On November 6th, 2019 over 150 hardware innovators, industry professionals, and investors from the SF Bay Area hardware ecosystem gathered for an evening of discussion, networking, and dealmaking at Mind the Bridge Innovation Center.

Numerous hardware industry experts from different disciplines discussed and shared key insights as well as provided tangible stories and business realities around developing and scaling new products.

Below are some key takeaways from this year’s Hardware Summit and if you have the time, make sure to watch the videos as there are some great nuggets of advice for a hardware innovator at any stage of development.

The Strategy - Building the Right Team, the Road Map, and Critical Considerations

Our strategy panelists touched on some very relevant topics both at a high level as well providing many specific examples on how hardware founders should approach building and scaling their products and companies.

The panelists were:

  • Alex Witkowski – Founder at Witkowski Law
  • Kelly Koyne – Managing Partner at Grit Ventures
  • Alec Rivers – Co-Founder at Shaper Tools
  • Anne Cocquyt -Founder & CEO at The Guild

Some Key Takeaways

  1. Approach building your founding team by finding people that relate to the customer of the product you are trying to develop and sell. Then as you scale to include a diverse team that represents the community of people who will buy your product.
  2. When designing products its important to build diversity into all aspects of the product. Looking at things from all different angles so you can address different customers perspectives to build a more inclusive product.
  3. Testing your product as early and as often as you can during all stages of development including EVT, DVT and PVT. You want to make sure to test your product for consumer readiness.
  4. Having a patent or patent pending doesn’t guarantee funding anymore. Investors want to see a clear go to market strategy, testing and pilot program as well as customer validation before you go raise a Seed round.
  5. When deciding if your product is patentable or if it is worth patenting all together comes down between the intersection of three things: What is it that you are protecting, does the end customer care about what you are protecting and can you convince the USPTO that your tech is new and non-obvious

There are so many specifics and stories provided by each speaker that I recommend taking the time to watch the first 20-30 minutes of the recorded video below.

The Operations - How to Design for Growth and Avoid the Killer Pitfalls

Our operation panelists go more into the nitty gritty of operations, manufacturing and avoid common pitfalls. They shared numerous horror stories and some great tangible pieces of advice any current hardware founder could use today to help navigate their way to a sustainable product.

The panelists were:

  • Dana Madlem – VP of Services at Rush Order
  • Chrissy Meyer – Partner at Root Ventures
  • Darragh Hudson – Founder at Kaizen Dynamic

Some Key Takeaways

  1. As a hardware founder there are many business operations you need to understand and ultimately do yourself. However, at what point does it make sense to seek outside help to navigate within these business operations and what the consequences are if you decide to take them on yourself.
  2. There is a reason that hardware development takes longer and why you must move through each phase methodically and not approach your hardware development as if you are approaching a software product. Every decision you make has consequences and you’ll need to make compromises throughout the process of developing your product.
  3. Review different methods of virtual prototyping and the technologies at your disposal as well as time saving methods for development that could ultimately save you time and money up front.
  4. Test how your product behaves and interacts in real customer environments and consider front loading reliability testing and continuing this testing throughout hardware development.
  5. Design your product with flexibility and agility in the supply chain so when changes or updates need to be made, it can save you time and money as well as avoid further delays in shipments.
  6. Hemorrhaging money and holding onto inventory are the biggest cash flow problems startups face especially when you start to scale your product. Another important topic is to understand your payment terms with factories and negotiating these so you actually have the cash at hand to cover the production run.

Highly recommend watching the entire video below as there are so many specifics and nuggets of advice to consider.

Trade Policies, IP, and the Future of the Hardware Supply Chain

Out fireside chat was a very interesting and eye-opening discussion on the current ongoing trade war and what all this means for companies manufacturing and exporting goods out of China and importing them into the US.

The panelists were:

  1. Mark Cohen – Director and Distinguished Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley
  2. Philip Rogers – PhD Candidate at UC Berkeley

Some Key Takeaways

  1. The whole trade war was rooted in forced tech transfer from China companies investing in US companies to ultimately acquire their tech. However, the laws impacting this were actually changed and China gave us the terms we wanted in regard to tech transfer and investment.
  2. Key industries that have been disrupted by tariffs and the standard industry classification are mainly in high tech area like telecom and scientific equipment with usually an over extensive supply chain.
  3. The tariffs have driven demand for manufacturing outside of China in other markets such as Taiwan and some bigger OEMS are looking actively outside China to manufacture goods in order to provide more stability to the US market.
  4. The current Trump administration wants to see a decoupling from Made in China and have products manufactured outside of China.
  5. Reviewing the idea of how not to be made in China and the concept of substantial transformation so the product is not classified as made in China. Looking at the specifics of what defines the principle character of the product.
  6. How a company can reduce the valuation of goods as they are exported out of the country to lower your import duties. Best to consult a custom lawyer as there lots of details and options to consider.
  7. China is a hyper patent environment with more patents being filed than any other country. Things in Chinese court also move much faster and are cheaper to enforce. It’s also critical to consider to filing your own patent in China as well as consider negotiating ownership of your designs when going to manufacture in China.

Thanks To Our Sponsors

  1. Kaizen Dynamic - www.kaizendynamic.com
  2. Rush Order - www.rushorder.com
  3. Savvy Print - https://savvyprint.com/
  4. Witkowski Law - https://www.witkowskilaw.com/

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Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall

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