The new media guru, Tim O’Reilly, recently linked to DYI, a website geared towards kids-as-would-be-makers. It’s not just adults; young people also need an online community that fosters the do-it-yourself spirit. They too benefit from sharing creative projects and drawing inspiration from other young makers. Trending topics range from rocket to duct tape to lego. Makers can earn so-called “skill patches” that are as equally eclectic – think Animator, Entomologist, Forager, or Circuit bender to scratch the alphabetic surface – and represented by colorful icons. DIY has an active Twitter feed letting young makers know that, for instance, Mycologist (i.e., mushroom expert!) is now an official patch. The excitement on DIY is virtually palpable. It is the special exuberance of youthful knowledge. The internet is often not friendly or helpful to this kind of restless intellectual energy. Streaming content and online gaming can be more numbing than productive. And the distraction of the clickable mouse can erode attention spans. But DYI co-opts the best aspects of the internet as a learning platform and leverages it toward the acquisition of real skills. Skill sets entail problem solving, and both are critical for the entrepreneurial spirit.
The question of exactly what formula results in a successful start-up is not unrelated. A social component must surely be involved. Could it be that the resourcefulness of youth plays a part? Business incubators look at the question from a different yet related perspective. They don’t see the answer in optimizing the individual from childhood. Instead, they want to surround the individual with an optimal social network. Or such, at least, is one theory as to the success of the Silicon-Valley based incubator, Y Combinator. Y Combinator’s portfolio currently amounts to approximately $10 billion. Dropbox is one of their more famous hatchlings. Drew Hansen at Forbes recently speculated that Y Combinator’s deep pool of accessible and talented alumni is its greatest asset. So we’re not talking here about the wisdom of crowds, but rather access to crowds of wise and business-savvy experts. Now imagine if DIY and YC were fused into a single model for making success?