The direction of the Maker movement in Philadelphia is shifting ever so slightly. While the last few years have seen an influx of co-working hubs, high-tech innovation centers, and makerspaces in the city, many of these resource centers favor the startup working on prototyping a new product or securing seed stage investment funds. But where do makers find the resources they need once they’ve moved beyond the early stages and are ready to launch their new businesses?
That’s where Philly Makers Meetup comes in. For a little over a year, this group of local makers has put on a series of monthly events in the Quorum space on the eighth floor of the University City Science Center. These events serve as a space where students, entrepreneurs, startups, investors, and anyone generally enthusiastic about science and tech can get together for support, encouragement, and even more importantly the chance to network and forge potentially invaluable connections.
The meetup hopes to fill the resource gap between startup and established company and help these makers navigate what can still be a make-or-break moment for any new business.
An entrepreneur and inventor, Philly Makers Meetup founder, Marvin Weinberger, utilized resources like NextFab and Kickstarter to get his own product going in the early stages – The Lil Trucker, a multi-purpose tool for truckers. But for Weinberger, at least initially, it wasn’t the lack of access to further resources that inspired his creation of the group – it was simply loneliness, the loneliness of being an inventor.
“Initially to satisfy this desire to have other people to relate to,” Weinberger explained, “I went to New York and attended some of the meetups up there. And that encouraged me to see what I could try to do here.”
It was while in New York that Weinberger began to meet other entrepreneurs like Katey Metzroth and Phil Waller of Second Muse, who run the successful Futureworks NYC Incubator. New York ventures like Futureworks and the popular Hardware Meetup provided the early inspiration for what Philly Makers Meetup looks like today – a space where Makers can connect with their peers over pizza and presentations.
“There are great resources in Philly, but they’re still very disconnected,” Metzroth remarked at a presentation she made on behalf of Futureworks in November. Katey commutes from Fishtown into NY in order to pursue her vision of connecting startups with the resources they need to succeed. “The ability to make a connection within the Maker community is very powerful. It’s important to find a way to do it at scale in Philadelphia.”
For now, Weinberger and his contingent of volunteers plan to continue with the monthly event series indefinitely. While the events draw between 100-200 makers and students every month, Weinberger hopes to attract more local manufacturers and investors. The goal is to encourage new businesses to stay in Philadelphia, and having access to manufacturers and investors in the area will be one of the most powerful factors in doing so.
Future plans for the team include establishing a Maker Faire in Philadelphia, inspired by a similar Faire created by Dale Dougherty, founder of the Maker Movement in New York. The Faire will be created in conjunction with a new Maker website that will serve as the regional hub to connect inventors and entrepreneurs with area resources and opportunities.
Philly Makers Meetup events are always free and open to the public – and to makers and dreamers of all ages.