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It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, but in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success. What you don’t see in this high level linear description are the many challenges and pitfalls you and your startup must navigate before you “Make Money“.
Below are three challenges that first-time hardware entrepreneurs don’t always foresee.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market. You are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype, and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Developing a hardware product takes time. Product development doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you are gathering customer feedback along the way and making the necessary adjustments. Depending on your product, product development could take months or even years before you are confident that it is ready to head into manufacturing.
Manufacturing is another area that has a long lead time. Whether you decide to manufacture locally or internationally, you are going to be playing the waiting game. The thing with long lead times is that if you know they are coming, expect them, and plan accordingly, they are less likely to derail your journey to success.
To understand your market, you need to research it. What products succeed in this space? Is there a similar product to yours that has found success in this product space? What did their journey look like? Has a similar product failed? What information can you glean from other startups’ success and failure in this space?
If possible, get out and talk to people already in this product space to see what they say about it. By understanding the market, you will get a better understanding of where your product will fit into it.
Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for these twists and turns along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.
Have additional questions about bringing a product to market? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?
With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.
Below are links to help you get familiar with intellectual property terminology, resources, and strategies.
Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Here are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.
No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.
A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing.
If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea.
Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.
Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.
Have additional questions regarding an intellectual property strategy for your startup? We are happy to help. Send us an email at email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Register today for a Summer STEM Enrichment Camp. Summer is drawing near—the end of the school year is approaching, kids are counting down to their last day of school before summer break and parents are panicking about how to keep their kids occupied and learning during this time off. Take a deep breath parents, we have you covered.
We have brought back our popular Summer STEM Enrichment Camps this year and are partnering with Kalvio, a local electrical engineering and electrical contracting company. In the month of June we will be offering two different camps that are sure to excite your child’s inquisitive mind.
3D Academy and Kalvio collaborate to create an in-depth and immersive camp experience for your child through the STEM Summer program. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments and be able to build their own Drone while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, Electronics, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment.
3D Academy and Kalvio collaborate to create an in-depth and immersive camp experience for your child through the STEM Summer program. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments to create their own custom Co2 mini rocket while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment.
We have streamlined the registration process and you can quickly register for these camps over on our website: 3D Academy STEM Enrichment Camps
*For both camps, all campers must bring a peanut free lunch, snack and drink. Visit www.3d-innovations.com/3dacademy or contact Collin Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 808.722.8667 for more information.
3D Academy promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs that integrate 3D technology into K–12, as well as university classrooms. Using hands-on and project-based learning strategies, we have been effective in providing students with opportunities to excel in the areas of STEM and to integrate industry applications into their learning experiences.
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Technology is transforming the landscape of our lives—in today’s global marketplace there is no substitute for a strong STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) background as you enter the workforce. “STEM workers tend to earn 26% more than non-STEM workers and yearly growth for STEM workers is projected to be almost double that of non-STEM workers.” (Florida State University) Industry is shifting and to help our students keep up with the demand, a STEM education is imperative.
As a nation, our education industry has recognized that our students are not receiving the best hands-on, STEM-focused, education possible for a myriad of reasons. This means that our students are falling behind in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math subjects, and that they are missing out on other valuable lessons as well. Below are some of the areas in which STEM helps students thrive.
Problem Solving Skills
Hands-on lessons for STEM subjects often revolve around solving real world problems. Students are required to assess a situation and develop a solution. Problem solving skills are immensely beneficial both inside and outside of the classroom. Having the ability to stop, assess, analyze, hypothesize and solve a problem is a skill every individual needs at every age level.
We are all aware of the benefits of “thinking outside the box”, however, this does not always come naturally. Learning to ask questions and develop diverse solutions helps to instill an inquisitive mindset.
Teamwork and Collaboration
Working as part of a team starts from a young age and continues on into the workplace. Learning how to collaborate and work together is a necessity. Teamwork helps students learn about different perspectives, respecting other ideas and coming up with a solution together.
Scientific linear methodology requires organization—there is a set manner in which to approach a problem. All STEM subject areas require a step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on; you can’t solve a math equation by skipping steps. Students learn the importance of being organized and why it is important to their everyday lives as well.
STEM education can be taught through lectures; however, it has been proven time and again that hands-on learning is the best method for teaching and instilling these concepts. Giving students an opportunity to use technology, use their hands, ask questions and see concepts in action sparks excitement in them as well as a desire to learn more.
STEM Enrichment Camps
This summer our 3D Academy is offering two STEM Enrichment Camps, “3D Design and Drone Building” and “3D Printed Rocket Building”. Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments and be able to build their own Drone/custom Co2 mini rocket while learning about the various principles that integrate with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Students will be introduced to the world of 3D Printing, CAD Design, Engineering, Electronics, and prototyping all while being in an immersive STEM learning environment. Learn more about both camps and easily register, over on our website: 3D Academy STEM Enrichment Camps.
We don’t often like to disappoint our hardware startup friends, in fact our entire business is built around making our clients happy by exceeding expectations. When it comes to the secret of hardware startup success, however, we don’t have some profound hidden away piece knowledge to impart upon you, in fact, we bet this secret is something that you have heard at least a hundred times. Maybe you jotted down a quick reference note for it or maybe it went in one ear and out the other. This secret gets thrown around in conversations and presentations, but it is not always given the respect it deserves or the attention it needs. The secret we are referring to is “find a solution to a common problem experienced by many”.
We bet you just read that sentence and thought to yourself, “Yes, I have definitely heard that before”. The thing about the secret to startup success, is that it is not a secret at all. We work with countless hardware entrepreneurs that have an abundance of product ideas, and often one of our first pieces of advice comes in the form of two questions, “What problem are you solving?” and “What segment of the population faces this problem regularly?” The answers to these questions can help determine if your product idea is poised for success.
If you are currently mulling a product idea around in your head and deciding if it is worthy to pursue, ask yourself the following three questions.
If you are personally experiencing this issue, there is a good chance that others are as well. Casually ask friends and family if they notice this problem and if they have ever thought of a solution to it. You might be surprised at how many people experience this issue, but have probably just decided that “this is the way it is” and haven’t given any real thought to a solution.
The thing with startups, is that they can, on average, act quickly and pivot just as fast. Large corporations undoubtedly have the funds, but moving fast is not something they can do. So are you in a position in which you can quickly and efficiently design a solution and launch it into the marketplace? Moving fast gives you a head start, and often, it is before the big industry players even notice the problem.
Do you have the skillset necessary to act quickly? Think about your network, do you know others that can help or offer advice as you get going? Keep in mind that no one has all the skills necessary to succeed. This is what teams and product development partnerships are for. Understanding your skills and limitations will help you know where you need assistance and where you can take on a majority of the responsibilities.
Have additional questions about developing and launching a product into the marketplace? We are happy to help! Send us an email at email@example.com
Taking the leap into entrepreneurship is a major change and a bold move—you are now focused on building a hardware startup around your product idea, which is both intimidating and exhilarating. In the very early stages of product development your motivation is through the roof because you are seeing a product that was once only clear in your mind become reality. However, as you progress through product development, and beyond, it’s normal for your motivation to fade at times because being an entrepreneur is also stressful.
When you feel your motivation start to slip, here are five ways to help reignite that fire within you to keep pushing forward.
What is your personal mission statement? Your hardware startup should have its own mission or vision statement to help identify goals—and so should you. Once you have a clear mission statement for yourself, write it down and post it somewhere visible as a daily reminder of the goal you have set for yourself.
Now take this mission statement and make a plan around it. How will you accomplish this? Write down your short and long-term goals. Keep in mind that your written plan is a living document and should change as you do and as your business matures.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on your product when you are in the trenches of product development. However, at times, it is necessary to step back and remind yourself why you are doing all of this. What problem is your product solving? How is it making life easier? Is it benefiting a greater good?
If you have a business partner, communicate these goals with them as well so that you are both on the same page about where you see this product and startup going.
Mentors are motivating. They are cheering for you from the sidelines and want to see you succeed. A nice chat with your mentor over a cup of warm coffee might be just what you need. Mentors often have more experience and different ways of viewing things, so getting some helpful advice or viewpoint could help you get over your temporary slump.
If you don’t have a mentor, or your mentor isn’t readily available, a TED Talk or an inspirational podcast are two other options.
“Choose happy”. Life can get hard and it can feel like the weight of the world is right on your shoulders, but with the right attitude and a smile, you will prevail. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to launching a hardware startup or becoming an entrepreneur. What works for you may not work for anyone else. So with opinions, ideas and theories coming at you from all angles, remember that ultimately you in one in control of your business and life.
Not everyone gets to do what they love for a career, but if you play your cards right, you have the chance to live the entrepreneurial dream. There will be days you want to quit and situations that seem impossible to navigate, but by remaining positive you will be able to channel your inner strength needed to reach the finish line.
Never underestimate the benefit of a good night sleep. Tasks and goals are easier to accomplish when you are well rested and ready to take on the day. Starting each day recharged and rested will ensure that you are able to reach peak productivity and make decisions with a clear mind.
Ready to develop your product idea? We are here to help! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Before you take the “leap” into the early stages of product development, you first must decide if you have a viable product idea that is worth pursuing. There is quite a difference between coming up with a fantastic product idea and then coming up with a product idea that is completely unique and solves a universal problem while simultaneously igniting a passion within you.
If you have been mulling over a product idea, but are still on the fence as to whether it is commercially viable—here are four points for you to consider.
Chances are that if you came up with this product idea to solve a problem that you regularly face, others out there are dealing with the same issue. Finding and developing a solution to a common or universal problem is how most great inventions came to be.
Action: Take a minute to write down the problem that your product will be solving and how it would make life easier for its users. You can even start to casually ask family and friends if this is a problem they have experienced. You don’t have to go into details talking about your potential product yet, if you want to keep it in stealth mode, but you can get a feel to see if others are having this same reoccurring issue and would appreciate (and purchase) a solution.
Narrowing down a target market is one of your first tasks. If your product focuses on fixing a technological issue, perhaps your target market is geared toward a younger tech-savvy crowd. Likewise, if your product solves an issue for a specific industry (i.e. automotive, financial services, restaurants, etc.) you are going to want to make sure that it is easily integrated into daily operations.
Action: Compile a list of potential customers. Focus on age range, education, location, skill set and start to narrow your target market focus. Once you have this list, take a moment to think of the ways in which you can reach this segment of the population.
Brand new products are great—they are exciting and intriguing. Brand new products also come with a requirement—you must educate your audience and customer base first about the problem and your solution before they make a purchasing decision. While it is an additional step, it is nothing that can’t be overcome.
If there are already similar products on the market to your product idea, how are you going to make your product shine? What features will set yours apart? What does your pricing strategy look like in comparison?
Action: Do your research and get a comprehensive view of the industry landscape as well as potential competitors.
Products aren’t developed and launched overnight—though it may seem like that at times from an outsider’s perspective. Often though, weeks and months go into development. Many entrepreneurs are carried through the product development cycle by their passion—they have a strong passion and obsession with their product and know that it can make a difference.
Action: Ask yourself if you have the time to dedicate to developing this idea. Will you need help? If so, what type of help?
Have additional questions about product development? We are happy to help! Send us an e-mail at email@example.com
March is Women’s History Month—a time to celebrate the achievements of women and acknowledge the ways in which many have changed modern life through invention.
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” -Grace Hopper
Before the 1970’s, the topic of women in history was largely missing from general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978 and chose the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day. In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of March.
Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved every year with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. (Source: ThoughtCo)
Women have been at the forefront of invention for centuries. Their ideas, and subsequent inventions, have shaped the modern world as we know it. While there are countless women to celebrate, we discuss four women below that have made great strides in engineering.
The First Woman to File an American Patent. In 1809, Mary Dixon Kies received the first U. S. patent issued to a woman. Kies, a Connecticut native, invented a process for weaving straw with silk or thread. First Lady Dolley Madison praised her for boosting the nation’s hat industry. Unfortunately, the patent file was destroyed in the great Patent Office fire in 1836. Until about 1840, only 20 other patents were issued to women. The inventions related to apparel, tools, cook stoves, and fireplaces. (Source: ThoughtCo)
Inventor of the Paper Bag. Margaret Knight was an exceptionally prolific inventor in the late 19th century; journalists occasionally compared her to her better-known male contemporary Thomas Edison by nicknaming her “the lady Edison” or “a woman Edison.”
After seeing a fellow worker injured by a faulty piece of equipment, Knight came up with her first invention: a safety device for textile looms. She was awarded her first patent in 1871, for a machine that cut, folded and glued flat-bottomed paper shopping bags, thus eliminating the need for workers to assemble them slowly by hand. This machine and method is still in use today. Knight received 27 patents in her lifetime. (Source: Biography)
Inventor of Transparent Glass. Katherine Blodgett (1898-1979) was a woman of many firsts. She was the first female scientist hired by General Electric’s Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York (1917) as well as the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Physics from Cambridge University (1926). Blodgett’s research on monomolecular coatings led her to a revolutionary discovery.
She discovered a way to apply the coatings layer by layer to glass and metal. The thin films, which naturally reduced glare on reflective surfaces, when layered to a certain thickness, would completely cancel out the reflection from the surface underneath. This resulted in the world’s first 100% transparent or invisible glass. Blodgett’s patented film and process (1938) has been used for many purposes including limiting distortion in eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, camera and projector lenses. (Source: Biography)
Computer Science Pioneer. Grace Hopper (1906-1992) was one of the first programmers to transform large digital computers from oversized calculators into relatively intelligent machines capable of understanding “human” instructions. Hopper developed a common language with which computers could communicate called Common Business-Oriented Language or COBOL, now the most widely used computer business language in the world.
In addition to many other firsts, Hopper was the first woman to graduate from Yale University with a Ph.D. in Mathematics, and in 1985, was the first woman ever to reach the rank of admiral in the US Navy. Hopper’s work was never patented; her contributions were made before computer software technology was even considered a “patentable” field. (Source: Biography)
We encourage you to share the stories of these women along with other notable women inventors with your students, colleagues, children and classmates. By acknowledging and celebrating the women innovators of the past, we encourage the women innovators of the future.
Other women inventors that have made an impact are: Stephanie Kwolek (inventor of Kevlar), Melitta Bentz (inventor of the coffeemaker), Ann Moore (inventor of the Snugli baby carrier) and Martha Coston (inventor of pyrotechnic flares).
The US Luge Team tapped 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) technology for the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Stratasys played a role in helping the US Luge Team go for gold by incorporating additive manufacturing into the sleds being used in this year’s games. However, this is not the first time that 3D printing technology has made an appearance at the Olympic Games.
From the Stratasys blog: “The US Luge Team quickly realized the immense potential for additive to gain a competitive advantage and worked with Stratasys engineers to develop an entirely new process for fabricating their composite sleds. In a matter of days, they were able to design, print, and test prototype sled designs, which would normally take weeks or months using their existing processes. This allowed the team to drastically reduce the design cycle, which in turn, allowed for continuous improvement to create the fastest sled possible.”
One of the main competitive advantages of additive manufacturing is its ability for customization. The team saw the value in this, and had sleds developed that fit each of their bodies. “The design freedom from additive manufacturing enabled the team to create customized sleds that were tailored to each athlete’s body, which in turn, drastically improved comfort, ergonomics and most importantly, final performance. It’s really exciting to see how this technology will push the limits of human endurance for Olympic athletes.”
3D printed apparel was in the spotlight during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. These apparel pieces were designed to be lightweight, reduce the amount of wasted energy given off by the athletes and enhance overall performance through custom designs. Examples of where 3D printing technology was used:
BMW also made a splash at the 2016 Rio Olympics with its ability to track Olympic swimmers in the pool. The renowned car company, stepped off the road a dove into the pool with its LED driven motion system.
“The LED trackers will attach to a swimmers’ wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes through a 3D printed mounting system. The stroke and kick motion received by the coaching staff is an incredibly valuable performance tool as the data will aid in breaking down specific limb and joint angles to optimize performance.” (Sport Techie)
During the 2012 Olympics in London, customized gear through 3D printing was just starting out.
“The British team was noted for wearing customized helmets, bespoke to each Olympic cyclist. Each of these helmets was based upon a 3D scan of the rider’s head and then 3D printed to verify that the fit of the final helmet would be perfect.” (Stratasys Blog)
Renowned swimming company, Speedo, used 3D printing to create goggles that have transparent parts and rubber-like parts printed in a single step. Optimizing design and streamlining the entire design process are just two of the major advantages of additive manufacturing.
As 3D printing technology continues to grow and advance, we expect to see athletes using it more and more to enhance performance and gain a competitive advantage.
Hardware startups have many moving parts and are exponentially harder to launch than a typical software startup. Between product prototyping, testing, material selection, manufacturing and quality control (just to name a few), many days it seems like there just isn’t enough time to get it all figured out. There is a lot of time and energy that goes into launching a product before it hits store shelves.
Below are three things all successful hardware startup founders learned:
Hardware startups are built on a product vision. Create a product that not only meets customer expectations, but instead exceeds all expectations.
Far too often, we see companies that over promise and under deliver—leaving a wake of frustrated customers behind them. This is a sure-fire way to fail. If you are promising your customers a certain type of product, that should be what you deliver to them.
You cannot overemphasize that customers are key.
…Then focus on the needs of your target market. Take care of your customers.
In today’s social media focused world, a hardware startup can find themselves at the center of a major customer backlash with one misstep. People like to share their experiences with companies (both the good and bad)—bad policies, practices and products can be broadcast around the world in seconds. Avoid this headache by listening to your customers, understanding their needs and acknowledging their product improvement suggestions.
Entrepreneurs must wear many hats in the early days for budgeting purposes—bootstrapping is often seen as a rite of passage for hardware startup founders. The problem occurs when founders try to take on too many tasks they are unqualified for. If you have excellent sales skills, then focus your energy on that area and leave the product design aspect to your engineer. Building a skilled team around your strengths and weaknesses is the essence of true leadership.
“Great leadership entrusts and believes in a collective, skilled team to produce a better product. Poor leaders succumb to ego and attempt to run all facets of the development and release of a product. The results are typically lackluster and not optimal.” (Startup Nation)