Going solo

Going solo is a term mountaineers use to describe climbing alone. In my presentation at the IDSA event at Long Beach State University, I will be using that term to describe design entrepreneurship. Most industrial design students are focused on two career paths – working in consulting firms or corporate offices. There is a third direction that is rarely considered – going solo. We live in a time that is particularly good for design entrepreneurs and it will become even better.

A confluence of five forces makes starting a product manufacturing company a lot easier.
1. With the right manufacturer’s representative almost anything can be manufactured inexpensively and quickly in China.
2. E-commerce enables any small company to have an online store.
3. Companies like Ponoko not only manufacture products but let the designers and artists sell their plans and products on the Ponoko website.
4. New product websites such as Gizmodo review and recommend products. A good review can put a company on the map.
5. Websites like Kickstarter will enable design entrepreneurs to raise money without dilution or other hassles that result from using “Other Peoples’ Money.”

A number of designers have used their design skills to successfully start companies. In tonight’s presentation, I will be profiling Dave Laituri of Vers Audio, Scot Herbst of Kaiku, Jim Gentes, the founder of Giro, Scott Wilson of MNML, and Ethan Imboden of Jimmy Jane.

Designers generate highly valuable intellectual property. With the confluence of Chinese manufacturing, e-commerce, new manufacturing models, new product websites, and new funding models, it is and will become even easier to start new manufacturing companies. Designer generated intellectual property can be the backbone of a new company. I will urge the students to seriously consider going solo and letting their IP work for them.

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