When I was a doctoral student at MIT, my advisor was Eric von Hippel. I’ve had my fair share of mentors in my 42 years – Eric has been one of the best. I still remember during the first lecture of 15.351: Managing the Innovation Process – the first class I took from Eric – hearing Eric rant about how "users are the real source of innovation."
When Eric first started talking about the notion of user-driven innovation in the late 1970′s, it was a completely novel idea. Over the past 40 years Eric has build an incredible body of research as well as a large network of academics and practitioners who follow and extend his battle cry. Of course, a great instantiation of this concept that we work with every day is open source software.
When Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures first introduced me to Peter Semmelhack – the CEO and founder of Bug Labs – during one of my trips to NY several years ago, I was immediately intrigued. Fred and his partner Brad Burnham had the courage and the vision to take fund Peter’s idea to create an open computer electronics platform. I remember walking in the rain with Peter and saying "aha – today’s Heathkit." I got excited and tossed a little of my own money into the financing. Among others I introduced Peter to Eric who hit it off immediately.
Fred has an extensive post up on Bug Pricing and Availability and Engaget has some pretty pictures. One of the modules being released is the von Hippel Module – a module named after Eric that adds interfaces and I/O ports for further hacking of the base Bug module.
I’m really pleased that Peter has chosen to honor and memorialize Eric’s work by naming one of the Bug modules after him. Peter and gang – keep it up – I can’t wait to get my new toys.