Even if the VESC platform was born in the green and thriving lands of Sweden, the Axiom project found its roots in much less fertile soil.
This particular log is likely going to go over the heads of the folks living in developed countries -even my newfound Canadian mates-, but I think it can resonate a lot on the rest of us.
There are many great stories about large companies being born in a garage near Silicon Valley, but for many of us a garage in a developed country is a dream, you can't help but feeling hopelessly excluded from the aspiration of achieving such great feats.
Like most people in this community, I started working with my mate Maxi in my dad's garage. But our garages come with some extra handicaps, they are located in a ̶d̶e̶v̶e̶l̶o̶p̶i̶n̶g̶ collapsing country that has been edging populism for years. Argentina has been home of brutal customs paperwork and requirements to deter people from ordering stuff from other countries (think digikey, a pcb, or a fancy oscilloscope), plus 50% of import taxes and the recent come back of the immediate "pesification" of the income we get from international jobs (it means that if you charge $100 for a prototype, it gets converted to a devaluating AR$, you never get to hold USD, even if you need to order stuff in USD to do the job). The concept is to take money from the productive sector to fund government affairs, so being productive here takes way more effort and willingness.
After we got our engineering degrees we started the search for contracts and good ideas. We landed a nation-wide award for a top 5 most innovative product and all that $ was invested in setting up our current Palta Tech lab and a corporation figure that can import stuff. You may imagine a sci-fi lab... and you would be right!
Meet our Batcave in Argentina
That's the current google street view, It took us an entire summer of sanding the old paint, preparing and painting the inside, the award couldn't afford the paintjob (much less pavement!). The lab outside is nicer looking now, but google won't notice for years because they don't come here often.
Having a workplace we focused on the actual work, contributing to VESC, earning some traction in the forums, and meeting amazing people like our canadian mates Arlin and Sonny, and the oh so fulfilling development of Axiom, which made our team an international, far reaching endeavor. We still ship boards from Argentina, but with a new company in canadian jurisdiction we are trying to leave behind the struggles.
It takes years of (extra) effort to get you this far when you live in a poor country, and this log has 2 purposes:
- To serve as inspiration to all those hackers and makers that keep creating despite adversity.
- To raise some awareness about how awesome and valuable it is to have a makerspace near you and same-day tax-free no-BS shipping! Makers around the world don't take these resources for granted, many have to build labs from the ground up, design their own CNCs and deal with customs and government BS to stay competitive.
I don't know if there are other hackaday prize finalists emerging from a non-developed country this year, certainly not many. Hopefully this will help more outsiders getting into the business!