July 12, 2017
Jamie Hyneman has an international reputation. He is not a government leader, he is not an actor or musician. He is, however, what we might call a “Renaissance Man,” someone who has an academic degree in Russian language and literature but who has spent his life robot building and prototyping toys. He is probably most famous, however, for his special effects antics on his TV show Mythbusters which has garnered global fame.
This year Hyneman traveled to Dnipro, Ukraine, to participate on the panel of judges for hardware startups. The Vernadsky Challenge, initiated by Max Polyakov and hosted by Association Noosphere, in its third year running is a competition which allows hardware startups to demonstrate their prototypes and make pitches for prize grants to move forward. During the event he participated in a press conference and shared tips and advice for hardware startups. Here are 5 tips from Jamie.
Read and Internalize
According to Hyneman, hardware development is pretty simple. It is a matter of reading as much as you can about technology and then get very “hands on” and try to make what you envision.
Find Inexpensive Ways to Create Prototypes
Hyneman is a huge supporter of the “maker movement.” Businesses and other organization setup “maker” spaces for innovators, supplying everything from 3D printers to open-source hardware stacks and other basic tools. Innovators should get themselves to “maker spaces and use those resources.
Focus on the Value Proposition
Hardware, just like software, is developed to solve problems. The important thing to remember when crafting fundraising campaigns is to focus on the product’s value, benefit and the problem its solving now and in the future.
Get that prototype out there as soon as possible, touting all of its value and creating all of the buzz you can.
Be Mindful of “Cost to Market”
It is one thing to create a prototype, it’s another to take it to market. Given the maker movement and lots of open source hardware platforms, prototypes can now be created for a few hundred dollars. The actual product production is quite another feat. It will be important to temper enthusiasm for your product with a careful business sense. There are considerations of how much to invest in inventory without enough demand.
Two Rounds of Funding
It’s getting easier to get crowdfund for hardware startups if there is a solid public relations campaign and a great video of the prototype and features. Venture capital is harder to get in the first round. Look for other sources of initial funding too, such as competitions.
Second-round funding for scaling is easier to get once the hardware has a proven record through customer demand and generating revenue. This is the time to go after venture capital.
There are a number of hugely successful hardware startups who have had amazing amounts of crowdfunding. Make sure to read about their success stories and try to emulate their activities.
Find The Balance
Hyneman has been a risk-taker all of his life. He knows that hardware startup founders are also risk-takers. They read, they envision, and then they try it out, taking failures in stride and moving forward. When that idea becomes a prototype, the journey begins. Take a measured approach to the business aspect of your startup, be realistic about actual costs, and then aggressively seek the funding you need. Without this combination of innovative risk and solid business sense, hardware startups are doomed to failure.
Image Credit: Noosphere Engineering
Read more about hardware startups at TechCo
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