Sunday, October 2, 2011

PMBA & The Frankenstein Garage experience

Who we are

We are a small team of IT experts, and we have been working for a while trying to create something of our own, in addition to our daily jobs. We definitively are bootstrappers, because we don’t have so many bucks in our pockets (and even if we had, we’d want to use each penny wisely).

How it started

We knew pretty well that being an expert on a given technical subject is not enough to help you start a business. None of us has an MBA, but we wouldn’t let that hinder us, so we have started reading a lot of business related books - actually devouring them: finance, marketing, business, innovation. We wanted to reach a level of understanding similar to that of an "institutional" and much more expensive MBA. Being technicians, we're really pragmatic and believe in practical and operational knowledge, so we’ve rolled up our sleeves and delved into the groove.

Frankenstein Garage

The project we’re working on is called Frankenstein Garage, and it’s going to be the first FabLab in Milan. FabLab stands for Fabrication Laboratory (but also for Faboulous Laboratory), and it is a place where people can make (almost) anything. The first FabLab was born at the MIT in Boston to support a course held by Neil Gershenfeld. The laboratory, beyond the usual tools you can find in any lab, will have tools for digital fabrication, like 3D printers or CNC machines: this means that the machines will sort of “automagically” build things out of CAD drawings.

We employ waste materials (electronic, electric and mechanical) to develop low cost prototypes and to be green. Our experience in the IT world has taught us that being agile is the right choice almost in everything: that’s why the early stage of our prototypes heavily involves the use of LEGO bricks.

To sustain our activities we have developed our MEVO: the ABNormal, a little micro-controller board, which we’ll be ready to sell in a matter of days.

How PMBA helped us

A few months ago we have found on Google a link to Josh Kaufman's wonderful list of books, to find that we had already read many of them. Obviously we've bought PMBA as soon as it became available, read and re-read it and, most of all, started to use it, putting into good use all the knowledge distilled into it. We consult it almost daily and follow the advices contained in it each and every day: Kaufman's work has proven really useful for very busy startuppers like us.

As PMBA helps us a lot as a quick reference, we have also created some mind-maps from the book, to achieve faster results: seeing all the concepts in a single glance is really effective and a great time saver, as we can now check multiple aspects in just one shot. This has helped us to develop clear concepts and refine our proposals in an acceptable Business Plan (by the way, Business Model Generation has helped us a lot to prepare for the BP, when shall we see it in the list?).

Following the advices found in the book(s) we also won two awards just a few weeks after starting this project: "Dall'Idea all’Impresa" e "Diamo casa a 10 idee creative", which more or less sound like "From idea to business" and "Let’s host 10 creative ideas". That won us, among other services, a free office for year in Milan, and that is really helping us as it means a great saving, leaving our (small) resources for other uses.

Interested? check out the official Frankenstein Garage page!

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