Behind every cool gadget is an extraordinarily complicated manufacturing process.
Initial designs have to be reworked and refined so the item can be made cheaply in high quantities. Parts have to be ordered, from batteries to chips, and they can take months to come in. You have to hire employees with manufacturing experience, or learn fast. Afterward, products have to be tested, changes communicated, weeks spent waiting for updates.
It’s a monumental task for a corporation, let alone a startup who raised $500,000 on Kickstarter. That’s particularly the case if you blow past your funding goal and suddenly have to make hundreds or thousands of extra gadgets.
So it’s no wonder that Kickstarter projects get delayed. The first Pebbles finally started shipping in January, four months late. Twine was about six months late, and the long-anticipated ZBoard took an extra seven. According to CNNMoney, 84 percent of top Kickstarter projects in 2012 shipped late (although not all are hardware).
Launched last Friday, Logistica Asia (warning: imperfect English) is a Taiwanese incubator that plans to help hardware startups stay on track. They incubate companies for nine to twelve months in Taipei, helping them communicate with manufacturers and connecting them to investors. Unlike China’s HAXLR8R, they don’t provide funding or much product mentorship; instead, they’re targeting startups who already have seed funding.
As CEO Lucas Wang explains, many Americans aren’t aware of Taiwan’s role in Chinese manufacturing. Many companies manage Chinese manufacturing from Taiwan, while the actual production lines are on the mainland, he says. For example, Foxconn – which handles products like iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and PlayStation – is headquartered in Taiwan. And the Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park in Taiwan is home to companies like Acer, Logitech, and Philips.
“Probably the notebook you’re using – Dell, HP, Sony, all the same. And then the cell phones – Sony’s cell phones, Apple, Motorola, and probably the batteries in those things you’re using – it all starts here in Taiwan,” he says.
Logistica Asia is a projet of TMI, founded in 2012 by US venture firm WI Harper Group, Kai-Fu Lee, and the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan. Kai-Fu Lee is the renowned founder of Innovation Works, a venture capital fund in China, and a former employee of Microsoft and Google. Other Logistica team members have worked with companies like Samsung, Dell, and Nokia in Asia.
In exchange for participation, Logistica Asia asks for the option to invest in your startup’s next round. They have space for six companies at once, and startups can apply anytime.