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STARTUPS

The Industrial Design Firm that Pioneered Product Development for Startups

The Industrial Design Firm that Pioneered Product Development for Startups
The Siliconreview
31 July, 2020

Today, Mako Design + Invent (https://www.makodesign.com/) is known as the world’s first and leading product development organization tailored to inventors and small business clients, but 20 years ago when the company started, it was just a high-school dream of founder Kevin Mako.

In 1999, Kevin had a journal of invention ideas that he had come up with throughout high school.  He searched for years for companies that could help him get his ideas from sketch to production.  After years of searching it was quite obvious that there was no reasonable way for a startup to get their product from Idea to Store Shelves.  Product development was impossibly expensive, provided very little product strategy, no knowledge support, and certainly there were no connections to buyers, wholesalers, patent attorneys, etc., and worst of all, not a single design firm had much interest in working with small product folks.

Kevin decided then and there to dedicate his life to changing that.  He set out to create a world-class product design firm entirely tailored to helping startups, small businesses, and inventors get from idea to store shelves, all under one roof.

Back in 1999, industry experts, design firm owners, and product engineers thought Kevin’s idea was crazy. They told Kevin that quality design firms avoid startups and small business clients like the plague, that there is no value in helping to educate and help startups and inventors, and that design firms spend all efforts getting a handful of Fortune 500 product clients with massive monthly budgets.

But Kevin was too passionate about entrepreneurs, and he did not agree with the status quo of the industry as he saw it as archaic, stuffy, and completely lacking in modern business practices, tools, and development technology - So he went full steam ahead with his vision.

He started by working his butt off to go to the top business school in the country, becoming section class president, and earning the Duke of Edinburgh’s gold award.  He Incorporated Mako Design in 2006 while only halfway through University. He then went overseas to Hong Kong University to study Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management to learn the ins and outs of connecting client product designs to some of the world’s biggest manufacturers.

Upon graduation, Kevin was $50,000 in student debt, but due to his remarkable academic achievements, he had the pick of the litter of high paying jobs in investment banking and management consulting.  However, he turned them down to pursue the dream of Mako Design + Invent.  He then put all efforts in getting some early startup product clients in the door.

Kevin then slowly started hiring the top and brightest industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and electronic engineers out of senior positions from Dell, Boeing, Bose, Nike, Bosch, and others.  He didn’t just hire designers with great titles, he hired only designers that had spent their entire careers exclusively doing the actual design work themselves – The product builders / design engineers / wizards of CAD software.

Kevin and his team worked around the clock for years to test, improve, and refine every step of the product development process so that it was tailored to startups, small product businesses, and inventors (literally hundreds of initiatives over the years).  They built out 4 offices across North America with 30 design professionals to service product idea customers from coast to coast.  The offices were modern, open-concept, high-tech, stacked with prototyping equipment and tools, and with a ton of local creative character specific to each region.  Mako connected with all kinds of incredible organizations like Make48 TV show, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, SAGE, Core77, Dreamvention, many Colleges, Universities, and startup incubators, and others. 

They built a network of patent attorneys, distributors, shipping providers, and wholesalers so clients had instant access to these people and companies that are traditionally very difficult to get access to -Everything needed to ensure product success, all in an expedient, quality, strategic, and affordable manner.

And it worked. Mako Design + Invent has now developed over 1000 products, have millions of units of clients’ products in peoples’ hands all over the world.  They have received 21 awards including Inc5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America, Entrperenuer360 Magazine Most Innovative Companies, Indigo Gold, Creative Pool Gold, Best Places to Work award, Lux Magazine Best Design Firm in North America, Growth500 Fastest Growing Companies, and many others.  All of this built entirely from scratch and completely organically with no funding, debt or investors.

Kevin spent his entire life since high school building this company.  To him, it was not just a business, it was founding a global revolution of helping regular people and small businesses change their lives and improve the world with their product ideas.  Mako Design + Invent was the pioneer firm for this space, and as such, has grown to be one of the top product design firms in the world - All just from an idea in high school.