Tom Beckett

History Alumni Find Unconventional Success

December 18, 2014

UC Santa Cruz alumni and business partners, Tom Beckett and Bar Smith, launched a Kickstarter campaign for their CNC (Computer Numerical Control) router and the results far surpassed what they thought was possible. The pair succeeded in reaching their initial goal of $10,000 in 8 hours and managed to raise $82,207 in the span of a month. Their router also won second place and $3,000 in UCSC’s Entrepreneurship Showcase.

Tom Beckett and Bar SmithBar Smith, an electrical engineering student designed the CNC router as an affordable way to turn his ideas into prototypes. After designing the router, Smith formed a partnership with Tom Beckett and they named their company Makesmith.

Tom Becket, originally form Santa Clarita, came to study at UC Santa Cruz in the fall of 2009. He graduated in the spring of 2013 with a degree in History and a minor in Technology and Information Management. Tom has always had a passion for all thing start-up, business, and entrepreneurial.

He says, “The combination of my major and minor caught many people off guard, but the dynamic proved very useful and fulfilling for me.”

Tom originally intended to major in Business Management Economics but changed his route to history when he did not find his Business classes to be captivating. He felt the switch was a logical one because he was performing well in the History classes that he had originally enrolled in to fulfill general education requirements.

CNC RouterTom says, “Studying History at UC Santa Cruz taught me several fundamental skills and work habits that I utilized during the Makesmith CNC project. I had to do a lot of different types of research such as understanding how to create a crowdfunding project, researching the CNC market, and learning how CNCs function. With no engineering background, it took a great deal of concentration to get through the material. By studying History I really learned how to sit down and research topics I knew little about, begin to critically think about them, and then present them in a way that various audiences could understand them. Additionally, the History major also helped me polish many social skills I had through group projects. Unlike a lot of other majors, I found that the personalities within the department greatly varied from person to person significantly more than in other fields. I learned how to effectively communicate, coordinate, and facilitate in different forms to different types of minds.”

When commenting on Tom's success, Associate Professor Greg O'Malley notes, "It pleases me (but doesn't surprise me) to see him succeeding in a business venture now. He was always a strong student in his classes here, but he tended to do particularly well with assignments and projects that gave him free rein to choose his own topic and be creative. So an entrepreneurial venture seems fitting somehow. Assignments that pushed students to find their own path--to search for sources and choose which stories to tell--seemed to bring out his best work. I'm glad he thinks that historical research prepared him well to analyze problems in the business world and present his findings and proposals coherently. My first job out of college was actually also in technology, so I share his belief that the skills from studying History are more applicable to that field than many people expect."

Tom and Bar aspire to transition Makesmith CNC from a project into a sustainable business.