Creating a disruptive Booting up hardware components can be quite exciting. Few things compare to the joy of physically interacting with your creation as you design and build it from scratch.
But hardware startups are a challenge. Think of it as the business version of the age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” You need to figure out which comes first: the components you make or the devices designed to use those components.
This may sound like an easy question to answer, but it isn’t. For example, our company has developed a new way to provide wireless electricity over long distances using infrared light. However, to “capture” those rays of electricity, devices would have to have the receiver chips built in, and product designers would have to significantly alter their devices to power them wirelessly.
We hoped that manufacturers would be enthusiastic about our system and act quickly to update their products. We also got positive feedback, but most simply didn’t have bandwidth for disruption as they struggled with the burdens of running a business and worried about earning calls. They liked the idea, but they put it on the back burner.
So we started building devices with the necessary built-in receivers to show how they work. Here are five things to do if you’re on a similar path:
Making your own devices doesn’t mean giving up your original goal of providing components for other manufacturers to use.
Start with just one
Let’s be honest. The chances are pretty slim that you will have the world-changing success of freight containers or Qualcomm SoCs. So there’s no point in rushing into building a hardware startup. Instead, start by creating just one prototype that you can use to showcase OEMs.
Don’t worry about making this first version of your device perfect or packing all the features you’ve come up with. Think of it as a relatively crude demonstration that can give people a glimpse of what’s possible.
For example, we made a small digital display device for a supermarket shelf that could be powered wirelessly. We 3D printed it and even used some tape on the inside to hold everything in place. The sole purpose was to show potential buyers a proof of concept that validated our idea.
As you show off your first device, measure people’s reactions and ask for both first impressions and constructive feedback. Would they use it? Would they want more? What can make it work better?