The engineer of FirstBuild joins the Galician Maker faire to explain the co-creation and the synergies between the maker movement and the company in the enhancement of the industry 4.0.

Tomás Garcés is an example in the Maker world. He is in the top 30 under 30 published by Forbes, the prestigious business management magazine and he has been winning this position for 10 years thanks to his work at General Electric. In particular, as a driver of the global community of Makers FirstBuild, a project accelerator born three years ago and used by General Electric, as a matrix, to relaunch the pace of innovation and the process for the marketing of products. “It works as a non-stop hackathon”, as defined by Garcés.

This guru of implementation of the Maker knowledge to the business will be attending the opening day for professionals of the Galician Maker faire, where he will give a talk about co-creation and industry 4.0. From Connections by Finsa, we interviewed him to know the current situation of the movement and the most recent trends.

  • How did you discover the Maker movement?

I grew up as a maker, only back then it wasn’t as welcomed as it is today. My family comes from many generations of architects and designers. I am a self-made man watching my grandparents and uncles build houses and I was actively engaged. I also remember helping manufacturing wooden furniture and how much I liked using drills and electric saws, assembling pieces… only to later admire a finished table made with my own hands.

In FirstBuild, actually the Maker movement was born by our side. There was a hackerspace in our city, Louisville, attracting several members, including myself and other engineers of the company. The business paid attention to this fact, and we decided to experiment with shapes to attract the makers and this hackerspace, starting with a very successful hackathon. In that moment, we realized that the Maker movement is the muscle encouraging the innovation in the business.


  • What do the businesses have to learn about the Maker movement?

First of all, that the Maker culture is full with different innovative ideas. Secondly, that this is a movement propelled by passion and enthusiasm. Thirdly, the makers encourage the collaboration and creation of spaces where the ideas can be shared and celebrated. These are the essential ingredients that positively transform businesses and communities.

This transformation I am talking about is something we first-hand experienced in FirstBuild, since we exploit and boost the efforts of innovation by allowing the Maker movement to be integrated in the process of developing the products.  We carry this out in a different way: on the one hand, a good number of ideas to create new objects are shared by maker members of the community. On the other hand, the manufacturing of these products is taken by the makers themselves. Many of them are engineers who work for GE Appliances, among them we hire the top of their class once they graduate. The circle is complete when the makers of the community themselves buy our products.

  • How does FirstBuild incorporate the business world with the Maker movement?

We look for answers to a need of innovation, to accelerate the pace of the marketing process. Our business model is based on three pillars: design, manufacturing and sales. We design co-creatively with the maker community and we manufacture low volumes with the intention of finding new opportunities, as well as we maintain low production costs. After that, we sell using new channels that allow us to confirm the ideas.

A good example of this philosophy and of the integration of the Maker movement can be found in the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, developed together with our community. The prototypes were manufactured in our micro-factory and at the beginning were sold via a crowdfunding campaign in the IndieGoGo platform, thanks to whom we raised about 3 million dollars in the first thirty days.Tomás Garcés en FirstBuild

  • You are going to talk about co-creation and open innovation during your presentation at the inauguration of the Galician Maker faire. What do these concepts consist in?

These concepts arise from the search of FirstBuild of new ways of innovating and in the discovery of the Maker movement. In simple terms, open innovation and co-creation consist in opening the doors of the business to any person or team who is interested in participating in processes of developing and in being part of a community that have shared interests.

  • Businesses interested in innovation and in the Maker movement, such as Finsa, will participate to the Galician Maker Faire. Recently Finsa collaborated with FirstBuild. What did emerge from this exchange?

It was a mutual learning. We realized that by opening doors to the world, we didn’t just attract the maker community, but also other businesses and entities with whom we created valuable links. Finsa took part to the creation of one of the challenges of a project that we developed: a mobile platform of collaboration – Giddy – that allows other companies to connect with their communities.

  • You carry on a wide professional path linked to innovation and spaces in which new ideas arise. What is the most valuable lesson you learned?

The importance of keeping an open and curious mind. Curiosity is like a muscle, if you do not train it, it gets weak; this is why we need dosage of inspiration that helps us establish a training routine. Every time, I am more convinced that this curiosity has to be applied to companies and businesses. In its material translation, FirstBuild is the GE Appliances inspiration.