Tech lovers’ online community hits one million mark

One million technology lovers now make up the world’s largest online community of engineers, entrepreneurs and others fascinated with technology.

It took off two years ago when Phoenix-based Avnet Inc. acquired two online communities, Hackster and element14. Members join for free and discuss and collaborate on all things tech: robotics, drones, virtual reality, home automation, wearables, security, automotive, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and more.  

Anyone can join these collaboration communities and take their ideas to the next level. It’s not just for professionals. Video projects are tagged in different ways including by level of complexity. Members can get hands-on instruction with the latest products and work on real designs.

Top projects on any given week might be an artificial intelligence cat, a retro gaming table, or a modular vertical farm.

“Because they learn from real-world project examples, industry experts, and each other, our community members are more likely to find the right path to get their idea from prototype to mass production,” Chief Executive Officer Bill Amelio said in a release announcing the million mark.     

“By sharing information, best practices and know-how, you’re helping to bring better products into the world,” said Amelio, who was named CEO two years ago. The Phoenix-based company is close to a century old and is one of the largest distributors of electronic products and takes customers from each stage of a product’s cycle.

Combined membership in the two online communities grew by approximately 48 percent each year since Avnet took over.

Part of the popularity lies in the booming internet of things (IoT), which is the ever-growing network of physical objects with internet connectivity and communication between objects like security systems, thermostats, cars, electronic appliances, lighting, alarm clocks, speaker systems, vending machines and more.  

Both community websites have message boards, videos, and access to technological experts and products. There are product road tests and reviews. Hackster also hosts in-person workshops and meetups to help individuals – whether or not they have previous engineering or design experience – take their hardware ideas to the next level.

“This is what we’re calling the democratization of hardware and technology for people who may not be engineers or technicians,” said Bob Merriman, Avnet Director of Strategic Planning. “We find a lot of people who in years past might have been intimidated now have a place to get help.”

Instead of scouring several sources for an answer, members can turn to these Avnet communities for information on new technologies and move forward more quickly, Merriman said.  

“It’s a huge place where engineers can go to interact with other engineers to solve problems and be on message boards around their favorite technology,” he said.

It also helps Avnet know what topics are trending and what products people like to use in their projects.

“These are the early stages of Avnet customers; people who are enthusiastic about hardware,” Merriman said.

Victoria Harker


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