Posts Tagged "small business"

Enhance Sales & Experience with Quality Package Design

July 6, 2016
3D Innovations

packageDesigning products that fly off store shelves is the universal goal during a product launch. The validation and fulfillment that comes with a successful product launch is what drives entrepreneurs. One of the first interactions a customer has with your product is on the shelf at the store. The package design is what catches their eye, motivates them to stop and look at your product and ultimately helps makes the final purchasing decision.

In order to optimize your product’s package design there are a few items to consider:

  • Material Durability. The material you would like to use and the material that makes the most sense for your product may not always align—costs and durability are two of the main reasons for the disconnect. You want to pick a material that can withstand shipping, stocking and being dropped (as this is inevitable). Design the packaging to help your product withstand the transportation process and any bumps it may receive along the way before reaching your customers.
  • Store Requirements. Most of the big-box retailers have package requirements that you must follow in order to get your product onto their shelves. Take the time to understand these guidelines and invest in shipping certifications when necessary (i.e. ISTA Certification).
  • Develop Your Product’s Message. Being clear and concise with your overall message will help reduce the quantity of materials in your packaging and ultimately reduce overhead. Within a 30 second glance at your product, what do you want consumers to learn? Consumers are inundated with messages as they walk down an aisle and you want to make yours memorable. You need to be both efficient in your use of materials, and in your package design communication.
  • Security. Deter in-store theft with a secure package design. If your product is easily stolen it will hinder your bottom line and could also get your inventory shipped back to you. Theft-proof packaging should be at the forefront of your design.

At the end of the day, you want to always keep the consumer in mind when going through the product development process and designing your packaging. This first interaction with your product can either enhance their initial experience or frustrate them from the onset. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a great first impression. Your overall package design should look good on store shelves, encourage sales and provide a positive experience for both the customer and retailer.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Manufacturing Facts Hardware Entrepreneurs Need To Know

June 15, 2016
3D Innovations

Developing a product is exhilarating, however when the time comes to start the manufacturing phase of the product development process, many entrepreneurs aren’t exactly sure where to begin. Below are some pieces of advice that every hardware startup should know about the manufacturing process.

mfg3Understand your cash flow.

Many startups are strapped for cash—especially during the early days—that is why understanding your company’s cash flow is crucial. Depending on your hardware product, you may be required to purchase certain components six months to a year before your launch. Work with your manufacturer to setup a realistic payment option that won’t leave your startup in the red.

Find an experienced manufacturer.

All manufacturers have experience, but your goal is to find a manufacturer that has experience building a product similar to yours. Chances are that if they have experience building a similar product, the number of challenges that arise will diminish. Also, ask to see product samples so that you can get a feel on the quality of work they produce.

If your goal is to manufacturer your product in the U.S., prepare to pay a little bit more. However, some entrepreneurs don’t mind paying more for the comfort of being able to visit the manufacturing facility on a regular basis. During the early production runs you are going to want to be on-site to talk with the engineers to make sure things are running smoothly.

Be prepared to compromise.

You might have visions of making your product from recycled materials, or certain sustainable materials, however, these may not be the best options for your product. Your product is going to need to meet certain thresholds and tolerances, which means that using the correct material is imperative. Be prepared to compromise on things such as materials, the manufacturing timeline and other variables that will undoubtedly arise.

Start with small production runs.

While you are putting final touches on the design and working out the “kinks”, it is a good idea to start with small production runs. The minimum (around 5,000 units) run will give you a chance to fix any issues that come up without experiencing potentially dire financial consequences.

If you are planning on running a crowdfunding campaign, a small production run might not be feasible if you have a wildly successful campaign. In that case, you can consider the option of running multiple manufacturing lines. While this can complicate the manufacturing process, it will help you stick to the timeline you laid out for customers. If you would rather stick with the small product run method, let your customers know that you plan on starting with small batches and scaling up gradually, which will mean a longer wait time—keep in mind that most customers are willing to wait when the startup is transparent about their timeline from the get-go.

Do you have additional questions about the manufacturing phase of the product development cycle? Let us help! Contact us by e-mail at info@3d-innovations.comor or by phone at 1-808-772-8667.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Intellectual Property: Should You Consider A Licensing Business Model?

June 2, 2016
3D Innovations

ip-3d-printing-innovations-100In our Case Study blog post last week, Transitioning From Idea To Manufacturable Product, we discussed the ways in which we helped a client secure a licensing agreement. For many inventors a licensing agreement is often a great option since it lets them develop a product, but then puts the expenses associated with commercialization on a more experienced manufacturer.

What is a licensing agreement?

With a licensing agreement, an inventor (the licensor) develops an invention and then protects that invention through a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret, and thus creates intellectual property (IP). The inventor—the owner of the intellectual property—then licenses the invention to a second party (the licensee) whose responsibility is to commercialize the invention. As compensation for allowing another party to use its intellectual property, the licensor will receive a royalty.

Licensing agreements are becoming more common than in the past and are open to more inventors. This has also increased the number of inventors approaching manufacturers and, thus, increased competition.

What are the benefits of a licensing agreement?

Below is a list of some of the main benefits of licensing your invention/IP.

  • The licensor (inventor) does not have to finance the commercialization process.
  • The licensor avoids the need to create and operate a company.
  • The innovation will most likely get to market faster because a larger, more experienced company is handling the commercialization.
  • The innovation may reach more markets if the licensee is a large, well-funded enterprise.
  • The licensor retains ownership of the intellectual property.

How do I evaluate a potential licensee?

When evaluating a potential licensee, you should focus on its ability to effectively commercialize your invention/IP. Often times that means considering companies that have a proven track record of marketing and selling products based on inventions similar to yours. Depending on the invention, the best way to commercialize it could also be to license it to a startup, a manufacturer, or a bunch of companies in separate territories.

Suggestions for securing a licensing agreement:

  1. Assess the complexity of our product. Is there a way to get a working version developed without extensive costs? 3D printing/additive manufacturing is a frequently used method to get a functional prototype ready because of its speed and the reduced costs associated with the technology.
  2. Identify manufacturers. Find out which manufacturers currently sell product lines to large retailers where you can see that your product would be a good fit.
  3. Create a functional prototype. Create a functional prototype of your product and pitch retail buyers. The goal is to get a commitment before you actually launch. You can possibly even offer them a few months of launch exclusivity. The mock-up of your packaging is also critically important. Your product must look as retail ready as possible.
  4. Setup a meeting with an IP attorney. The attorney will be able to go over the legal aspects of the licensing agreement with you and help come up with a plan that best suits your needs.
  5. Approach the identified manufacturers. If you want to get the attention of a manufacturer, before you even talk about your product, pitch the prospect your new customer, growing sales or the commitment from a major buyer. You’ll get an appointment, and your product has a better chance of moving to the front of the line in the new product development funnel.

Have additional questions about licensing agreements? We would be happy to help answer them, please e-mail info@3d-innovations.com

Articles Referenced:

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Top Intellectual Property Questions From Startups

May 17, 2016
3D Innovations

Intellectual property (IP) is not exactly “fun or exciting” — however, it is the most important aspect of your startup and needs to be protected. Securing and protecting the intellectual property rights to your invention is key to successful commercialization.

Below we answer some of the common IP questions we hear from entrepreneurs.

When should I start thinking about protecting my startup’s IP?

IP2Immediately after your startup is formed is the best time to get all the founders on the same page regarding IP. The most valuable asset of your startup is in fact its intellectual property; therefore it should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list. IP is the heart and soul of your business and needs to be protected by patents, copyrights and/or trademarks — which ever makes the most sense for your business and invention. Without a proper IP strategy, you are leaving the door open for major complications down the road.

What type of IP protection is necessary for my business?

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all forms of intellectual property. While all three types of IP are indeed essential for success, hardware-focused startups rely heavily on patents.

What exactly is a patent? A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. There are three types of patents: utility, design and plant patents.

  1. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof;
  2. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and
  3. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Why should I even consider IP protection for my startup?

If you plan on moving towards commercialization with your product, you are going to want to have control over your startup’s IP. Patents can bolster competitive advantage and assist in the streamlining of the entire commercialization process. If your startup is planning on seeking outside funding from VCs, having all of the founders on the same page regarding IP protection is imperative.

While patents do not guarantee success, they do allow you to secure all rights and claims to your invention. Without patent protection, some inventions cannot be commercialized because both the inventor and investors understand that the product can easily be duplicated, leaving them with no recourse if their product is copied.

How do I file a patent for my invention?

There are a few necessary steps to take before you actually file a patent. First, a patent search will need to be conducted to make sure that the invention does not already exist. The USPTO makes it possible to conduct a preliminary patent search on your own; however, it is highly recommended that you consult with a licensed patent search firm to assist with the bulk of the research. These firms have vast experience researching and are extremely knowledgeable in the classification systems.

If you plan on filing a utility patent, you will next need to decide whether to file a provisional or non-provisional utility patent. In simple terms, a provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way to begin protecting an invention while you continue its development, conduct market testing and obtain funding. A provisional patent gives you exactly one year to file a non-provisional utility patent application and move forward in the patent process.

When it comes time to begin your patent search and subsequent  patent filing, we highly recommend that you consult with a licensed patent attorney to review your patent options and decide what will be the most-beneficial for your specific invention.

Have additional questions regarding intellectual property? Send them our way at info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Validate Your Product Idea Early-On With Quality Feedback

May 11, 2016
3D Innovations

1lightbulbWe are a nation of makers and find profound satisfaction when we successfully bring a product to market. Nothing brings this to light more than a quick glance at U.S. Patent Statistics. In 1963 there were 85,869 utility patent applications, compared to 2015 in which the U.S. Patent Office reviewed 589,410 utility patent applications—an increase of over 580%.

While the number of applications for patents in the United States shot through the roof, the number of patents granted is usually about half of the total submitted in a given year. But the point is: more and more people are making stuff. Knowing that more people are trying their hand at inventing then begs the questions:

  • How many of these patents became profitable businesses?
  • How many inventors and makers are sustaining themselves with their products?
  • Are these patents leading to cutting-edge technologies in the marketplace?

The reality is that innovation is hard. Transitioning from a minimal viable product to a functional prototype and finally a manufacturable product takes both time and money—and a big dose of determination. The product development process is a marathon, not a sprint. Can you image spending weeks, months or years perfecting a design and having it manufactured, only to see if fail after its launch? The best way to avoid this type of failure is to prepare yourself early-on and have your idea validated by your target market.

Suggestions on obtaining feedback from your target market:

  • Develop a website around your product/startup, before you even launch, to build both excitement and solicit feedback from potential customers (a quick survey link will do the trick).
  • Send out a survey (electronically or hardcopy, depending on your target market) to those interested in your product and ask about features they would find beneficial, ask about design elements and importantly ask at what price they would purchase your product.
  • If your product is easy to manufacture in small batches, make a few and hand them out to target market customers. Then hold a customer feedback session in which you obtain their feedback on the design and functionality of the product.

The information gleaned from this customer feedback not only helps you design a better product, it helps you validate your idea and develop a product that people will actually purchase. By designing a product around your target market and features they value, inventors and startups can dramatically increase their rate of success.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Product Design: An Innovation Focused Mindset

May 3, 2016
3D Innovations

innovation2Innovation is a buzzword that is thrown around quite a bit, and especially when it comes to product development. Every new consumer product or software startup is “innovative” or pushing the boundaries of “innovation”. While it is easy to get lost in all the noise, one thing remains true, individuals and businesses thrive on being innovative and succeed when they make innovation a top priority.

Three ways to incorporate an innovation mindset into your product design:

  1. Be open to collaboration. Each individual on your team has a unique skill set and a different way of approaching challenges. As an entrepreneur it can be hard to wavier from your initial design, but being open to suggestions and collaboration will only help throughout the product design process. As David Allen, a leading productivity consultant, has stated, “You can do anything – but not everything”.
  2. Do your research. Take time to thoroughly research and investigate—your competition, the industry niche, industry leaders, and feedback from potential consumers. The information gathered from your research will only enhance your product design. You want to be sure that your product will stand out among the competition and that it is exactly what consumers are looking for.
  3. Test ideas. Come up with an idea, test it out and refine it. No idea is going to be 100% perfect the first go around. It is going to take a few attempts to settle on a design that both you and future customers will love. Don’t be afraid to change direction, nothing is set in stone this early in the product development cycle.

The right innovation mindset will take your product design from idea to impact. You started this entrepreneurship journey to make a difference and change the marketplace—allow your mindset and designs to evolve to meet these goals.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

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Prototyping Advice For Entrepreneurs

April 29, 2016
3D Innovations

The thrill of bringing an idea to life is what drives entrepreneurs, and really any business. Once you have a concept in mind, the next phase is to act on it. While acting on it is exhilarating, it also comes with inherent challenges as well as many, many questions.

We know that entrepreneurs have questions when it comes to building a prototype—so we sat down with our President and Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, to discuss the prototyping process and get some expert advice on the subject.

(1) Question: What is your “rule of thumb” for entrepreneurs creating their first prototype?

Product Design and Development | 3D Prototyping(1) C. Kobayashi: The application of the prototype may vary depending on its usage. Many times creating a conceptual prototype or something that conveys a proof of concept is the first step in leading towards a full product development plan. What is typically required is a minimum viable product (MVP) to demonstrate the functionality of the product. Because it is the very basic level of a prototype, it may not necessarily undergo a full industrial design, but rather a quick and simple design that demonstrates the capability and function.

(2) Question: What is the number one issue you see entrepreneurs run into when developing a prototype?

(2) C. Kobayashi: The most typical issue is not developing a prototype that is manufacturable. Once they are past the “MVP” stage and ready to create a more robust design, they fail to account for DFM (Design For Manufacturing) principles which will cause major setbacks if not accounted for. The second issue that arises is that many entrepreneurs starting out don’t do enough testing or ask for customer feedback. This is a crucial step in the development process, which gets overlooked, because the entrepreneur feels that their approach is best.

(3) Question: Do entrepreneurs often come to you with an idea, and you build a prototype together, or a homemade prototype?

(3) C. Kobayashi: Ideas come in many shapes and forms, literally. Some entrepreneurs have built their own rough prototypes to try and convey their ideas while others only have sketches and renderings that depict what they want built. There are many ways to achieve what is required, but it is always best to discuss the details with your particular design company. Contact us here if you would like to discuss what types of options are available.

(4) Question: While 3D printing is a good tool for prototyping, are there any other tools that you recommend?

(4) C. Kobayashi: Parts can be made using many different methods such as 3D Printing, Molding, CNC machining, vacuum forming, etc. The process that is used will be based on the requirements of the customer and the applications in which the prototypes will be used. In some cases, parts need to be injection molded so that they can be used for compliance testing and pre-production use.

If you have additional questions, please head on over to our FAQ page or send us an e-mail at info@3d-innovations.com. We look forward to chatting!

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

The True Cost of Bringing Your Hardware Product to Market

April 19, 2016
3D Innovations

costsUnderestimating the costs of bringing a product to market is a pitfall many entrepreneurs make. This one mistake can seriously derail a startup. Hardware products are notorious for being costly, so it is wise to estimate your costs before jumping in. Technology innovations, such as 3D printing, have helped lower some of the associated costs, but there are still others that many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of.

Below is a list of some of the major costs associated with launching a hardware product.

  • 3D Rendering & Prototyping. 3D rendering lets you design and accurately visualize the product before investing in an actual model. Once you have a final design, it is time to build a prototype. This is a critical step because it is here in which you test your design and make any necessary changes to its aesthetics or functionality. 3D printing has helped drive the costs down of prototypes, so this is one technology you may want to consider using. Keep in mind that prototyping costs vary depending on size, complexity and volume of part. (Estimated costs: $5,000-plus for design work and $500-plus for 3D printing iterations)
  • Certifications & Testing. Most products require some type of certification to be sold in various countries. (This is especially true if your product has an electronic component.) Entrepreneur has a list of certifications that could be required for your product (here). (Estimated cost: $10,000)
  • Intellectual Property. Patents allow you to secure all rights and claims to your invention. Filling a design patent is going to cost less than a utility patent, but the protection rights are also different. However, both types of patents let you use the coveted phrase, patent pending. It is always best to consult with a patent attorney to discuss the needs of your individual product. (Estimated costs: $2,000-plus)
  • The Retail Package. The retail package is integral and is in many ways the ‘face’ of your product. It must be both protective during shipping and help your product standout on a crowded shelf. (Estimated cost: $3,000-plus)
  • Manufacturing. This is likely going to be your largest expense, which means that finding and vetting manufacturers is to your advantage. While small batch runs are feasible with 3D printing, larger batches are going to require mass-manufacturing. Injection molding costs run high because of the expensive steel molds required. (Estimated costs: $40,000-plus)
  • Traditional business expenses. This category encompasses business licenses, product liability insurance, office space, warehousing fees and shipping costs, etc. (Estimated costs: $1,000-plus per month)

If your product has electronic components you are also going to want to factor in these additional costs.

  • Electronics Design. This is the heart and soul of your product. It is what makes your product go and what helps it stand out from the competition. From a design standpoint, this is going to be the most expensive step. It is important to find a design engineer that has experience related to your design needs and clearly understands your budgetary requirements. (Estimated cost: $10,000-plus)
  • Software. If your hardware product is going to require a microcontroller or microprocessor, some level of programming will be required. In addition, if your product needs to communicate with a smartphone, a mobile app may also be required. (Estimated costs: $5,000-plus)

Here is what our President & Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, has to say about hardware development costs, “Costs fluctuate with the specifications and requirements of your individual product. For example, a product that connects via Bluetooth takes more engineering than a device that just displays LEDs. It is always best to consult with design and manufacturing experts to get a clear answer on what your specific development costs will be.”

These costs do add up and it is easy to see why so many startups have turned to crowdfunding for their inventions. While crowdfunding is a fantastic resource, you need to nail down all of the costs required to bring your product to market first. Too often entrepreneurs underestimate the costs of bringing their product to market, and even after a successful crowdfunding campaign, can’t deliver on their promise to customers.

The most obvious example of underestimating costs is the Coolest Cooler, which was wildly successful and raised more than $13 million on Kickstarter in 2014, but over a year later many backers still have not received their coolers. Only after the Kickstarter campaign ended and manufacturing began, did the founders realize they set the price tag too low for the coolers—this one mistake has quickly turned into a nightmare scenario for the startup and the customers that pre-ordered through Kickstarter.

While all of these costs can and will fluctuate based on your specific product needs. These estimates are provided to help give you an idea on how much each stage in the product development process will cost, so that you and your team can plan accordingly.

Have questions about bringing your product to market? Let’s chat! Send your questions our way, info@3d-inovations.com

If you are looking for assistance in launching a product, check out our manufacturing and commercialization accelerator, Startup Connector.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Showcase Your Latest Product Design

April 15, 2016
3D Innovations

Have you been hard at work developing (an awesome) product, and are now ready to share it with the world? Great—that feeling of accomplishment is the best! Taking a moment to step back, look at the final design and think about how far you have come, really puts all the hard work and time spent into perspective.

Now onto the next stage, spreading the word about your product… We would love to share your recent design or product here on our blog! Whether you are getting ready to launch a crowdfunding campaign and would like a little help spreading the word, or you would like some design feedback from our trusted readers, we would be happy to help! We are always looking for ways to connect and share innovative products.

If you are interested in sharing your design or product on our blog, please e-mail us at info@3d-innovations.com so that we can chat.

“Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life, it’s about what you inspire others to do.” — Anonymous

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today

Startup Connector: Hardware Is Hard—Don’t Let That Deter You

April 13, 2016
3D Innovations

It’s true, hardware is hard, but the reward you get from launching a successful product makes the journey well worth it. Inventors and entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to create something different that has a real impact on society. Their brains never stop, never rest. They are always evaluating ideas and questioning ‘facts’. You can easily glance around any home or office and see the inventions that pioneers have perfected, and how these products have been integrated into our everyday lives. It is this rush and feel of accomplishment, that fuels the makers and hardware startups of the world.

StartupConnectorlogoThe path to hardware success is often bumpy, full of roadblocks and unexpected turns along the way. Founders of Startup Connector, Collin Kobayashi and Bob Nakata, know all too well the challenges facing hardware startups. “What we’ve seen is that there are a lot of products being developed, and there are different points where the companies get off track—whether it’s not having the right technical expertise, or not having the right experience, or not knowing where to go,” Kobayashi said. “The main gap that we’ve seen is that these companies can get through testing and prototyping, but really get stuck on getting their data package ready for full-scale production. One of the biggest pitfalls hardware startups run into are testing and certification requirements.”

With all of the challenges facing hardware startups, it is good to have knowledgeable and experienced professionals at your fingertips. Why not make the path to hardware startup success a little easier? This was the driving thought behind Startup Connector, a Hawaii-based manufacturing and commercialization accelerator. “Our main objective is to work with hardware development companies, to get them ready for full scale manufacturing. Getting them through the whole product development cycle, beyond prototyping to mass production.”

Advances in technology and manufacturing methods are ushering in a new wave of opportunity for hardware startups. Investors are taking notice of the hardware revolution, and helping propel the movement forward. If you have been mulling over a product idea or searching for the “right time” to focus on product development, now is your time.

Ready to partner with manufacturing and commercialization experts for your next project? Startup Connector is now accepting applications. Apply today! Getting your application in early will let us connect with you and keep you informed of the upcoming start dates.

*All quotes are from the Bytemarks Café interview conducted November 2015.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

Subscribe to the 3D Innovations newsletter on our Facebook page!

Connect with us on TwitterFacebook & LinkedIn today