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Press Release

GE's FirstBuild™ Celebrates Breakout First Year

July 28, 2015

New Model of Manufacturing Speeds 8 Products to Market in 12 Months 

  • First year generates over 7,500 global FirstBuild™ online community members, 800+ product ideas, eight new product introductions, over 40 collaborative projects with University of Louisville and other maker startups. 
  • FirstBuild is primed for a great second year with 10-12 product launches, continued growth in online participation and community engagement in its Louisville microfactory. 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -July 28, 2015-(GE:NYSE)-With one year in the rearview mirror, FirstBuild™ takes lessons learned as GE’s first startup, global online co-creation community and microfactory to plan for what is shaping up to be an even more exciting second year.

Year One Highlights of GE’s FirstBuild:

  • Global online co-creation community members-over 7,500-from all over the world worked together to create the next great thing in appliances. Products like the Paragon™ Induction Cooktop, ChillHub™ Refrigerator and Opal™ Nugget Ice Maker resulted from this innovative collaboration. Check out to explore the 24 active projects in the works.
  • Microfactory in Louisville started producing microkitchens and the Easy-Load Double Ovens, among other products, in small batch production. Products that start at FirstBuild can scale up to large-scale production in GE’s factories across the country. This new model reduces the cost and risk of product development and enables fast market validation, so products make it to market faster.
  • University of Louisville (UofL) students working with FirstBuild on 32 capstone projects-giving them access to state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and real-life experiences unavailable in a classroom setting and facilitated well over 100 personal projects created by local makers, startups and entrepreneurs-developing a new model of successful public/private partnerships.  The microfactory site in UofL’s Belknap campus saw over 3,000 people visiting or working in its lab spaces.
  • Marketing strategy created multiple platforms to interface with consumers-selling products directly to consumers and sharing active projects through, at its Louisville maker space, or via crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo. 

FirstBuild’s second year promises to be more exciting than the first. Current projects include a built-in home pizza oven and technology to allow for coffee roasting in a traditional oven.

Part of the Community:
“Our partnership with FirstBuild has exceeded our expectations. UofL students are learning in a high-tech, innovative environment in which they are capable of designing and producing concepts and products that will flourish in the 21st Century marketplace,” said  Dr. Ramsey, President of UofL.

The opening of FirstBuild has also boosted Louisville’s reputation as a hot spot for entrepreneurial activity. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said, “The breakthrough work at FirstBuild is a great example of the kinds of big things that effective partnerships between the City of Louisville and industry leaders like GE can deliver.”

Through design challenges and ideation, FirstBuild pairs co-creation and micromanufacturing. The partnership leverages advanced manufacturing processes and an open innovation approach to engineering; it has forged partnerships with innovators, including MakerBot and TechShop to change the way companies design, make and sell products, delivering benefits for consumers and enterprise alike.

How it started: 
Although unprecedented in major manufacturing, the model for FirstBuild was based on Local Motors, the open source hardware innovator that upended traditional product development and production.

“Credit also goes to our mentor Local Motors,” said Natarajan Venkatakrishnan who leads FirstBuild. “Using the Local Motors’ model, we created an opportunity and forum to share ideas and iterate product development. We have been able to green light ideas by validating them in the market place and more than halve the time it takes to get products from mind to market-doing so in months rather than years.”

"At Local Motors we are proud to have translated our proven open source model of rapid product development and commercialization to FirstBuild," said John B. Rogers, Jr., CEO and co-founder of Local Motors. "The FirstBuild team is amazing, and together we are changing the way home products are developed by rapidly advancing the design and manufacturing process in a way that's never been done before. I could not be happier to be part of it."

About FirstBuild
GE’s FirstBuild is a global co-creation community that harnesses the brainpower of the maker movement to change the way major home appliances are conceived, designed and manufactured. A physical state-of-the-art microfactory on the University of Louisville campus, and international online forum, FirstBuild speeds products from mind to market by enabling customization through small batch production, without the costs and risks of traditional mass manufacturing. For more information and to get involved, visit

About GE Appliances
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit

Kim Freeman
GE Consumer & Industrial - Americas
[email protected]

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