Written by Vibhu Gairola
But MakeLab is far more than a party-starter, as creative director Jonathan Moneta explains. “We’re an inside-out maker space,” he says. “We create experiences with technology that people haven’t seen before.”
Part problem-solver, part event-staffer, part makeshift laboratory, MakeLab might not be the only event-focused startup in the Toronto scene, but it’s definitely the most performative, drawing many of its core designers and creators from the confluence of theatre and makers. Moneta himself has a degree in theatre studies but bounced around with tech startups before merging his passion for events and science into a business.
Armed with little more than a project manager and whole lot of chutzpah, Moneta launched MakeLab two and a half years ago as a creative technology installation studio teaching 3D printing at bars in Toronto’s Kensington Market.
Now, with a team of eight, including project managers, designers, and event producers — and a roster of 30-40 local makers constantly in rotation — clients seek out MakeLab to make important events extraordinary. Merely dropping a lone 3D printer into a venue will not suffice. Moneta says, “we’re trying to inspire the same sense of wonder that people experience at science centres and planetariums.”
This inevitably means that very few of MakeLab’s projects start from scratch: the team is often tasked with creating composite processes that they must oversee at events.
“We take a variety of technologies and link them together to innovate something new,” Moneta says. For a MakeLab original, such as their edible selfie photo booth where guests’ selifes are laser-caramelized onto macarons, a camera and laser cutter is not enough: a specialized technical workflow and a technical-trained events team is needed to ensure the booth runs smoothly.
With a growing number of interdisciplinary new media programs at Ryerson University, OCAD, and George Brown College, Moneta says Toronto has the ideal audience and talent pool for MakeLab to draw on. The appetite for learning and new experiences is thriving in the local maker scene; Moneta’s own involvement with events like Maker Faire has often led him to others in the sector who have become advisors and collaborators.
Ultimately, MakeLab is passionate about bringing emerging technologies out of the lab, but Moneta admits the golden rule to success is still simple: “Without a project manager, nothing gets off the ground,” he says. No matter how exceptional the idea or how rich the client, the make-or-break of each event is decided during the planning stages.
Moneta says he was surprised that money wasn’t the biggest challenge in setting up his company. “It’s time constraints and maintaining focus,” he says.
MakeLab has shaken up parties and events across Vancouver, San Francisco, and Montreal, but at present, its stronghold remains local, and it plans to stay that way. “The ecosystem and resources available in Toronto lend themselves more to the growth of this business than we’d find in other cities,” says Moneta.
“At industrial design and trade shows, we’re always the busiest booth. People are always hungry for something new—we just try to deliver.”
Photo Credits: Andrew Williamson Photography