A maker is like a really good home chef. Maybe he cooks for friends and hosts amazing dinner parties. But that doesn’t mean he wants to open a restaurant.
The metaphor is a useful one for discussing the differences between a maker and an entrepreneur. It’s a topic that comes up from time to time at Playground, in large part because it highlights one of the big differences between software and hardware startups.
Inventing something useful, regardless of whether it’s software or hardware, requires skill, focus, and creativity.
Turning it into a product that can be sold over and over again is another matter.
With software, especially apps, someone who’s more of a maker can release it in an app store, and oversee its initial growth. Remember Flappy Bird? The guy who wrote it didn’t have a big interest in turning it into a business. The game became a hit almost by accident. The maker behind an app can hand over an in-market product to someone more business oriented down the road, if he wants.
With hardware, the path to market is much more difficult.
Successfully commercializing a piece of hardware, on the other hand, requires developing a prototype, of course, but also producing it at scale, and building a business that can support it. And managing that business requires, among other things, hiring a payroll provider, finding office space, and lining up certifications, cost models, and logistics.
A hardware developer who’s satisfied with the creative process of inventing and prototyping—who doesn’t really care whether he shares his gadgets with 5 people or 5,000 people—is unlikely to have the passion necessary to get all of these other things done. As a result, he’s unlikely to reach the market.
At Playground, we talk to a lot of makers and a lot of entrepreneurs—and occasionally people who haven’t figured out which they are.
We provide a lot of resources to help people turn prototypes into products. But we’re not trying to turn hobbyists into businesspeople. If your end goal is to do great demos, that’s what you should do.
Makers can become entrepreneurs or join forces with them. But to build a successful company, you need to want to be involved in the business-oriented tasks. If you don’t have the enthusiasm for it, your startup isn’t likely to succeed.