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August 25, 2017

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X-Celerator Labs™

by Frank Sowa
X-Celerator Labs

X-Celerator Labs™

In 2007, The Xavier Group, Ltd. conceived a concept to be built within the Greater Pittsburgh region for a new collective workspace facility called X-Celerator Labs™. X-Celerator Labs™ was to become a for-profit, do-it-yourself mixed-use laboratory, engineering and fabrication center — an Advanced Rapid Manufacturing Start-up Accelerator.

 

 

 A slideshow overview of X-Celerator Labs™ Accelrator/Incubator (Click on image to begin)

X-Celerator Labs, (as envisioned), was intended to be an exciting new hybrid concept that acted as a collective facility to provide tinkerers, makers, inventors, entrepreneurs, businesses, R&D project / innovation teams, individual artists, hobbyists, engineers, students, and others access to their own advanced rapid manufacturing operation with the intent to accelerate prototype and pilot concepts into the marketplace.

In 2010, when The Xavier Group was securing venture capital to build this facility and to also line up major Pittsburgh region manufacturers to build X-Celerator Labs, some of the Venture Capitalists we originally approached opted instead to go with a franchise operation of San Francisco’s TechShop™. That franchise was partially funded by a grant from the Veteran’s Administration of the Obama Administration, and President Obama toured and spoke from the facility when it opened. In the past few months, as the presidency and White House Administration changed, TechShop lost the VA support and so TechShop announced they were closing the Pittsburgh-based franchise.

For The Xavier Group, it was a sad concept that VCs opted to support Tech Shop rather than X-Celerator Labs, because it pulled other supporters and major corporations away from us. X-Celerator Labs was a more advanced and prominent concept than TechShop, I believe.

TechShopFor example, unlike TechShop™, which was founded by TV Reality-show Mythbusters Jim Newton and Ridge McGhee in 2006 in Menlo Park, California, the heart of Silicon Valley, X-Celerator Labs was NOT ONLY to be based on revenue streams from user memberships — who would pay (as TechShop promotes) to be able to use the collective machines to work on their personal maker projects, or to resolve the frustrations associated with lack of access to the latest specialized and commercial-grade equipment.

Rather, X-Celerator Labs was going to be designed based on three older Xavier Group models: First, for a 1987 model of a Micro-Teaching Factory, “a flexible computer-integrated manufacturing microfactory facility.” MICRO-TEACHING FACTORY LOGOMicro-Teaching Factory was designed in the late 80’s in Monroeville, Pennsylvania for Kinkade Inc., a value-added trainer and distributor associated with Anilam Electronics Corp. Micro-Teaching Factory was a certified school to train manufacturers in the axiom of motion and bring them closer to the age of CNC,CAD,CAM,CIM, as well as in production quality outputs. Second, for a 1986 model of a Virtual Technology Incubator/Accelerator also designed in the late 80’s and based in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania to VirtualTechnologyIncubatorteach and incubate start-up businesses that would use “flexible cross-platform computer-integrated engineering, virtual reality, and new media business groupware concepts” (this center was owned and operated by The Xavier Group). Third, a 1978 model of KOS Office SuitesShared Executive Office-Suites concept developed by KOS & Associates by Booz and Allen alumni Thomas Kos in Pittsburgh’s North Hills in the early 80’s (The Xavier Group used their offices.)

Like Kinkade’s Micro-Teaching Factory, The Xavier Group’s Virtual Technology Incubator/Accelerator, and KOS’s Shared Executive Office Suites, X-Celerator Labs was deisgned to draw in people with varied interests but common outcome goals.

X-Celerator Labs was to have multiple revenue streams that included memberships to hands-on use and training in the mixed-use laboratory, images-2engineering and fabrication areas; a trainer and distributor OEM VAR showcase/demonstration and training area; training and maker programs provided in conjunction with local trade schools and community colleges; special rate professional and virtual assistance services; seed and venture capital connections; business incubator and accelerator areas to expand accelerator ideas; and shared executive offices and work areas or suites (designed to operate as they do in MIT’s Media Lab) functioning separated but integrated with the X-Celerator Labs.

The idea for X-Celerator Labs came about like this: 

In talking strategy with many individuals over the past 37 years, I heard many express both hopes but also fears about where the flexibly automated economy would eventually drive their businesses. Even in the early 80’s I heard this.

So, we at Xavier, began to create a viable storyline about this …. Suppose you want to own (i.e. start-up), or do own, or manage a small entrepreneurial business, or you manage an existing fabrication or machine shop. In school, you may have taken IT courses and learned the basics of using a computers for word processing, web searches, data base and spreadsheet use, art and design, playing computer games, and communicating with other through networks and the Internet. How do those skills apply to your needs now? How should they be updated?

If you have an established business, your organization may already use a computer system for all the above uses plus accounting, cost-estimating, job-tracking, resource management, and customer relations on your own sites, or on cloud-based sites, or through social network channels. You may also be advanced and use computers at your business for computer numerical control (CNC) of your machinery, computer-aided engineering (CAE), computer-aided-drafting (CAD) computer-aided drafting and design (CADD), computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM), computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), as well as many of this century’s new uses for the digitization of our lives. How are these integrated into your enterprise? How is the managing architecture designed so you can get the most optimal approach out of them with consistency? What needs to be updated to make it happen?

You’ve also probably heard and use apps on your smart-phone, or tablet, beyond desktop computer uses — but, unless you’re in the IT Department or are a trained software programmer, if you have any problems you probably delegate those problems to others to be solved. How are these technologies adding to your operation? Should they? What needs to be updated to make it happen?

What about your fears and concerns? Do you have these fears (really) because you are not very friendly with computers, and in the past you never really needed to be. What keeps you up at night? What can you do to ease those concerns and fears?

People, by 2020, need to feel at home around computer technologies.

Today, we may be facing a world that in a few years it will be very different from what we’ve grown accustomed to. The future of manufacturing may look completely different from the way you may have been envisioning it from a time in the golden age of 20th Century mass production, when here in Pittsburgh coal and primary metals were king. Instead, we feel the new manufacturing will take place clustered around vibrant tech and education center hubs that can draw from an educated class and from world-class schools of higher learning, where creative individuals have pretty-much unrestricted access to cutting-edge technologies in fields ranging from robotics/automation to high-speed Internet and human augmentation with artificial intelligence, to advanced and additive manufacturing, to micro- even nanotechnology. A place where the creative types can freely mingle and share ideas, and where organizations can send individuals to work separately on disruptively-innovative ideas and breakthroughs.

As you immerse yourself in better undertsanding of this, you may now wonder whether or not you personally, or your company — could benefit more greatly from leaving behind things you’ve become accustomed to, and grow profitably by moving on to items that will shape the near-term future, and the 21st Century — for example, some of the newest applications that have something to do with the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and artificial intelligence advancements, big data and big data analytics, 3DPrinting/additive manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, smart factories and other new applications.

Question is, how should you judge what you need if you’ve never tried it? How much does it cost to have, lease, or own and what options do you have? How do these fit into a strategy for the 21st Century? What are the criteria you need to be most knowledgeable about?

Studies in 2007, and again in 2010 and 2014, showed people and organizations could greatly benefit from the concept of X-Celerator Labs. 

Let’s further suppose that you do a study, and results indicate that use could likely yield important and critical benefits toward your success. How do you go about implementing this relatively complex technology in the shortest possible time, in the smartest strategic way, with the least expense and pain? How much should you buy, and what are the lead times for proper installation and testing? (Wouldn’t it be easier if you could experiment with this offsite, at a collaborative facility where you could also learn from many others? Wouldn’t an offsite facility that could harness customers be able to provide a better capability to explore new concepts at much lower costs? And how do you maintain it and grow with it? How also do you keep from getting burned — either by getting resources you don’t need or want; or by having competitors use these beneficial aspects long before you do and drive you from the marketplace? This thought approach process is used to provide focus to this … and other projects — at our company, and we’ve been using it since 1981.

in beginning to formalize this, we understood that all products/services go through a lifecycle, and as I’ve stated in other blogs here, that the Product/Service Lifecycle in the 21st Century is shortening (now at just 7 weeks), because of technological advancements, global connectivity, and economic convergence. We also understood that society and jobs are becoming more mobile which are altering the roots of organizational theory, creating new open office concepts with “gig” workers, and flattening out the business models. Finally, we saw that many companies in the 21st Century are foregoing the purchase of needed machinery and equipment — and outsourcing much of the work — because research and development costs have become too expensive which has its largest impacts on start-ups and small-to-medium-sized businesses and organizations.

Further, we saw that any new concept needed to be formally created (ideation), protected (intellectual property patenting), designed and prototyped (engineering), and tested (quality assessed) —turbineNew product before it can be sent for manufacturing. Our experiences show that typically that process can run from tens-of-thousands of dollars to a few million dollars using traditional linear development methods, resources, and necessary equipment. (All these costs are accrued BEFORE the first product is sold.) We began to explore if there were cheaper ways to attain the same, or better results!

Our analyses of organizations since 1981 showed clearly that people and businesses that are inspired to make new products, are often limited by being stuck with legacy and outdated equipment and machinery; be further limited without access to the right combinations of machinery, resources, personnel, and training; or be limited without the right kind of educated staffing and support, along with the best, modern computer-integrated design and all the latest 21st Century fabrication tools. But, with the quickening changes and convergences — we examined the technologies most-often used — and found that because of disruptive innovations it is becoming less financially-sound to dedicate so much financials to machinery, equipment, and resources on items that may be obsolete in less than the time it takes to get back an ample return-on-investment from the equipment, materials, and resources provided. For those just starting-out the capitalization of the fabrication tools makes it extremely hard to begin a product company.

What we eventually came up with …

X-Celerator Labs™ initial mission was to create a duplicative clearinghouse collaborative environment — that developed and used a flexible comprehensive end-to-end facility and labs that, in turn, could be used by our customers (and members) to change and disrupt the worldview of how to best use advanced manufacturing for altering the business models of the 21st Century, to help drive innovation and creativity on the local levels in various growth regions. The Xavier Group felt that by designing a business incubator/accelerator, with multiple models for various vertical audiences, we could deploy a new micro-teaching-based business model that inexpensively brings the latest 21st Century approaches home for the rest of us.

We decided to envision a special kind of organizational incubator/accelerator as the core of our 21st Century facility

X-Celerator Labs is first and foremost a “business accelerator.”

Many are familiar with “business incubators.” They operate differently than accelerators because incubators cater primarily and only to new idea developments and early-based start-ups. Business incubators work with between 6-9 brand new ideas (concepts) for companies / products / services, providing facilities and support services so they can explore and formalize their ideas and “graduate” usually over a 90-180 day “incubation period” into an initial capitalization and growth stage. Business incubators also are designed to help the earliest stage businesses with an idea or formalized invention through the first stages of growth: conceptualization, start-up business planning, intellectual property and patent filing, prototyping, market research, pricing considerations, initial seed funding and start-up financing. But, once the incubation period ends and the start-ups are cut by graduating, most of such start-ups are left to their own devices to continue.

X-Celerator Labs will have an incubator dedicated to incubating such start-ups as a valuable component. The incubator component should also attract investors and capitalists.

On the other hand, business accelerators assist organizations who have attained the “next phase” (what’s referred to as second-stage through pre-mezzanine growth) of the product cycle. Often suited for businesses that have already attained some means of “seed” or initial financing, along with valid some term of sales and marketing results and metrics, who often have gone through intellectual property protection and often have patents pending on some intellectual properties, and finally, the organization has committed to passionate growth and therefore usually has an employed staff of at least three full-time employees, (but many times companies at this stage will have between 30-50 employees on the payroll).

Business accelerators also provide “shared and collaborative” facilities and services (like incubators), but the term to maturity often lasts for 1-5 years. A term is usually determined when the company breaks-even, becomes profitable and self-reliant. At the end of business acceleration, most businesses seek either “mezzanine” financing through traditional financial sources, crowdsourcing, or outright sale for remuneration. If they continue on their own, they are ready to move into their own facilities, or alter the usage of what they had in the accelerator, for further usage and development. The accelerator always attains a stock percentage of all businesses that go through the accelerator phase.

Business accelerators, like X-Celerator Labs, often CAN and DO provide many or all of the business incubation assistance services along with the acceleration services and environments. Incubators are specifically designed to help with taking a formalized idea, or prototyped/and test piloted (small lab and field test runs) inventions through the stages of ideation. Accelerators are specifically-designed to follow on to any ideation that’s in process, then carry the new development through the combining of process needs and industrial customization and pre-manufacturing (short production runs) to create a product or service, and also to deliver a useful design, engineering, planning, strategy, and tactics to implement and finally, to begin disruptive and innovative process production (the third stage of the product cycle) which should foster into a new money-making business.

Created like Edison’s Hyde Park, NJ Innovation Factory

X-Celerator Labs business accelerator is unique, because it will be designed to maximize the opportunities for the creation of disruptive technologies. Designed with a similar drive to that of Thomas Edison’s Innovation Factory in Hyde Park,New Jersey, X-Celerator Labs will add exploration into the newest technologies starting by harnessing the additive power of 3D Printing, sintering, and stereolithography. X-Celerator Labs will teach start-ups and organizations that use it how to effectively create a new invention every six months, and how to unleash 108 new disruptive technologies every year with at least two of them being significant.

The 21st  Century is changing the way that all organizations conduct business. Some of the shifts that are just now becoming most evident, are that concepts of ‘mass’ production and ‘mass’ consumption to create jobs and improve the economic outlook no longer works in today’s societies.

Ever since World War II ended, the overcapacities in many industries led to lower cost usage of high-grade machinery, equipment, and resources that were created for rapid mass production. This greater usage allowed the creation of a well-paid middle class. But, as those post-war advantages grew older and eventually were outmoded, the legacy machines and equipment began to become a hinderance that resulted in mass layoffs, downsizing, sell-outs to offshore interests, etc. In addition, the outmoded materiel also become a larger polluter — endangering human life and existence on the planet.

Today, we face a similar and even more perdicious threats from the continued use of the old equipment. We are also still affected by the global economic trade we created by the 80’s and 90’s downsizing. To get back on the right path in the near future, we must again address this, but in a different way. X-Celerator Labs is focused on many of these new approaches! Watch the embedded slide show to find out more, or leave a comment and I will get back to you.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 1 2017

    How about collaborating to adapt for Los Angeles? AWilliamsJr@globalbusinessincubation.com 1-424-222-1997

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Sep 1 2017

    I will be glad to discuss this with you, Andrew.

    Like

    Reply

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