Writing for the San Diego Daily Transcript, Phil Baker says there has never been a better time to develop hardware products. Baker, who penned “From Concept to Consumer” for the Financial Times Press, notes that crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are being used to raise required funding, with many ventures having raked in $100,000 or more.
In addition, the advent of desktop 3D printers, most of which are equipped with Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs), allow engineers and Makers to rapidly accelerate the traditional prototyping process. Indeed, a new concept can now be iterated in hours, rather than weeks.
“New, open platforms such as the [Atmel-based] Arduino make it easier for anyone to make something,” explains Brady Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco. “However, a startup needs to learn how to create something that can be made — when they aren’t in the factory and do it tens of thousands of times. Mistakes in manufacturing can be costly and the wrong misstep can kill a company before it even gets to market.”
Unsurprisingly, venture capitalists are starting to take notice of the ongoing hardware revolution.
“Because consumer hardware companies are extremely monetizable because of both the front-end solution and the back-end data they collect, they are a new field for startups and there are plenty of entry-level opportunities in which to invest,” says Derek Footer, managing partner of Origo Venture Capital LLC. “They provide an opening for the San Diego/Baja region to develop a real entrepreneurial sector solidly based on local advantage.”
Nevertheless, says Baker, one of the major challenges faced by young hardware companies is bringing their invention to market.
“As [difficult] as it is to invent, engineer and manufacture a product, finding a way for it to be seen and purchased can be many times harder. And new solutions need to be found,” writes Baker. “But there’s reason to be optimistic for our country. With so many new products being developed by so many innovators new channels will be found. As I told the class at Highway 1, there’s never been a better time to develop hardware products.”