There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the hardware revolution and how new hardware startups are going to disrupt the market. The pieces are almost all there – the excitement, the crowdfunding, the computing power in smartphones, but let’s face it… hardware is still hard.
While you can create new software in a garage with a few people and some computers, building a physical hardware product requires a large team to do design, engineering, testing, packaging, certification, supply chain and logistics. And, unlike software, you can’t roll out new versions of hardware the moment you find a bug and create a fix – your product has to work right the first time and every time someone uses it. When we first started working with startups, we were seeing that they were all encountering the same problems :
1) They had a great idea and a prototype, but they didn’t have all the engineering expertise needed to build a product that is ready for manufacturing. It’s one thing to build five units of a product, but it’s completely different to build 500 or even 5,000 units. And they all have to reliably work when someone tries to use them.
2) People were trying to design products at home in the USA and do the manufacturing overseas in China. When you’re trying to do rapid product development, having the design located close to manufacturing is key – not only do you get quicker feedback on how your design affects manufacturing and vice versa, but it’s also easier to coordinate between teams when they’re located in the same timezone. True, it’s fun to go over to China and experience a different culture and rack up frequent flier miles, but all the traveling gets old after a while.
We started Lab IX because we knew that it’s difficult for hardware startups to interface with traditional contract manufacturing companies – most are used to working with the top electronics companies in the world, producing volumes on the order of millions of units per year. But, what if you’re just starting out and only need 600 units to fulfill the orders from your successful Kickstarter campaign? What if you only have pre-orders and don’t have the $300k needed to do design for manufacturing tweaks so that your product can be produced with the right reliability and quality your customers are expecting? Or, what if you don’t have the $1M in the bank that you need to secure a $200k credit line to actually start manufacturing products?
We knew that something had to change in order to bring about a new age for hardware startups. In order to be successful, startups need to have the same tools and funding that the large hardware companies have, so we decided to provide it. Lab IX is here to democratize manufacturing and change the game for hardware startups by giving them access to the same tools, expertise and funding that the big guys have.
Face it – hardware is hard.