Happy Birthday Arduino! And now, what's your next challenge?

Why did Massimo Banzi, founder of Arduino, decide to celebrate Arduino’s birthday in New York? Because there isn’t just technology, like in San Francisco. Next phase of FabLabs? Genetic hacking

   photo (4)Guess where Massimo Banzi, the Italian co-founder and ceo of Arduino (and also co-founder and chairman of Make in Italy) decided to celebrate Arduino Day (March 29)? In New York City, the emerging hub for experimenting new cool stuff in tech & manufacturing. I met him at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, a breeding ground of ideas for the New York high-tech community since the 1990s. We talked in the room of professor Tom Igoe, who is another of Arduino’s founders.

Massimo has just arrived to NYC to explore the options to grow Arduino here, where this made in Italy “computer” is already a cult and it’s used by tons of “makers” (you can read the story of Arduino and Massimo on Riccardo Luna’s book “Cambiamo tutto” or here).

Why New York? «This city has been always very good at inspiring and letting thrive a lot of subcultures, with young people experimenting in many different fields, from arts to music, and now in tech – says Massimo. -The diversity of these subcultures and their interaction with technology makes the city so interesting today. More than San Francisco, where all the focus is only on technology and where there are too many questionable startups, which invent too many products in search of a problem to solve. I’m afraid that in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley today a lot of startuppers look for a quick exit that is selling their web company as soon as possible to get rich and move on with the next idea. In NYC startuppers want to make money too, but there is also a genuine drive to build something that lasts».

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Arduino has already an office in the U.S., close to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), besides offices in Italy (Officine Arduino in Turin), Sweden, India and Switzerland, where Massimo lived and taught for the past four years. In the world there are around 20 people regularly working with Arduino plus other 20 people contributing. Most of the Arduino boards are made in Italy, with some also made in USA and others made in Taiwan. Because of the open source model, Arduino is not a traditional company. «We are more like a fashion brand – explains Massimo. -We authorize factories to manufacture and sell devices with our brand, and get paid for that. Then anybody can use the boards and create anything». Which is great, but nine years after its foundation, without big investments Arduino is still at a quasi artisanal level.

Now Massimo is thinking big. «New York has more that 8 million inhabitants, more than the whole Switzerland – he points out. -There are so many makers here that Adafruit, the company that in Manhattan manufactures electronics and kits based on Arduino, is about to offer same day delivery of its products to its clients».

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So in New York Massimo can find both commercial partnerships and investors who fund the development of new products. «We have a lot of ideas for the Internet of Things, for example, but we need investments to works on it – says Massimo. -We have been already contacted by many venture capitalists and angel investors. Next step is to see who understand open source, our value and can help us grow».

In the meantime, Arduino is collaborating with a few startups based in NYC, such as littleBits, a sort of Lego for electronics, and Temboo, a software used by developers to interact with all kind of systems, including Arduino. Both startups had demos on Arduino Day at ITP, together with many other exciting organizations. Just to mention one: Brooklyn based Genspace, a sort of genetics FabLab. «Genetic hacking will be the next interesting phase of FabLabs», assures Massimo.

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