"Building a Hardware Business" entries
Time, technology, and adoption are creating IoT momentum.
Download a free copy of “Building a Hardware Business,” a curated collection of chapters from our IoT library. Editor’s note: this post is an excerpt from “Enterprise IoT: Strategies and Best Practices for Connected Products and Services,” by Dirk Slama, Frank Puhlmann, Jim Morrish, and Rishi M. Bhatnagar, which is included in the curated collection.If you did a Google search for “IoT” in 2012, the top results would have included “Illuminates of Thanateros” and “International Oceanic Travel Organization.” A search for “Internet of Things” would have produced a results page with a list of academic papers at the top, but with no advertisements — a strong indicator, if ever there was one, that in 2012, few people spent marketing dollars on the IoT. Two years on, and this had changed dramatically. In 2014, the IoT was one of the most hyped buzzwords in the IT industry. IT analysts everywhere tried to outdo each other’s growth projections for 2020, from Cisco’s 50 billion connected devices to Gartner’s economic value add of $1.9 trillion.
Until we have reached this point in the future, no one can tell just how realistic these predictions are. However, the excitement generated around these growth numbers is significant, not least because it highlights a general industry trend, while also creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. We saw something similar happening with the auctioning of new mobile spectrum in the early 2000s. Literally billions were invested in the mobile Internet. And although it took longer than expected (remember the WAP protocol?), the mobile Internet eventually took off with the launch of Apple’s iPhone, and has since exceeded market expectations.
Meanwhile, Google — another major player in the mobile Internet sphere — has bet heavily on the IoT with its acquisition of Nest and Nest’s subsequent acquisition of DropCam. 2014 also saw many large IT vendors, such as PTC with its acquisitions of ThingWorx and Axeda, pushing themselves into pole position in the race for IoT supremacy. On the industry side of things, many central European manufacturers and engineering companies rallied around the Industry 4.0 initiative, which promotes the use of IoT concepts in manufacturing. GE heavily promoted the Industrial Internet and spearheaded the establishment of the Industrial Internet Consortium. Many industrial companies began implementing IT strategies and launching IoT pilot programs. And slowly, the first real results emerged. Read more…
Creating great hardware and software means avoiding these product-killing pitfalls.
Editor’s note: This post is an excerpt from “Prototype to Product: A Practical Guide for Getting to Market,” by Alan Cohen.Thomas Edison famously said that genius is “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,” and his observation holds true for product development. Developing “genius-level” products certainly requires inspiration, but the bulk of the effort is more like perspiration: work that benefits from insight and cleverness, but is also largely about not screwing up. Most product development efforts fail. It’s been my observation that failures are not usually due to a lack of inspiration (i.e., poor product ideas), but rather from mistakes made during the “perspiration” part.
What follows is a brief catalog of the most popular ways to wound or kill product development projects. Most efforts that get derailed do so by falling into one or more of a small set of fundamental traps that are easy to fall into, but are also fairly avoidable. As an organizational construct, I refer to the specific traps as sins and the more-general negative impulses behind the sins as vices. And since these sins are often fatal, I call them deadly sins to remind ourselves of their degree of danger. Before we get into the specific vices and sins, let’s start off with the fundamental principle that lies behind all of these, a basic truth that largely determines success or failure. Read more…
Turning a hobby into a company just got a lot easier.
Download a free copy of “Building a Hardware Business,” a curated collection of chapters from our IoT library. Editor’s note: this post is an excerpt from “The Hardware Startup,” by Renee DiResta, Brady Forrest, Ryan Vinyard, which is included in the curated collection.
Over the past five years, we’ve begun to witness the emergence of Maker pros: entrepreneurs who started out as hobbyists and now want to turn their creations into full-fledged companies. The difference between a project and a product is the difference between making one and making many.
To turn a project into a company, the product has to be scalable. “Making many” has traditionally been a problem of cost and accessibility; it’s historically been both expensive and difficult to manufacture. Growing a company further requires keeping costs low enough to profit, setting up distribution channels, and managing fulfillment. Over the past few years, several trends have combined to create an environment that’s mitigated those problems. This has resulted in the growth of a hardware startup ecosystem.
Advances in rapid prototyping technologies have fundamentally changed the process of taking an idea from paper to the physical world. Hobbyist and prosumer-level 3D printers, CNC routers, and laser cutters have altered the landscape of personal fabrication, enabling quick and affordable iteration. While 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, the cost of a machine has dropped dramatically. Materials such as metals and ceramics enable higher-fidelity models. Cloud-based fabbing services, such as Ponoko and Shapeways, can produce a single prototype and ship it to you within a week — no need to own the printer yourself! Inexpensive boards (such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and BeagleBone) make electronics prototyping accessible to everyone. As interest in the Internet of Things has grown, products such as Spark Core and Electric Imp (startups themselves) have hit the market to make connected-device prototyping fast and easy. Simultaneously, computer-aided design (CAD) software has become more sophisticated, more affordable, and easier to use. Read more…
A free compilation of chapter excerpts from our IoT library highlights the approachable complexity of hardware.
Download a free copy of “Building a Hardware Business,” a curated compilation of chapter excerpts from our IoT library.Over the last few years, we’ve seen an astonishing change in what it takes to build a hardware business. Hardware remains hard — executing it well requires technical and marketing expertise in several fields — but the barriers that startups must cross have been lowered considerably.
That change has come about as a result of several changes in the way the market approaches hardware.
- Customers, whether consumers or businesses, have become aware of what hardware and connected devices can do for them. The Internet of Things means more than connected refrigerators now. For consumers, it represents desirable products like the NEST thermostat and Apple Watch. For managers, it represents the highest standards of informed decision-making and operational efficiency in everything from delivery fleets to heavy machines to simple design-driven data.
- Connecting with those customers has become easier. Startups can sell directly to niche consumers through online channels with the help of Etsy, Tindie, and ShopLocket, which are vastly easier to deal with than big-box retailers. These platforms also return rapid market feedback and offer ways for companies to connect with their consumers and build communities without intermediaries.
- Funding has become available through new mechanisms at every stage. Crowdfunding helps entrepreneurs test their ideas in the marketplace and raise enough money for early development. Venture capitalists, impressed by recent exits and aware of the vast green fields awaiting the Internet of Things, are willing to invest. Supply-chain managers like PCH are willing to take equity stakes in return for invoice financing, addressing a critical cash-flow challenge that can be a big barrier to startups looking to have products manufactured in large quantities.