Make48 feels like it lives at the intersection of The Amazing Race, Shark Tank, and How It’s Made. Teams are given 48 hours to brainstorm, visualize, and build a new consumer product for which they create and deliver a sales pitch. Just as on The Amazing Race, teams know they are competing yet often cheer for each other. The camaraderie on Make48 outweighs the competitiveness. Everyone involved feels the clock that they have to beat and it becomes the common enemy. But, Rich Brull proudly says they have never had a team fail to produce a product to present to the judges.
On Shark Tank, teams present their products to a panel of judges. Similarly, once the 48 hour clock has expired, Make48 teams try to convince the judges that their new invention solves a significant problem for consumers; one large enough to motivate people to take out their wallets and pay for a solution. To win they have to persuade the judges that not only will there be a large demand for the product but also that it can be made for a reasonable price. The presentations combine a sales pitch by the team, a one minute video, and a question and answer period with the judges. Each team’s presentation is limited to eight minutes with the cameras rolling to record it all.
The second half of the season focuses on what happens after the 48 hour competition is over and the top three products are in the design and production process. Like the show How It’s Made, viewers get a look behind the scenes of how an everyday item is created. Viewers see first hand the process a product must go through to get from the idea and prototype phases to becoming an item for sale on the retail shelf. Designs are honed and tweaked, logos and branding are created, and a marketing and distribution plan is devised.
Make48 is the brainchild of Rich Brull, Bob Coulston, Curt McMillan, and Tom Gray. Members of an inventors’ club in Kansas City, they devised a competition where average people would have the opportunity to develop their ideas with the help of expert builders, or Tool Techs, as they are called on the show. The competitions started in April 2015. However, the Make48 was not recorded as a TV show until Season 1 was filmed in October 2016.
The founders are careful to describe Make48 as a documentary show rather than reality TV. The behind the scenes drama and contrived confrontations characteristic of reality shows are not part of the Make48 experience. The show has a focus on the educational aspects of the inventing process. In addition, Make48 was founded on the belief that people will get a lot of enjoyment from seeing a true inventing process. And in the end, viewers see the real host of emotions that are part of a short intense period of teamwork and creativity.