In MANO, Ric Herrero has brought Miami a “do tank”

Miami just threw its fourth-annual Maker Faire, with a record attendance of 5,000. The company behind it, MANO, has been in the headlines for other reasons — they were part of the cohort of just-announced investments from the Knight Foundation into Miami startups.

We spoke with MANO director Ric Herrero about the investment, and what else MANO has in store.

What is it?

Herrero describes MANO as a “do tank” (instead of a think tank) that is focused on supporting people who want to physically transform the world around them. Projects like the Maker Faire allow innovators to build everything from skateboards to construction materials — as was the case at this year’s Faire, where University of Miami students started putting together the components of a pop-up market, MKTplace Miami, that will soon be opening in Coconut Grove.

In addition to the Faire, where, this year, 160 makers from the US, LatAm and Spain exhibited; MANO also sponsors the Great Miami Makeathon, a kind of hardware hackathon that occurred a few weeks ago; and the Wynwood Maker Camp, a summer program for young makers-in-training.

This year also saw the debut of the 10x10kCuba startup competition, which brought 10 ambitious Cuban entrepreneurs to the U.S. to receive training from the top tech accelerators in the U.S. MANO continues to try to create connections to LatAm innovators, something reflected in its Twitter handle and website, MANOAmericas.

Who’s behind it?

Herrero co-founded MANO four years ago as a passion project to foster in Miami the Maker Movement, the global project to allow citizens to hone their hands-on technology and manufacturing skills in an increasingly computerized world. The son of Cuban exiles, his background is in advocating for a more open Cuba. He is the founder and Executive Director of CubaNow. But the success of MANO has allowed him to become its first official employee.

What’s next?

The Knight Foundation’s investment of $125,000 went toward producing this year’s Faire — one of just 30 official Maker Faires in the world; Knight and MANO are already in talks about funding next year’s Faire.

MANO will continue to produce its marquee events, which Herrero says will be bigger and better now that the organization has created a steady flow of sponsors. And a new project involves something even more ambitious: Taking the Maker mindset into learning institutions, which Herrero describes as not just schools but anywhere where learning occurs, from companies to coworking spaces. The model is the Remake Learning network in Pittsburgh, which is trying to bring more hands-on instruction into city schools.