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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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
In addition to our two June STEM Summer Enrichment Camps, our 3D Academy has added a third in July. For the July camp (July 30th – August 3rd), we have partnered with Bricks4kidz to provide a creative, hands-on, immersive STEM camp experience.
Let’s build a CITY! There are many different types of engineering jobs, and building is one of the most fun! What would a city be without the architects and engineers who come up with the ideas, plans and building skills to make it all come together?
Campers will put their engineering and architecture skills to work as they build city themed models using LEGO® Bricks. The sky’s the limit when campers are challenged to use their own ideas and skills to build a skyscraper taller than their heads! They’ll have a blast using custom-built cars to move the people of the city all around town – brick by brick! What an accomplishment to be able to proudly exclaim “We built this BRICK City!”
Students will learn the fundamentals of 3D Design, 3D Printing, CAD Design and Spatial Environments to create their own custom Lego design and part 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.
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 email@example.com 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 printing, also commonly referred to as additive manufacturing, is a technology that has grown exponentially over the last five to ten years. It has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review. While prototyping is where 3D printing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find it’s way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.
“When it was invented, 3D printing was referred to as rapid prototyping, a method for automating and reducing the labor required to create a prototype model for design validation. Since then, it has found use in a number of other applications, but the technology is still widely implemented to create visual models and functional prototypes.”
A visual model of your product lets you get a better idea of how the product will look and feel. With the rapid expansion of 3D printing materials and colors available, you have more options than ever when it comes to product design materials. Most hardware entrepreneurs start with a visual model and then move forward with a functional prototype for design validation and testing.
A functional prototype allows you to test the form, fit and functionality of your product. Testing and validating your product design with a functional prototype is highly recommended so that any potential errors can be fixed before heading into manufacturing.
The benefits of a functional prototype extend beyond your design. With a functional prototype you can also gather critical market feedback, rally financial support from venture capitalists and your community as well as file for a patent.
A major misstep that can derail your hardware startup is to skip the development of a functional prototype.
As a design moves from the concept phase to the production phase, a manufacturer might implement 3D printing for the fabrication of custom tools that aid in the production process. “This can include anything from guides for precise drilling, dies for forming or cutting raw material into a specific shape and measurement tools, like gauges, to jigs and fixtures that hold a part in place while other operations are performed.”
3D printing is a flexible tool that can be used either directly or indirectly in the creation of tooling for manufacturing. In the case of indirectly, a tool may be made by coating a 3D-printed component in rubber, which is then used to cast the tool itself.
Currently, due to the speed, quality and cost of 3D printing, “the technology is best suited for the production of specialty parts in smaller batches, rather than mass-manufactured goods. However, there is an industry shift towards expanding 3D printing technology to take a more prominent role in mass manufacturing”.
“3D printing brings some important qualities to the world of manufacturing that make it ideal for certain jobs. For instance, parts can have complex geometries impossible with traditional manufacturing processes. It is also possible to 3D print goods on demand, allowing for easy creation of custom parts.”
Because of these intrinsic benefits, businesses that need to create specialty or custom parts in shorter runs will often turn to 3D printing to manufacture their products. The benefit is that they don’t have to invest in costly tooling to mass produce goods that will only see a limited release.
Have additional questions about 3D printing or how the technology can benefit your business? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
We are going to start off with the good news, building a hardware startup outside of a major hub (i.e. Silicon Valley, Boston, L.A.) is possible. In fact, in today’s connected world, these major tech hubs are becoming less and less appealing for entrepreneurs just setting out with their startup. It’s no secret that the cost of living in major tech hubs is astronomical and upfront costs to get your business going also come at a premium. So if you are an entrepreneur looking to launch a product and start a business, but have no desire to pick-up and move, below are a few ideas on how you can successfully launch your hardware startup from your home city.
When you find yourself in the center of a major technology hub it is easy to get distracted from your original goal if you are inclined to listen to all of the “experts” out there. This advice coming in can easily veer your startup off course and make your head spin.
Instead, diligently focus on your product idea and developing it for your target market. If you have a useful product, customers aren’t going to care where your business is located. Being in a lesser well-known area will also help you keep a global market in mind—you won’t be in a bubble where people share your same interests, skills etc. If you are in the middle of a tech hub you may not realize that people in, say, Tampa or Portland aren’t as tech-savvy as your neighbors. Being an outsider forces you to keep the needs of every potential market in mind.
Chances are that if you are in a large enough city, there are other businesses out there supporting the startup community. You don’t necessarily need to find an industry specific support network, but instead a network that has the skillset your startup requires. Here in Hawaii, we provide product development support to hardware startups in a wide-range of industries.
Cities all over the nation, and really the world, are starting to realize that creating a friendly startup ecosystem is good for business. Startup support might come from government programs, local universities, or corporate sponsorships—there is going to be support available, your job is to seek it out.
Through local relationships and organizations, you may gain access to anything from low-interest loans to access to venture capital that’s limited to local businesses, and opportunities to speak at local business events.
The benefit of launching your startup where you live is that you know people and have years-long relationships built with them already. You have an established community. Even if you’re not in a tech hub, you’re bound to be surrounded by business owners of some sort.
Maybe you know a local manufacturer that can help explain the manufacturing process to you and make introductions for you with their contacts. Perhaps you are neighbors with a local baker that excels at social media, and he/she is willing to give you a crash course on what you need to know to get started.
The good thing about living in a connected world is that expert advice and help is just a Google search away. Connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs that you admire online—via blogs, their websites, weekly digest emails. You don’t necessarily have to have a two-way conversation with them to glean useful information that you can put into practice.
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.
Failure is hard and certainly no one goes into building a startup thinking that they are going to fail—however, it happens. While failing is in no way enjoyable, that doesn’t mean that it does not have its benefits—in terms of learning what not to do. We can all learn from failure, we can even learn from other startup’s failures. Below are four areas where hardware startups have faltered. Making yourself aware of the challenges associated with each of these areas, you are more likely to make educated decisions that (hopefully) allow you to avoid failure altogether.
Entrepreneurs are designers at heart—they want to design a product, methodology or experience for their target market. They have a brilliant idea and want to introduce it into the marketplace. Design failure can arise rather quickly if the startup founder is not willing to modify their original design idea to meet the needs of customers or manufacturing.
If your customers are asking for your product to function a certain way, feel a particular way or look a specific way, you are going to want to modify your design. At the end of the day, you want people to both purchase and enjoy your product.
When you are working towards commercialization of a product, the goal is to be efficient, minimize costs and get your product onto store shelves quickly—DFM (Design for Manufacturability) works to do just this. With DFM you work out any potential issues before manufacturing planning which saves both time and resources. If you fail to design your product with manufacturing in mind, you are making your startup extremely vulnerable to hefty manufacturing costs and even the potential that it is not able to be manufactured at all.
Plenty of hardware startup founders refuse to let anyone see their product until it’s time to launch. Many are afraid that someone will steal their idea, that potential customers won’t like it until it’s perfect, or they want to get a big head start against the competition. Whatever the reason, failure to get feedback is often fatal for a startup.
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.
It doesn’t help your startup if you have a beautiful product that works flawlessly if the market for it just isn’t there. For example, if you are positioning an electronic gadget for the 65+ year old crowd you are going to have a hard sell if they are not well versed in the latest technology trends, or if you are targeting the 18-25 year old crowd with a gadget that is overly cumbersome you are going to face an uphill battle. The solution to this is to find out what appeals to the target market you are aiming to capture and design/modify your product to grab and hold their attention.
This list would not be complete without the mention of funding. Funding is the primary stumbling block for a majority of startups. Developing, manufacturing and launching a product takes time and money. Whether you are turning to crowdfunding or looking for investors, you are bound to face a hurdle or two.
If your goal is to raise capital from investors, be prepared for rejection (a number of times) before you succeed. The process almost always takes longer than you think it will, so start early in your quest to find an investor.
If crowdfunding is your plan, be sure that you show up with a nearly flawless campaign. Your video, content and prototype need to be ready to go. Your goal is to show potential investors that you have a plan laid out, it is well researched and that you are ready.
Starting a hardware company comes with a unique set of challenges. If you can navigate these four common roadblocks, you will be in a much better position for a successful product launch.