 17, 2014 | By |


Good news! I’m excited to say that we more or less have a program for ThingsCon. I’m mostly copying & pasting this from the current program page, so keep an eye on the actual program page.


Also, now is the perfect time to get one of the very few available discounted early bird tickets!


So here goes!

Day 1

Day 1 is dedicated to in-depth workshops (either 2h or 4h long) and hands-on sessions. Dive deep into topics you want to learn more about and get some actuall hands-on experience.In parallel, Hardware Day Berlin takes place across town, so you can choose between a wide range of meetups, pitches, lunches, and other satellite events outside the conference, too.

We’re still building the workshop day program. Give us another few days.

Day 2

Day 2 features a wide range of talks, presentations and conversations and will take place at the conference venue from about 9:30 until 18:00, followed by a party. Please note that this is a draft: Some slots are likely to still change, and we’ll add details as soon as we have them.

We’ll have two stages full of program running in parallel.

9:30 – 11:00 Opening (Stage 1 exclusive)

Stage 1: Kickoff session

  • Opening keynote: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Good Night Lamp)
  • Brady Forrest (Highway1)

Coffee break

11:30 – 13:00

Stage 1: Founders Stories

Building a company is a personal journey – we’ll invite experienced hardware entrepreneurs to take a look back at the path they’ve come and share their individual insights and learnings – and discuss the challenges they faced along the way. These sessions are both very personal and highly interactive, giving you the chance to discuss the pressing issues that kept you awake all night. Chance are, they’ve been there.

  • Gavin Dapper (Phonebloks)
  • Olivier Mével (23 de Enero)
  • Matt Biddulph (Product Club)

Stage 2: Funding your business

Today, there are more ways to fund a company than ever before: from bootstrapping to accelerating to venture capital, all the way to crowd funding (or crowd investing even): We’ll take a deep dive into what it takes to fund a hardware business. Talk about when running a Kickstarter makes sense and when it doesn’t. We’ll explore various strategies and shed some light on interesting ways of funding.

  • Beth Koby (Technology Will Save Us)
  • TBA
  • Panel discussion: Beth Koby, Brady Forrest, TBA

Lunch break

14:30 – 16:00pm

Stage 1: Design

There are many ways to describe the conception of building a hardware product: Product design, open design, or service design, are just some of them. In this session, we’ll explore the challenges and opportunities of design against the backdrop of connected devices and hardware in general – we’ll and take a look at unconventional takes on designing a delightful experience around your hardware or connected devices.

  • Louisa Heinrich
  • Alasdair Allen
  • Rachel Rayns (Raspberry Pi)

Stage 2: Ethics & Sustainability

We all love our gadgets, and many of us are in the business of designing and producing them, too. Together with some of the pioneers in the field, let’s have a look at how sustainability and ethical considerations affect production. What’s possible today, what are the challenges and pitfalls to avoid? And how can we work towards more ethical and sustainable production while producing competitive, delightful products?

  • Miquel Ballester(Fairphone)
  • Jessi Baker (Provenance)
  • Panel discussion: Gawin Dapper, Jessi Baker, Miquel Ballester

Coffee break

16:30 – 17:30

Stage 1: Founders Stories

Building a company is a personal journey – we’ll invite experienced hardware entrepreneurs to take a look back at the path they’ve come and share their individual insights and learnings – and discuss the challenges they faced along the way. These sessions are both very personal and highly interactive, giving you the chance to discuss the pressing issues that kept you awake all night. Chance are, they’ve been there.

  • Matt Webb (BERGCloud)
  • Emily Brooke (Blaze)
  • Panel/Interviews: TBA

Stage 2: Open source hardware

Many of technologies that we use today have their roots in open source tech communities. This especially holds true for a new generation of hardware systems and tools. We’ll discuss the potential of Open Source Hardware, how to build your company around it, how to integrate open design principles into your own product, and show you promising new open source business models.

  • Siert Wijnia (Ultimaker)
  • Reto Wettach (Fritzing/IxDS)
  • Peter Troxler

17:30 – 18:00 Closing (Stage 1 exclusive)

  • Closing remarks
  • Closing keynote: Usman Haque