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What’s hard tech?
HAX Team
Swap Robotics' modular robot mower
Swap Robotics’ modular robot mower. Source: Swap Robotics

We’re often asked: “what is hard tech?”. We like the phrase because it defines itself in two ways. Not only is it hard to build, but it’s often literally hard (don’t drop it on your foot). Hard tech founders are often building at the edge of our understanding of the world, in disciplines like material science, robotics, and chemistry, and it’s often unclear if what they’re proposing is even possible.

Many have shied away from hard tech, and the last 30 years of venture have even been defined by ‘software eating the world’. But this only fueled a bigger resource gap for hard tech founders. Few have invested in hard tech, and even fewer understand what’s required to build successful hard tech at the early stages.

So why are we so excited about it? Hard tech is what the world needs most right now. Disrupted supply chains, rising energy costs, and increasingly common food insecurity are just some of the side effects of today’s broken world. Hard tech looks to meet these civilization-level opportunities, most notably in human and planetary health.

It’s normal for a HAX startup to aim to cut global shipping emissions by 15%, reduce the world’s energy consumption by 10%, or make lithium ion battery recycling 5X more profitable. And it’s simply not possible to make an impact in these spaces without hard tech.

HAX startups have a vision for a fundamentally better future built with hard tech. The most successful of them only build when their products are an absolute necessity. Some problems don’t require a hard tech solution, and we only back a startup when hard tech is required to make an impact, the payoff is potentially huge, and the outcome fundamentally disrupts the existing solution.