Thoughts from the Garage
To an inventor, tinkerer, or hardware entrepreneur, there are few places as sacred as a garage. Yes, government funded labs, research universities, and private R&D facilities have no doubt produced greater quantities of innovation over the past hundred fifty years than garages, but those innovations are usually of the top-down variety. Bottom up innovations – those intended to meet the immediate needs or curiosities or passions of everyday people – usually come from those people themselves and whatever humble workspaces they can find. The super-sonic jet, for instance, was not made in a garage. But the original Wright Brothers Flier was.
Lots of other great inventions, companies, and industries can trace their beginnings to garages, homes, and dorm rooms. These are safe places where innovators can try, fail, and try again without needing to explain themselves to anyone else. This sense of operating outside convention – outside grades, performance reviews, budget line items, and the hours of 9 and 5 – this is what makes garages so powerful and so creative. You can dream as big as you want in a garage, and nothing but the dirty rafters above you have to know about it. Millions of ideas are born in garages, and most of them never breathe life outside of one. Yet a few, those rare few, escape the garage, spread their wings, and just like the Wright Brothers Flier go on to change the world forever.
I’ve been thinking a lot about garages today, because I find myself alone in my garage for the first extended chunk of time since I moved to California three months ago to work full time on my startup. Don’t get me wrong; sharing this space with my interns, friends, and co-founder has made for a wonderful and productive summer that I will always remember fondly. Yet for the next four days they will all be away, and only the rafters will be here to keep me and my big dreams company. I’m actually really looking forward to it – to the freedom to delve deeply and work and dream completely undistracted. Maybe, just maybe, if I’m really productive over the next four days, and weeks and months to follow, I can even wrestle one of these big dreams into a concrete idea, package it into a wonderful product, and push it through the big garage doorway and into the unknowing world beyond.