You can find more tech hardware start-ups today, but that doesn’t mean their tribulations toward success are any less. Where old tech start-ups had to focus on manual development and testing of prototypes, new start-ups have to focus on innovation in a saturated industry.
So how do you break into the tech hardware business? For the hard parts, you will depend on reliable manufacturers for the SMT assembly of your prototype’s circuit board. The rest of your tech hardware business is up to you. Here’s what that means:
Crowdfunding or bootstrapping?
The first thing on any start-up founder’s mind is how to procure the funds for the project. This opens two popular options for starting businesses: to crowdfund or to bootstrap.
Bootstrapping gives you ultimate control over how everything will end up, which makes the business harder to pull off financially. Meanwhile, when you’re crowdfunding, you gain stability by pleading to stakeholders with a prototype that’s acceptable to them. This can be detrimental if you have a rock-solid hardware innovation. Most start-ups end up bootstrapping to preserve their idea but weigh your concerns, particularly your timeline, when deciding.
Product design for the prototype stage
Having a product designer on your team will never feel out of line once you realize the importance of an efficient design during the prototype stage. Don’t get too caught up with perfecting the software. Exert effort in creating the minimum viable product alongside building the base design so that you can test and ship as soon as possible.
Preferably, this person understands the process of 3-D printing. Not only can this reduce overhead costs, but it also makes the transition from prototyping to manufacturing that much quicker.
Minimizing risks in manufacturing
While the initial assembly of your prototype is underway, there’s a need to be conscious of the possible risks in your supply chain, including scaling to mass manufacturing and managing lead-time risks.
If the idea is genuinely essential to people, then the value will provide itself. But if you focus on overcompensating with features and overpromising your minimum viable product, your supply chain won’t scale; the supposed value won’t even reach the right people. Shift your focus to optimization for faster shipping, then pivot as needed.
The value of prototype testing
Remember, you might understand how your product is revolutionary, but people won’t ever know it if you don’t take the time to test your prototypes.
Testing pertains to two processes here. The first is done during manufacturing, which is testing your printed circuit boards. This is important because it identifies and reduces possible errors in assembly by making sure every diode, capacitor, and resistor is fully functioning. Your manufacturer should perform this automatically in post-production.
The second is done with the prototype itself. Do you apply every feedback you receive? Not necessarily. Learn to sift what is relevant for product development, and what is just a personal response.
Scaling with needed specialists
Hardware and software engineers are two entirely different roles, yet they should co-exist within your start-up team. You’ll have to learn how to hire beyond your expertise as soon as possible. A user experience designer, a sales and marketing team, and even a legal advocate will all help once your start-up starts to find its footing in the market.
Don’t be afraid to hack the tech industry. The pieces of tech we enjoy today are the products of brilliant minds from the past, so just keep creating.