Brady Forrest and Renee DiResta on advising hardware startups

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Hardware startup success stories, pitfalls, and best practices.

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John_Sell_Cotman,_Norwich_Market_Place,_1806_(low_resolution)Hardware startups are starting to look like software startups: a lean company can bring a reasonably simple piece of consumer electronics to market for a few hundred thousand dollars.

Behind that low figure are technological advances (like 3D printing and CNC machining that make prototyping faster and easier) as well as organizational advances — in particular, hardware incubators and accelerators that offer funding and help founders work their way through the product development process.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Renee DiResta and Brady Forrest, co-authors (along with Ryan Vineyard) of The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business and Brand. DiResta is vice president of business development at Haven, a marketplace for ocean freight shipping, and Forrest runs Highway1, a leading hardware incubator.

Forrest and DiResta take us into the trenches on a wide range of topics, including design for manufacture (DFM), idea validation, crowdfunding, cost control, marketing, packaging, and shipping. It’s a quick tour of the tricky areas of expertise that hardware founders need to develop.

Forrest, who will be featured on the Syfy docu-series “Bazillion Dollar Club” (which debuts on September 22), tells us about the traits that Highway1 looks for in a startup team.

“We look for there to be at least one engineer on the team,” he says, “and I like to see a team that has known each other for a while, has already had conflict, and knows how to resolve it.”

We also hear from Forrest and DiResta (who spoke at Solid 2015) about the biggest mistakes that hardware startups make. DiResta talks about companies not having a consistent story. Forrest cites companies going to crowdfunding too soon.

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