Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.
Hardware is getting more accessible, which makes hardware startups more appealing. A small team can develop a viable prototype for a simple product on a few hundred thousand dollars, and even tricky problems like autonomous cars are within the reach of startups.
Incubators and accelerators like Highway1, Lemnos, and HAX have played an important role in making hardware accessible; they help their portfolio companies work through the tricky engineering, manufacturing, and marketing problems that software startups don’t have to deal with.
In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I have a wide-ranging discussion with Ben Einstein, co-founder and managing director of Bolt, one of the leading hardware startup accelerators.
Einstein, who spoke at Solid 2015 in California, talks about the importance of hardware marketing and customer development, including branding, crowdfunding, and virality (which is “much more possible with hardware now than it was 10 years ago,” he says).
Most of these companies are really software companies. They just happen to have a piece of hardware they have to deal with. Hardware is a delivery mechanism for software. — Ben Einstein
Einstein, Cranor, and I also venture into a topic that’s been at the top of my mind lately: the ever-blurring distinction between hardware companies and software companies.
“Most of these companies are really software companies,” says Einstein. “They just happen to have a piece of hardware they have to deal with. Hardware is a delivery mechanism for software.”
Other things covered in the episode:
- Soylent (see also: this blog post by Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart and this response by Warren Ellis)
- The X10 communication protocol, which uses power line signaling
- Steve Jobs’s Apple product grid, with columns labeled “consumer” and “pro” and rows labeled “desktop” and “portable”
- Graze, the snack-box-by-mail service that David Cranor is pumped about. Is it a hardware company?
Our next edition of the O’Reilly Solid Podcast will feature Brady Forrest and Renee DiResta, co-authors (along with Ryan Vineyard) of the new book The Hardware Startup.
Cropped public domain image on article and category pages via The Google Art Project on Wikimedia Commons.