Hardware Accelerators for Startups
Establishing a startup is difficult but establishing a hardware startup brings its own set of challenges. Not only do you have to do the normal market research, you have to establish connections and, crucially, you have to design and manufacture a prototype. Mint Tek recently reviewed a blog by a local hardware startup about these challenges.
For hardware startups, there are a range of hardware accelerators out there. They can provide advice on getting your product to market, and often provide a unique pathway to getting prototypes developed and out to the market.
Here is an overview of some of the more important hardware accelerators around:
HAX is probably one of the better known accelerators for hardware startups. Previously known as HAXLR8R, this is its fourth year in operation. It runs two programmes, but its pre-production accelerator is the most beneficial for startups. It takes entrepreneurs to Shenzen, China (the best place in the world to be if you’re looking to manufacture a product for market), for 111 days. The idea is that the company will be in a position to launch its products, manufactured and tested in a beta sale stage.
The accelerator programme can also provide seed capital for between 6% and 9% of the company. The programme also provides workspace, and access to some of the finest mentors in the hardware and business markets.
About 15 teams are chosen twice a year to take part in this accelerator, and each successful team must commit to moving between 2 and 5 team members to China for the duration of the programme.
As part of the accelerator, companies actually produce their product, and begin selling to a small test market, and expert engineers and marketeers are on-hand to help with this. HAX proudly claim most of its companies are generating revenue by the time the accelerator ends.
Another worthwhile accelerator, Highway 1 is a four month programme located in San Francisco. Supported by PCH, companies in the accelerator run the gamut in terms of the production cycle – from going to China to learn about supply chain and manufacturing, to having market industry experts giving advice on retail and sales.
This programme places an emphasis on quickly developing prototypes for the product. Because it is a division of PCH, day-to-day industry experts, particularly in the field of engineering, are there to support the teams in refining the design of their products, to streamlining the manufacturing and supply chain management process, which allows the programme to be successful even though it is only 16 weeks long.
Highway 1 also provides capital for equity – for 8% they can give investment capital up to $100k, or $50k for 5% of the company. They also facilitate meetings with venture capital firms. Highway 1 will be opening applications for this year’s autumn’s class in April.
Hardware.co is a 14-day intensive programme. They don’t give funding for equity, but they do give their participants direct access to alumni, product managers, engineers, designers, etc for the duration of the accelerator.
The programme is based in both Berlin and Munich in Germany and, though much, much shorter than other accelerators, it provides high quality and intense mentorship, as well as unique 1:1 meetings with industry leaders.
Of course, those are only three of what is a wide variety of supports available for hardware startups.
LemnosLabs, a hardware venture fund, are dedicated to early-stage hardware startups. Each year, they take 8 to 12 companies, and invest anywhere between $250k and $1M for equity. These companies can then spend up to 15 months in their specialist incubators, where participants have workspace, access to engineers and manufacturing workshops, and the ability to tap into the talent of the LemnosLabs partners – all of which help the company leave with a viable product and business plan.
It’s based in San Francisco, and there is no set time of the year where they take in applicants. All you have to do is go on their website, following the details in the contact information section, and if they like your idea/pitch – you’re in!
A somewhat similar enterprise is Bolt. Not so much an accelerator as it is a resource, Bolt invests capital between $100k and $500k in early-stage startups, and offer a full-time engineering staff, prototyping workshops, and office space for the successful enterprises.
It is located in the United States – in both Boston and San Francisco – and offers industry experts from companies like Ferrari, Disney, and MakerBot to assist the entrepreneurs.
Bolt tend to only take on companies that intend to launch initially in the United States, but they are open to international companies who don’t necessarily want to relocate to the US. This is unlike many other accelerators who do require this commitment, of at least some of the team members. Applying is simple enough too – all you need to do is send them a pitch deck!
There is a lot of support out there for hardware development from accelerators and investment funds. There are also companies that provide resources and support, including the DesignSpark who provide software and commincation forums for hardware developers, and companies like Mint Tek Circuits, who will walk them through the purchase of printed circuit boards and full prototype assembly.