PDX, Tindie + The Maker Movement

Craft beer. Artisan coffee. Chunky knit sweaters. Indie rock.

The Pacific Northwest has always over-indexed for offbeat dreamers and hobbyists — some of whose quirky passions “accidentally” turned into global businesses (think Microsoft in personal computing, Starbucks in coffee, or Amazon in online bookselling) and even cultural movements (Nirvana, SubPop Records + grunge music).

Today’s “Maker Movement” reflects the mainstreaming of 60s-era countercultural traditions that persisted in the Northwest long after the rest of the country had moved on. 

Take the Oregon Country Fair, a huge annual gathering of crafters that has been held continuously since 1969 — carrying the DIY flame over 40+ years and ultimately kindling the fire of more “modern” interpretations like Maker Faire and Burning Man.

And while Seattle’s corporate successes — and resulting growth — have steadily chipped away at the indie vibe that prevailed here in the ’70’s, the dream is alive just a few miles down the road in Portland, OR.

The Maker Movement celebrates the power of the individual to make meaning through craft. Not coincidentally, “Human Empowerment” is a core investment theme for us at Founders Co-op — we believe digital creatives have incredible power to create positive change through technology, and we get excited whenever we find big opportunities to unlock and amplify that creative power.

I’m proud to announce that we’ve just combined our passion for empowerment and our deep Northwest roots by backing Portland-based Tindie — the “Etsy for Digital Creatives

Tindie founder Emile Petrone is a Bay Area veteran who made his way to the Northwest thanks to another Founders Co-op portfolio company; Urban Airship acquired SimpleGeo back in 2011 and Emile moved up along with others from his team. Emile fell in love with Portland, but he had also fallen in love with hardware hacking and couldn’t let go of an idea…

Here’s the story in Emile’s own words:

On April 7, 2012, I left a post on reddit.com/r/Arduino, “Would you support an Arduino marketplace or am I totally off base?” With the support and feedback I received, I started on the site, opening it up in different phases.

Emile opened his store on June 26, 2012 and received 11,000 visitors on his first day. By September he had quit Urban Airship to work on Tindie full-time.

I sat down with him a month later to hear his story, and by mid-October had agreed — along with my friend Boris Wertz of Version One Ventures — to dive in and help Emile build Tindie as an investor.

Open source software and cloud infrastructure have already unleashed the collective power of hundreds of thousands of software creatives around the world — making it possible for small, lean teams of empowered humans to touch the lives of billions.

Those same forces are now at work in the hardware community — with collapsing hardware costs, open source platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi and affordable 3D printing pointing the way toward another, even more significant wave of digital innovation.

As Chris Anderson so forcefully described it in his recent book, “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution“, the disruptions wrought over the last 20 years in the world of Bits are coming next to the world of Atoms, and we’ve only begun to realize how massively this will impact both our culture and our economy.

It’s an amazing time in history to be a digital creative, and the Pacific Northwest is an amazing — and unique — place for Makers to make a difference. Founders Co-op is proud to play a small supporting role in this extraordinary community of creators, and to welcome Tindie to our own community of portfolio companies.