One never knows where a Kickstarter fundraising page might lead. For Al Linke, a Santa Clara resident and Fortune 500 company employee, his Kickstarter page promoting a creative project got attention from the casting team of America’s Greatest Makers, produced by Mark Burnett. Linke received an invitation to audition for the show and was selected to compete. The show has similarities to Survivor, another Burnett production. Like Survivor, America’s Greatest Makers is a competition where participants get eliminated and the last party standing wins $1 million.
America’s Greatest Makers premiered on April 5 and shows on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. PST on TBS.
“I made a smart phone controlled LED handbag,” Linke says. “It was my wife’s idea. My wife happens to spend a lot of money on handbags. That’s my personal problem because they’re expensive. So I’m a maker. Makers make things. I decided to save myself some money and make her a light up handbag. It’s called the CAT Clutch. CAT stands for Creative Arts and Technology. I had a prototype built for my wife and that was part of my audition.”
At the audition, Linke gave the elevator pitch for his project with his teammate, Kevin Lovette from Oakland. The two also demonstrated how their handbag worked. With no prior experience being in front of a camera, Linke felt nervous during the audition. So when Linke learned his team was one of the 24 teams out of thousands of applicants accepted into the show, he was ecstatic.
“The show was shot in both San Francisco and LA,” Linke says. “For some parts, I had to stay in a hotel and it was hard. I missed my kids and my wife. The show was a challenge for everybody. We had a fixed period of time to make a compelling product that the judges were going to judge us on. Just the time pressure of getting that done, while having a full time job and a family, was a challenge.”
Linke refers to the other contestants as being “awesome” people whom he still keeps in touch with.
“One dynamic in the show is that we’re all makers and makers by nature help each other and we collaborate,” he says. “Even though we were all competing for $1 million, we were still helping each other. That’s very indicative of the maker culture.”
Linke and his teammate are still busy at work. The feedback and coaching he received from his time on the show would come in handy for future endeavors. Linke will also be attending this year’s Maker Faire in the Bay Area and will be giving a talk to Los Altos Middle School students right before the fair.
“I’m happy to talk to Santa Clara schools too if they want me,” Linke says.