Makers Make the World Go ‘Round: Zach Kaplan

Casey Gordon | August 18, 2016

A lot of people make things. Zach Kaplan is a maker.

Scratch that. Zach Kaplan is the maker.

Zach is CEO of Inventables, a Chicago-based 3D carving company he founded in 2002 after selling his software development startup Lever Works to Leo Media in 2001. X-Carve and Carvey, Inventables’ flagship 3D carving machines — along with Easel, their intuitive (and free!) 3D carving software — have made Inventables a key player in the maker movement.

What is the maker movement you ask? It’s pretty much the technology-focused offshoot of DIY culture. The maker movement emphasizes learning through doing, social problem solving, and exploring the interplay of traditionally separate ways of working (e.g. calligraphy and computer programming).

Any entrepreneur worth their salt 3D carving carbon fiber should have at least a cursory understanding of the maker movement because (1) it’s driving tech innovation faster than you can say “polypropylene” and (2) it’s reinvigorating interest in STEM topics for students of all ages.

Back to Zach: starting a company that enables even the most mediocre computer users — think anyone who can’t name three keyboard shortcuts to save their life — to design and manufacture their own products was apparently not enough to satisfy his hunger for helping people connect with their inner maker.

And thus Zach co-founded ORD Camp in 2009. ORD Camp is a two day, invite-only “unconference” of 250 hand picked attendees, hosted at Google’s innovation-inducing Chicago location. There are no scheduled speakers at ORD Camp. If an attendee has a talk to give, they simply sign up when they get there.

The ORD Camp waiting list is currently 1,000 strong, so Zach was kind enough to bring some of his favorite ORD Camp wisdom to FIVEinSIXTY.

Zach shares 5 things he’s learned from ORD Camp guests:

1. Create more value than you capture. When too many industry leaders focus on capturing value, innovation stalls.

2. Be persistent. Put in the effort and your accomplishments will surprise you.

3. Be mindful of harassment. It can be happening around you and you might not notice.

4. We’re not alone. A University of Chicago astronomer presented her research predicting we’ll find life on other planets within ten years.

5. Talk less, listen more.

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