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Joe Heitzeberg

Ethan Lowry and Joe Heitzeberg are software guys. Lowry is best known as one of the co-creators of the wildly popular Urbanspoon mobile app, while Heitzeberg worked at companies such as SnapVine, MediaPiston and Whitepages.

But the well-known coders and entrepreneurs are spending their free time kicking around ideas in an entirely new realm … hardware.

They’ve formed a new company called Hack Things, and hosted a few events around Seattle. And while they aren’t saying much about what they are building at the moment, right now they are focused on helping software people learn to make hardware.

“The technology seems to be converging to make this a lot easier,” explains Lowry, who prior to Urbanspoon worked at Jobster and “You can use 3D printing to make something, Arduino and RaspberryPi to give it a brain, and Kickstarter to test the market and get funding.”

Ethan Lowry

Working on hardware is a new direction for Lowry, who has been traveling to New York and China in recent weeks to learn more about things like manufacturing and 3-D printing.

Lowry and Heitzeberg previously worked together at Avogadro, and after meeting recently they discovered a mutual interest in “connected devices.”

“We’re excited that the tools are coming together to let software-style rapid iteration and innovation occur with actual physical stuff talking to the cloud,” said Lowry. “It’s been amazing to see the level of interest in Seattle for this, both from engineers and investors.”

I asked Lowry for a few more thoughts on the trends he is seeing that are leading to the need for something like Hack Things. He pointed to three main trends:

“First, hardware costs are dropping rapidly. Moore’s Law is making electronic components that were prohibitive just a few years ago cheap and readily available. Second, the tools are getting easier and better. Both in terms of electronics (e.g. prototyping on an Arduino) and construction (e.g. you can 3D print or laser cut parts at MakerHaus, or order things printed on Shapeways).

The last trend is cultural. Someone graduating from college this year has spent their entire life with the internet. They have an expectation that making and sharing should be easy, and that they should be able to interact with people and things through technology.

The web made it possible for millions of people to experiment in software. I think these trends are pointing to the same kind of thing happening in hardware.”
Pretty interesting stuff, and we’ll certainly be checking back in with Lowry and Heitzeberg to learn more as they get further down the process.
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