SecondMuse recently launched the third season of New York’s Next Top Makers together with the New York City Economic Development Corporation and our communications partner Imagination in Space! Six NYC-based hardware startups made it through a vetting process to be part of a community-sourced incubator dedicated to connecting independent innovation with local manufacturing production.
As a program, New York’s Next Top Makers (NTM) is helping to position New York City as not just an entrepreneur-friendly city, but a leader in the new production economy, stimulating the growth of an ecosystem of makers, designers, creators, and manufacturers that is dynamic, sustainable and provides opportunities to all New Yorkers. SecondMusers Katey Metzroth and Elyssa Dole share more about this dynamic project:
1) Tell us more about the New York Next Top Makers Program.
We’re building an ecosystem to support manufacturing and inspire design-driven entrepreneurship in New York City. We do this by creating a network of partners from design, business, and manufacturing communities across the city who can provide expertise and support to NYC startups that are developing and commercializing new products or methods of production.
Over the past several years NYCEDC has had great success with a program called Big Apps which seeded and supported tech entrepreneurship and innovation in the City. So three years ago, they sought to build on that success to engage the Maker community to revive the City’s manufacturing sector for the 21st century.
SecondMuse joined the efforts in 2014 to take a look at NYC’s Maker community to figure out what exists, who is doing what and what people need to build their 21st century companies in the city. We found that NYC is thick with talent across the board, but that folks working in hardware or product startups were siloed based on industry. So, instead of recreating, SecondMuse designed the second year of Next Top Makers to leverage, connect across, and highlight the diversity of people, places and resources making in New York City and thus was born the idea of a community-sourced incubator.
2) What kinds of creative ideas/innovations will be Next Top Makers be incubating in 2016?
This year’s Fellows are diverse. They come from a variety of backgrounds, their products are at a range of stages in the product life cycle, and they make use of several emerging technologies, and together they are dynamic, fierce, and have high potential to shape the future of manufacturing in NYC. Many teams are addressing a particular unmet need or issue, while others are building for a future that will require interoperability among systems of emerging technologies.
NTM Fellows are making services that will help people learn and engage with hardware and technology and explore their creativity, other teams are building systems of wearable devices, tackling issues like navigation and spatial awareness—there’s a group creating injury prevention solutions for what they describe as the ‘industrial athlete. Additionally, one of the startups is a particular service for NYC solving the challenge of what to do with your pup while you are out for a stroll and want to run a quick errand or grab a coffee that isn’t dog friendly with their pay-by-the-minute dog houses. This is a truly diverse group of product entrepreneurs united in their shared goal to build their businesses and hopefully manufacture and package it close to home as well. . If you’d like to know them better, visit their individual pages on the Next Top Makers website to learn more about their exciting new ventures and plans to grow.
3) How does the program help support entrepreneurs who choose to stay in New York to grow their business?
The City of New York is really committed to supporting entrepreneurs who choose to base and grow their businesses in the city despite the fact that real estate can be a real challenge for cash strapped entrepreneurs — through our Studio Incubation Program, a customized seven-month accelerator-like program, Fellows have access to prototyping partners such as Shapeways, crowdfunding advice from Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, coworking and prototyping labs from our partners NYDesigns and ImpactHub, as well as, access to incredible experts and their own dedicated Super Mentor charged with stewarding them through the next six months. The best part is that all of these amazing resources be it people or places are right here in New York City. Our work has been to find them and build the infrastructure for people to plug in and connect in ways that are meaningful and accessible.
To give more New Yorkers access to the program, we are introducing a five-part community workshop series to help people understand what it takes to start a product business in NYC. At the workshops, participants will connect with other aspiring entrepreneurs like themselves, experts in a variety of relevant topics, and get some coaching on their own product and business ideas.
In addition to the community-sourced incubator, we are providing startups and community partners with exposure and a platform to share their stories, learnings and successes through through events and our website. Next Top Makers Pop Ups are events where we invite the community to come together to connect, learn and share. We hosted a five borough Pop Up tour across the city last year and this year we are going beyond—popping up at events such as World MakerFaire, SXSW Interactive, and Northside Festival. It’s a fun way to celebrate the fellows’ hard work while showcasing what is exciting about product entrepreneurship in New York City.
4) Tell us about some of the previous Fellows and the impact their work is having on the city?
In 2015, the Next Top Makers Fellows created 6 full-time jobs for New Yorkers during the program. They invested 120K back into the local production economy. Two of the five Fellow teams have gone on to serve as Content Experts and Mentors in this year’s program.
Our previous Fellows have continued to grow their businesses. This past summer, Sunhouse raised over $90,000 via Kickstarter for their new product, Sensory Percussion, a new and improved way for musicians to engage with electronic percussion. Sunhouse took advantage of the resources and network of mentors to create a feasible manufacturing plan, craft a compelling story, identify and connect with financing options and eventually get to the place of running their campaign. They are receiving positive response from the music community and are getting Sensory Percussion to market.
Poursteady, another one of last year’s startups won the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s “best new product award” for their automated pourover coffee machine. Poursteady machines have been featured and now live at local coffee shops such as Cafe Grumpy and Joe Coffee’s Pro Shop in Chelsea. They have steadily increased the number of orders received and are shipping machines around the country.
Next Top Makers programming, community members and Fellows have influenced the industrial policy priorities for the city of New York. The city and NYCEDC are committed to significant investment in the advanced manufacturing sector over the coming years and have steadily built out programs such as FutureWorks to contribute to continuing to build out a healthy ecosystem around 21st century manufacturing in New York City.
Next Top Makers is a program of New York City Economic Development Corporation, the City’s primary engine for economic development, charged with leveraging the City’s assets to drive growth, create jobs, and improve quality of life. The program is made possible through generous support from our sponsors including Microsoft, Nike, ImpactHub and Make: Media. Program operations are led by SecondMuse and Imagination in Space. If you are interested in getting involved in the program, please reach out to email@example.com