Stage I | Shenzhen

In the heart of the “Silicon Valley for hardware”

You bring your ideas, a strong team, a prototype and passion. Successful applicants are doing something difficult for a well-defined market. We add seed funding, mentorship, a shared office and lab space, specialized staff to help with design, sourcing, DFM, and more. Immerse yourself into an intense startup community of like-minded hardware hackers and entrepreneurs.



Deadline is August 31st

How it Works

Selected teams relocate to our offices in Shenzhen, China for 4 to 8 months, where you’ll finalize prototypes and learn to scale your businesses with the help of our awesome full-time staff and extensive mentor network

Each week, you’ll meet with advisors who will offer feedback on your team’s evolving strategy and prototypes, as well as provide valuable insight about how to scale your company in terms of manufacturing, supply chain management and distribution.

The final 2 weeks of the program will be spent refining your pitch, in preparation for our demo day showcase and launch event in San Francisco. Then it’s time to get some press, meet with investors, and (optionally) kick off a killer crowdfunding campaign!


What You Get

The main thing you’ll get from HAX is hands-on help, mentorship and the HAX network: advice, expertise and fire in your pants.

We are a fast-growing family of over 300 experienced entrepreneurs, industry experts and hackers. We have an extensive support team at your disposal, eager to help you overcome your manufacturing woes, improve your user experience, or figure out retail distribution. We’ve been there.

We also provide you with seed capital ($100,000) and numerous perks from our program program partners, and we help ensure that you find a home wherever you go.

You’ll have access to our fully-equipped workspace for you and the other teams (we have donuts, too). And when the program is over, HAX doesn’t stop. HAX never stops. You’ll always have a home in Shenzhen, conveniently located within stumbling distance of the Hua Qiang Bei electronics markets.




You will be close to production. This will allow you to see and understand how products are made from start to finish – from the beginning of the product development process – which for a physical product, is critical.


You will be working with different types of engineers. In China, engineers design with cost constraints as a primary guide: awesome and lean. This is a very different design process than working with a product development firm elsewhere, where function is first and done regardless of price


The art of the Shanzhai. There is some serious brilliance hidden in the cheap solar lamp or fake iPhone! Tap some of that genius and apply it towards other objectives. It’s an experience unlike any other. Sure, you’ll get factory proximity, a group of people here to help, peer mentoring and all… but you’ll also have a cultural experience you won’t soon forget!


It’s cheaper, and every penny counts for a startup.

You’ll receive a crash course about the Chinese market, and may consider selling your products there in the future.


F.A.Q. Time

Who is behind that madness?

Blame Cyril Ebersweiler and Sean O’Sullivan for this.

How does the HAX program work?

The HAX program takes teams with hardware prototypes and turns them into functional, sustainable companies. We recruit 4-5 teams every month, typically with 2-5 entrepreneurs, who have a concept or an early prototype for a high-growth startup.

The teams go through a competitive application process and agree to locate themselves in Shenzhen for the duration of the program. Over fifteen weeks, they will build and refine their prototype product, launch to an initial group of customers (generally via crowdfunding), and test their delivery and/or business models. During the last two weeks, each startup creates a polished company pitch and demo to present to press, investors and potential partners at HAX Demo Day.

Following time in Shenzhen, teams will move on to grow their business, network, and skill set in San Francisco.

Where is the office?

We are located in the heart of worldwide electronics and manufacturing: Hua Qiang Bei.

What can the HAX program offer me?

We’ll help you launch your company and increase its chances of success. Specifically:

  • Providing initial funding for you to develop your business plan and build enough of a demo, prototype or beta product, in order to launch your product on a crowdfunding campaign or generate revenue. That’s up to $100,000 per company.
  • Providing in-house manufacturing and engineering expertise to assist you on the hardware side of your project.
  • Helping you create your company, its business model, positioning, branding and product design all the way through launch and manufacturing.
  • Connecting you with potential investors and strategic partners, as well as advisors and press.
  • Introducing you to world-class mentors and alumni who have expertise in starting companies, developing innovative consumer products, and creatively marketing those products to millions of consumers. These will be some of the most valuable connections you’ll make as an entrepreneur.

We expect some (well, most) HAX companies to get to revenue at the close of the initial program. We’ll organize that process and guide you through it. Some companies may seek substantial funding while others may require a smaller amount to be successful. We like the self-funding route. We’ll help you identify your problems, understand your options, and think through any difficult decisions you may face.

What does the team look like?

The team is composed of 20 full time experts: Cyril Ebersweiler is a Partner with SOSV and Managing Director of HAX, Duncan Turner will be your day-to-day ass kicker, and Ben Joffe will challenge your positioning. You’ll interact with Qiyu (office manager), Sally (sourcing), Rong (design), Atommann (engineer in residence), Peter (Chief Manufacturing), Mike (Mechatronics), Rhianna (marketing) and many others as needed. Our advisors will be available any time when it comes to tech (Zach Smith, Bunnie Huang) or business (Stephen Forte, Shawn Broderick).

How do I apply for the HAX program?

The application for the HAX program is available here.

When is the application deadline?

We are currently selecting the next batch and the deadline to apply is May 31. It is advantageous to apply early in order to provide the HAX team sufficient time to review your application. However, early applications do not receive higher priority or guarantee acceptance.

I already have funding, can I still apply?

Absolutely, it’s not at all uncommon. In your application, please specify the nature of your previous funding.

How do you choose which companies are accepted into the HAX program?

We will choose great founders who are working on ideas that solve real problems or create a meaningful change to our current technological state. It’s all about the team and the market opportunity.

The best ways to strengthen your application are: round out your team with business, technical, and other necessary skills, make progress on your prototype or product and reference it in the application, and show us that you are passionate and that you’ve really thought about your business. Getting into the HAX program is hard. We will only accept the best startups.

What kind of teams are you looking for?

Mainly teams that have a working prototype in the consumer hardware space, but also B2B or robotics. Things we like in no particular order:

  • Consumer devices in all fields (health, fitness, travel…)
  • Gadgets / Toys of a disruptive nature
  • Consumer electronics with a software ecosystem
  • B2B devices
  • Media and Entertainment
  • Robotics, Bionics
  • Appliances
  • Environmental impact
  • Biohacking
  • Crazy stuff
Do I need to have prior start-up experience?

No experience required. We just ask that you’re passionate about your idea and willing to work hard at making it a reality.

Do I need to be in the Shenzhen and then the Valley during the program?

Yes. Your team needs to be based in those cities throughout the duration of the program. It’s the best way for us to help you during this critical period of productization!

Does the HAX program provide housing?

No. However, we will be able to offer advice on finding living arrangements and put you in touch with the other teams so that you might make arrangements together. Where you live is up to you. China is fun.

How can we deal with visas?

While you will have to apply personally to get the requested temporary visas (eventually both US and China), we will provide invitation letters where necessary in order to make the process less painful.

I have been running my company for a year, can I still apply?

Yes. It’s very likely that you will already have an early prototype of your product ready to demonstrate, and many applicants have already launched early versions of their products.

What happens at the end of the HAX program, am I on my own?

No. The HAX experience doesn’t stop at the end of the initial program. We will continue to help as you move forward with your startup. There’s a lot that has to come together to turn a great idea into a great company — resources, talent, marketing, sales, partnerships, etc. We’ll be there to help as you take those important next steps. Remember, we succeed only if you succeed.

How much access will we get to the mentors?

Different mentors will be coming in and out of the HAX space at different times. Some won’t be physically present but will be available via email, phone, video chat, and forums. Some will interact once in a while, some every day. We’ll be working on setting up office hours so everyone can get some one-on-one time, and we hope to have workshops with mentors as they are available. You will interact on a daily basis with everybody else.

What’s in your workshop?
  • Laser Cutter
  • SMT Oven
  • CNC Machine
  • Pick and Place Machine
  • 3D printer
  • Basic Machine Toolbench
  • Oscilloscope
  • Multimeter
  • Spectrum Analyser
  • AC Power

Etc, etc, etc… we have a 15,000sqf workshop. But to be frank, Shenzhen is the primary workshop.

Am I expected to keep my company in Shenzhen after the program ends?

No. However, you will have a strong operation basis for your business to scale, and lifetime relationships in that part of the world. Following your time in San Francisco, you should be near your customers, ideally. But alums are always around and we have extra desks for you to use during your subsequent stays in China.

What’s expected of me during the HAX program?

We can’t tell you what to do. This is your company, after all. The only obligation is to be physically present and participate in all the sessions offered by the program.

You’re expected to work hard, and come out on the other side with something better than what you started with.

What does this mean? At the end of the program, you’ll present your ideas (ahem, working units) to investors, partners and possibly prospective customers. You should have a compelling product and presentation to deliver in hopes of acquiring additional funding.