Here are some of the things that matter to hardware entrepreneurs, from A to Z 🙂
APPEARANCE it’s often a surprise for engineers, but most people will think you have half of what you do if your prototype doesn’t look nice, and think you have twice as much if it does.
BUSINESS your company is not a lab prototype or a hobby anymore. Costs, market, time, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, marketing all matter to create a real business. Better start ramping up those skills or find new team members who have them!
COSTS know your bill of material before you go too far. Too many projects hope to “make it up on volume”, or on data!
DISTRIBUTION online and offline, getting into the hands of customers has a cost. Getting onto shelves can take lots of time too. Build your brand, and they will come.
EXECUTION as Derek Sivers would say, ideas are just a multiplier of execution.
FUNDING find the right source at the right time. Crowdfunding, angels, VCs, grants, banks, public markets and of course, customers!
GARAGE today you don’t need a garage to get started. Maker spaces, fab labs, tech shops, universities and incubators might all give access to the tools you need for your first prototype.
HAX guides you to learn how to create a real product and a sustainable company. Still, it’s your company and you have to do most of the work!
IDEA until it’s a product it’s not worth much. Share it broadly to make it happen.
JOY keeping morale up matters. Meaning and money are not enough for long journeys. Make sure to have fun on the way to not lose your “Rosebud”.
KICKSTARTER the crowdfunding giant can help you find customers, get noticed and get feedback. Do your homework before you launch, and remember that the real success is shipping a product.
LOGISTICS software doesn’t have to bother with this. For hardware, and following the Anna Karenina Principle, this can make or break a company.
MARKETING and PR is often neglected by technical founders. No product sells itself. Think how much stories matter even to Apple!
NAYSAYERS if it was obvious to all it would be done already. Don’t waste time trying to convince people. Make your message extra clear and focus on those who “get it”. They won’t need convincing on the business, only on the team and execution.
OPPORTUNITY you saw something most others didn’t. Often, you’ll discover you are not alone. That’s where finding the right resources, and superior execution, will matter.
PROTOTYPE & PRODUCT there are many steps from a proof of concept to a product out of a production line. Learn what matters for each and anticipate the next to avoid bad surprises. And no, your 3D printed prototype with an Arduino won’t convince a factory.
QUALITY when you’re a startup you can’t afford “Apple quality”. Still, make sure you pass QC!
RETURNS do poor quality control and your products will come back. It will also happen if you don’t keep demand higher than production.
SHENZHEN has an amazing hardware manufacturing and prototyping ecosystem where everything moves at startup speed. It doesn’t go without friction but it’s hard to beat!
TIME move fast to avoid obsolescence, beat competitors to market and learn faster from customers.
USERS in hardware will generally be customers. Make sure to validate their unmet needs early on, and keep talking with them.
VC venture capital is seen as a necessity for startups but there are other sources of capital. Customers and grants don’t dilute you.
WORK getting a company off the ground requires much effort. Surround yourself with supportive and helpful people to work harder, be more focused, solve problems faster, feel more “normal” and not as lonely.
X there is much uncertainty in any new business. Learn from others and test things on a small scale to reduce risks. And talk to your users.
YOU things will get tough if you lose confidence, part ways with key people, damage your physical or mental health. Entrepreneurship is a career and you get better as you learn. It’s a marathon with sprints here and there. Think long term.
ZZZ sleep is important to performance in the long run. If you’re not focused, improve your sleep. Artificial light, mental stimulation, lack of exercise, alcohol and stimulants all affect your sleep. You surely have enough stress to not add to it. Do a 7 minutes workout or a short meditation to help you fall asleep.
Note: this article was first posted on Benjamin Joffe’s Blog.