Having a sudden surge in demand for your product is both wonderful and stressful. It’s great to have the new business, but there are usually growing pains associated with the added pressure and attention. For maker businesses—especially those who are on their own or part of small teams—this sudden surge can be jarring.
I observed firsthand how one team of makers, 8bitlit, dealt with this overwhelming surge. The experience provided insight into how these maker groups are handling the jump from product to business. It also gave me a preview of how this whole maker economy might look for entrepreneurs as well as employees.
In March of 2012, the Make: blog ran a feature on Adam Ellsworth and Brian Duxbury’s delightful Coin Cube, a yellow box made of laser-cut acrylic and equipped with a sensor array and LED that lit up when you “punched” the bottom. The creation was a real-world homage to cubes seen in the Super Mario Brothers video games. The focus of the Make: write-up was exploring how entrepreneurs and makers meet at makerspaces and go on to create businesses. One of the side effects of the article was a huge jump in attention. The story of 8bitlit and their delightful cube lamps rippled through the Internet, garnering attention on many popular blogs and gaming websites. The orders for their kit increased along with the traffic, and Brian and Adam quickly had more work than they could handle on their own. The problem was compounded by the fact that Brian had recently started a new full-time job, leaving an even larger burden on Adam’s shoulders.
In the last few chapters, practically all the Ajax examples have one thing in common: they work by receiving small snippets of HTML from the server and inserting them into the page. Its a delightfully simple approach, and it gets a ton done with a minimum of abstraction overhead. After all, were building web applications, so everything will eventually become HTML anyway. Rails has a rich set of helpers for generating HTML, so why not simply render that on the server side and transfer it as is. But sometimes the simple approach isnt sufficientsometimes you need more flexibility.
I don’t bother trying to find it, it’s not there, a sixties precinct with Keymarkets and Syd Booth’s Records, a dozen bakers diabetes fat determined women wiry mining-stock men (though my family were hosiery and Metal Box), and windy market awnings that tipped rain on you. For passport a squeaky seventies library, glass and spiral steps and a girl like my wife crossing the bus station biting into a green apple, all style, grace, so that
I lived through her by the window of 821 with Milton and Robert Frost; the smell of polish; just the idea of books (I could barely read, always getting myself in the way); and Harvest, the spyglass guest at the feast. But colourless I think and the accent ugly. So why is it that miles from, years from that town, hearing it I lie down in its warmth somewhere off Portland Square, by the Kings Bingo mum comes out of with her tartan wheelie-bag,
I lie there as if fallen a long way: drawn round with chalk or magic marker maybe, another piece of evidence essentially.
I FIND IT TRAGIC THAT ABLE LEADERS who fall dramatically from grace often share a common experience: their closest followers have long been aware of their fatal flaw and were unsuccessful in getting the leader to deal with it. Revelation of the flaw often comes as an unexpected shock to the broader group because it has been carefully managed and kept from public view. But those closest to the leader have usually spent long hours dealing with the fallout from the leader’s behavior and discussing among themselves what to do about it.
In the political world, when a leader self-destructs, it is front-page news, so it has been easier to see examples of this behavior historically than in the business world. Every generation has its political leaders who are shamed out of office, soundly defeated at the polls, or worse. Most are soon forgotten even by their own generation, but a few flame out spectacularly and become part of the national lore, at least for a while.
In the United States, former civil rights activist and Washington, DC, mayor Marion Barry’s cocaine habit and late-night hotel rendezvousing ended in a sting operation, jail sentence, and international disgrace for the Capitol City. President Richard Nixon’s paranoia led him to encourage and cover up the dirty tricks that took the nation to the brink of constitutional crisis and eventually forced his resignation. He only eluded criminal prosecution by a presidential pardon from his successor. President Bill Clinton’s lifelong pattern of wriggling out of the consequences of personally and politically risky behavior played into the hands of his political enemies when he emphatically and falsely denied an involvement with government intern Monica Lewinsky. This experience nearly cost him the presidency, certainly damaged his reputation, and contributed to his party losing the White House in the subsequent election.