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Sparse's Story Illustrates the Potholes Faced By Hardware Start-Ups 103

Posted by timothy
from the oh-you-wanted-them-in-black? dept.
waderoush (1271548) writes "Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion. Bits and atoms aren't so different after all, the creed goes; just as the cost and complexity of starting a software company has drastically declined over the last decade, it's now becoming much cheaper and easier to start companies that make physical things. But talk to almost any real hardware company, and you'll discover that the promised land is still some distance away. Sparse, a San Francisco product design startup, learned that the hard way. The company raised $66,000 on Kickstarter for its uber-cool theft-proof bicycle lights, but it took more than a year to deliver the first units to backers, thanks to a string of unforeseen manufacturing and supply-chain snafus. 'We had all the t's crossed and all the i's dotted and still there was a big daily surprise,' says industrial designer Colin Owen, Sparse's co-founder and CEO. Today Sparse is shipping and profitable, with a vision to 'change the face of mobility' for urban cyclists, but its story illustrates just how high the bar still is for aspiring hardware entrepreneurs. Says Owen: 'I wish there was more of a handbook for these things, but the biggest hiccups were very localized and unpredictable.'"
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Sparse's Story Illustrates the Potholes Faced By Hardware Start-Ups

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  • One year (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drolli (522659) on Friday June 06, 2014 @08:19PM (#47184271) Journal

    from "no company" to "company delivers a product to customers" is not bad at all.

  • Concentration (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dbIII (701233) on Friday June 06, 2014 @08:30PM (#47184323)

    thanks to a string of unforeseen manufacturing and supply-chain snafus

    That's why China already owns the USA's ass in manufacturing. There are too many holes in the manufacturing capability now while in China the place to make that other thing is just down the road - like it used to be in the USA.

  • by erice (13380) on Friday June 06, 2014 @08:49PM (#47184411) Homepage

    Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion. Bits and atoms aren't so different after all, the creed goes; just as the cost and complexity of starting a software company has drastically declined over the last decade, it's now becoming much cheaper and easier to start companies that make physical things. But talk to almost any real hardware company, and you'll discover that the promised land is still some distance away.

    No. Hardware is Silicon Valley's founding religion. Software came later and now real hardware startups can not get funding. Sparce's experience shows that even if your development is trivial (no significant R&D) and you don't do any of the manufacturing yourself, it can still be a bumpy road to selling product.

    I see no evidence that this is improving. All that has happened is that ambitious hardware startups no longer happen and people are getting excited over hobby scale development that didn't use to make the news. Well, to be fair, Kickstarter has allowed "super hobby" scale developments to take off that used to fall into a no-man's land. They were too small to form a viable business around and yet too big for a couple of guys to pull off in their spare time. Still, this is nowhere near a hardware renaissance. The promise land is not just some distance away. There is little evidence that we are going there.

  • Re:Concentration (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:51PM (#47184671)

    and because environmental and human safety does NOT MATTER in china. people die? who cares. air can't be breathed? who cares. but hey, they are selling walmart shit to us and so, wow, go china, go! ;(

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 07, 2014 @02:38AM (#47185345) Homepage

    Too many of these supposed "high tech hardware startups" are producing the kind of crap that came from China two decades ago and Japan four decades ago. Bicycle lights. iPhone cases. Even the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino are just PC boards stuck under systems on a chip made in China. This is not high tech.

    There were some guys at TechShop last year making a plastic gizmo for attaching an iWhatever to a an auto dashboard. They had a big "Made in Silicon Valley" poster. I felt they were embarassing Silicon Valley.

    We need to do better than this.

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