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Today’s Big Kids’ Ironman Dream

By Ding Yu Shan
Published: Sep 22,2014

If the majority of girls’ dream is wishing to be able to become a Barbie doll, then the majority of boys’ dream is probably wishing that they could become Superman and save the world or that they could wear a cool suit of armor with many functions like Ironman.

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However, after boys grow up that kind of dream is just a fantasy. But a small minority still embrace the dream and think about how to make every grown up and small boys’ dream a reality, step by step. Furthermore, this group is hiding out in every corner in Taiwan. They are called MONSKER.

MONSKER was established due to the founder, Greg Tsai’s idea: “I should do something!”

Construct an Ecosystem to Break Away from Low Salaries

First, go back to around the year 2000. At that time, called the Wintel era, Microsoft and Intel had a business alliance, which included 90% of the market share. Because Apple was comparatively independent and self-contained, it was not a contender against Wintel in constructing an ecosystem.

In this space-time background, Greg, who held a post as an electrical engineer at HTC, witnessed the development of two major camps and gained insight into the importance of ecosystems.

Figure 1 :   Greg Tsai
Figure 1 : Greg Tsai

He also advised his bosses at a series of jobs, such as HTC and Merry, to collaborate with more third parties to create a new ecosystem. The bosses, however, could not accept his advice because their thinking was different.

“At the time, companies did not put a great deal of stress on technology, and they insisted on doing OEM work. Nobody was willing to try to overthrow this and make changes,” said Greg.

This also caused entry-level workers in Taiwan to face having low NT$22,000 salaries.

“When you expend large amounts of time and capital constantly chasing after technology; however, have no genuine income, you can only make small profits through OEM work.”

Greg wanted to allow these technologies to have reciprocal value, and he had a desire to change the situation. Because the bosses at the big companies’ thinking was so deeply-rooted, Greg decided that complaining to them was no match for doing something himself while he was still able act on his own.

Therefore, he resigned from his stable job and invested himself in establishing MONSKER.

“OEMs are only selling technology and making products that clients want with technology, but if we put the idea of MONSKER into practice, then we will have more than just technology,” he said.

MONSKER Found Reciprocal Value

However, MONSKER does not really want to create an Ironman, or we could say doesn’t just want to create an Ironman. It also isn’t as simple as just simply playing with technology. Instead, MONSKER wants to enable people to define products in their own minds and then make them into a reality.

“A major reason why Apple is so successful is because Jobs had the ability to define products. With the iPhone he redefined the modes for using cellphones,” said Greg.

Figure 2 :   Sandy
Figure 2 : Sandy

However, in order to have the ability to define, you first have to have imagination, and then you have to be able to act to put ideas into practice. Greg hopes that in this alliance, these two abilities can be cultivated while also gradually expanding this ecosystem.

MONKSTER member, Sandy says of her first impression, “When I first heard his ideas, my first impression was, are you crazy?”

Having worked for many years as a headhunter in the technology industry, Sandy pays close attention to trends in the industry. She had deeply similar feelings to the problems that Greg talked out.

“From the financial tsunami to the abrupt rise of China, Taiwan’s technology industry had fallen a great deal overall. Wages were stagnating and even shrinking, and senior employees and people with great experience were being eliminated,” said Sandy.

Thinking back about that time, Sandy saw too many outstanding talents who could not find jobs and were forced to go to China to develop without coming back. Taiwan was facing an era when technology and value were not reciprocal. She was constantly thinking about where the next step should be for Taiwan’s technology industry.

After Sandy heard Greg’s ideas, she began to feel that this way could possibly be a critical juncture for changing the ecology of Taiwan’s electronics industry.

That evening Sandy invited Greg to a study group about “The World of Making Profits,” where they drew up the business model for MONSKER.

“Suddenly I felt that this was very cool, and I should go and give it a try!” said Sandy.

Just like that, Sandy joined MONSKER. She brought with her the experience and technological knowledge that she had accumulated from working in the electronics industry and a group of companions from the same camp.

Greg established MONSKER in October of last year and has been using the appeal of Ironman to enable local technology companies in Taiwan to increase their value. He hopes to help people who do not even understand technology to materialize new technologies from their imaginations and create world-class products.

Rallying the Community to Realize Technological Dreams

Most people may be strangers to MONSKER; however, on the basis of “Ironman,” which is a movie character full of imagination and anticipation, Greg first used limited resources and started work based on a close up view to create an Ironman helmet. This enabled MONSKER to begin to get fans’ attention.

Moreover, this year in May at Maker Faire the Ironman helmet drew a lot of attention. This has enabled MONSKER to gain a group of fans in just a short time, and this is the first step in the creation of an ecosystem.

“Everything has happened very quickly, and since we took part in Maker Faire we have started getting attention from people of all walks of life. Everybody thinks it is an interesting phenomenon, and it is a big kid’s dream,” said Sandy.

Figure 3
Figure 3

After gaining fans, the next key factor is to nurture the fans into makers. In order to make the fans into makers, their DIY abilities have to first be cultivated. Greg has started to open up classes that he teaches in order to accomplish this.

Starting from exterior design, he mixes this with the designs for optics and modules that he has already created. This allows student trainees to make their own Ironman, RoboCop, or whatever they imagine in their own minds.

“I should say that Ironman is just a call, and our main goal is to let each person define his or her own creative product and make it, rather than passively accepting products put out by the companies,” said Greg.

After designing the exterior, products are designed from programming, functions, and circuits. Greg hopes that by going through a series of curriculum, student trainees can be instructed to go further in expanding their applications. Furthermore, he hopes to integrate resources from educational institutions and businesses in order to, on one hand, unite more technologies, and, on the other hand, enable makers to upgrade their technological abilities.

Greg believes that he has technology, and fans have dreams. If the two are combined, the collision can create a spark, and this is another of his hopes for this union – integrating technology with the humanities. This was consistently the core for how Steve Jobs developed products.

“This is Taiwan’s deficiency. Taiwan actually has very good technology, but it lacks creativity. As a result, I hope that MONSKER will become an outlet for technology.”

Not only that, but this curriculum can also bring more makers into this ecosphere. “We are hatching makers, and because many people often have very good original ideas yet are obstructed by technological barriers, they give up on their ideas,” Sandy said.

MONSKER hopes to create a technological platform that enables everybody to think of ways to implement their ideas using the platform.

“This curriculum allows the creations that they imagine in their minds to be actualized. It is also their own cumulative process.” However it does not just allow them to create the products in their minds.

Greg also has a big blueprint in mind. After accumulating certain technologies and creativity, the next step is to go from being makers to doing startups.

Greg plans to enable some people who have gone through the testing and verification and for whom creating is feasible to move into starting their own enterprises.

“This is one link for creating lean startups, and through this union, feedback on members’ ideas and some validation mechanisms can allow technology and creativity to have additional value,” said Greg.

Taking products from the imagination and making them into real products – if makers or members can make these kinds of accomplishments, Greg believes that this can enable fans to more confidently continue to pursue these kinds of endeavors.

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