As the capital of finance and fashion, advertising and media, New York has long been a city of shakers and movers, but with today’s announcement that Calvin Chu is exiting as senior technology licensing officer at Columbia Technology Ventures to assume the position of Managing Director of the R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator, it’s about to reclaim its title as a city of shakers and makers.
“I’m incredibly excited to see hardware back here in New York,” said Chu, a long-time advocate of the Maker Movement and freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware Guide. “In a way, New York built its empires way back in the days of physical things, and you can see evidence for that everywhere in the city,” he continued, referring to the converted lofts and warehouses that once housed manufacturing. “Hardware technologies kept moving west, but it’s really come full circle.”
The R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator, powered by TechStars and with Chu at the helm, plans on further fostering that movement: it’s the first-ever accelerator program to bring together world-class design and marketing with hardware, data, and digital services and lay down an important beachhead to force-multiply the connected devices mega-phenomenon here in New York.
“My goal has always been to shepherd products and companies to market that I may be proud to have thrown my two cents into,” said this son of a serial entrepreneur in an AlleyWatch profile this past summer.
New York’s burgeoning software industry has certainly gained world-class status, but with such companies as MakerBot and Shapeways calling the city home, the Maker Movement and the “Internet of Things,” which includes not only new product categories like wearable tech, but is also taking on such traditional products as home automation, health and fitness and more, a new tech industry is quickly taking hold here as well.
“There’s a rich and amazing group of hardware developers meeting here regularly in the city, and growing in size constantly, creating a really healthy Maker Movement,” said Chu. “But above all, people are starting to build and create spectacular things never thought possible outside of Fortune 500 companies. It used to be that a couple of guys in a basement could make a smartphone app, but now these same couple of guys can have a hardware device. My focus at R/GA is to move heaven and earth to get these startups to succeed, to help them leverage the people and talent and demographics here, and to reach into the network to get them in front of anybody they need to see to move the needle.”
Chu earned his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the University of Michigan and has been a tech aficionado ever since he got his first Commodore 64 and a 300-baud modem in the third grade.
“These are exciting times for startups, but even more so for the rarest of this breed: the ones with a calling to build physical devices,” Chu wrote in a recent blog. “These devices are quickly forming the glue that connects people together, and that innovation is happening right here, right now. It’s a great time for hardware innovators.”
And if you happen to be a maker in New York right now, you’re certainly in the right place for it.