A new facility on Pittsburgh's North Side is seeking to help local startups keep their first rounds of manufacturing in the Steel City.
In the past, many startups have gone overseas to have those small batches manufactured, said Bernie Lynch, founder of Factory Unlocked. Lynch said, historically, larger manufacturers in the U.S. haven’t had much interest in early stage companies. Smaller facilities like maker-spaces aren’t really equipped to pump out batches of 100 or 200 at a time.
She said that’s led many startups to China, where there are more opportunities, but also a higher risk of intellectual property theft.
“Now, before I can even produce it here and sell it in the states, it’s being sold in China, and not [as] my product,” said Lynch.
Factory Unlocked features 30,000 square feet of factory floor and machinery such as laser cutters and motor-powered woodworking equipment. It also includes about 4,000 square feet of office and conference space.
“We have a particularly robust engine [of startup companies] in the Pittsburgh economy,” said Lynch. “We understood that there was a market gap.”
Factory Unlocked staff can help clients with their manufacturing needs and even train them to do some of it themselves.
Lynch said she hopes the facility will be the next step for local hardware startups who have graduated from an accelerator or incubator, as well as companies who have developed their prototypes independently.
Factory Unlocked will host a manufacturing boot camp for startups on June 22.