Why 2016 is the year of the maker

In July, I received my invitation to the secret society. I just didn’t know it yet.

It all started when a product I built was featured on Product Hunt. 200 upvotes and 24-hours of craziness later, I had passed their test. An email was waiting for me the next morning.

“Hello, fellow maker. We’d like to invite you to join our community.”

I was intrigued. As soon as I gained access to the Slack group, I nervously typed out my welcome message to the main channel. One of the members got back to me in seconds. “Welcome to Maker Hunt.”

Over the next few days I lurked. And lurked hard. Feelings of imposter syndrome crept up as I watched this group of dedicated software artists go to work. It seemed the singular goal of this group was to build things at an incredible pace. Have you ever wondered how Product Hunt is able to generate hundreds of new products every day? Well, it’s because of these people. I needed to know their secrets.

I’ll get back to this story in a minute, but first, why this is so important.

The evidence is in for 2016. This year you won’t be able to make any excuses for not making things. You won’t need any fancy education. You won’t need to know how to code. The playing field will be leveled in 2016. All you will need is a problem and and an idea for a solution.

Sound too good to be true? Here are just a few of the tools that emerged last year to help everyone, regardless of background, build things:

  • GameSalad: build mobile games without coding.
  • Shopify: this year the e-commerce platform launched new ways to grow an online store from scratch with Uber local delivery and Amazon merchant integrations.
  • Glowforge: a 3-d laser printer that allows people to create professional products and designs with a minimal investment.
  • Webflow: a web-based platform to build websites without code.
  • Code-Free Startup: guide to building apps without code (shameless plug)
  • Force.com: Salesforce’s visual programming tool that allows anyone to build complex business systems without code.
  • Kinetise: Build mobile apps without code.
  • Mobirise: create mobile websites without code.

The trend is clear: when you bypass the need to learn a new language (coding) you open up so much more opportunity to a world of makers. It’s as monumental as the knowledge shift when the first copies of the Bible were translated from Latin to English. Just as Powerpoint and Excel made it easy to click and type our way into a professional presentation of information, code-free app builders will allow even more innovation. And it will need to be adopted faster than Powerpoint if we want a shot at saving the middle class.

As our new “sharing” economy hurdles toward a place where freelancing is the new norm, individual workers rely on their ability to create value faster than others to separate themselves from the pack. As economist Robert Reich pointed out in a recent essay,

“Whether we’re software programmers, journalists, Uber drivers, stenographers, child care workers, TaskRabbits, beauticians, plumbers, Airbnb’rs, adjunct professors, or contract nurses — increasingly, we’re on our own.

And what we’re paid, here and now, depends on what we’re worth here and now — in a spot-auction market that’s rapidly substituting for the old labor market where people held jobs that paid regular salaries and wages.”

Sounds scary, right? We can easily envision a future where a handful of elite programmers in San Francisco churn out the next app to “enable” the rest of the population to go to work. All the while, the divide between the haves and the have-nots grows wider.

But here’s why that won’t happen: 2016 is the year of the maker. And the secret is one simple perspective shift: It doesn’t take a glass office in SF to build software or hardware of value anymore. I got a glimpse of this future in a Slack group where roughly 1,000 makers had it figured out.

They were not waiting for an audition on Shark Tank. They were not waiting for seed money to start “crushing it.” They were not waiting for anyone. These people were doing something really simple: They were finding problems to solve and finding the quickest way to fix them.

One example was a Savannah Peterson — who demonstrated in a Slack AMA how she was using rapid protoyping and 3-D printing to get hardware products to market in weeks rather than months.

Another was Fred Rivett — hacking together software products in a weekend and using the Maker Hunt community to get suggestions about what features should or shouldn’t be included.

This community of makers is the backbone behind Product Hunt and beginning of a larger movement, signaling the rise of tech-empowered small businesses at the heart of our new economy.

It’s going to take some time for most people to wake up and realize that the excuses for not building something have all but dried up. You control your destiny, and 2016 if the year that you decide if you are a maker or consumer.

Here’s to a year of making great things together.

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