Top Five Mistakes Made By Hardware Start-ups


While we serve clients of all sizes, from small industrial goods providers to Fortune 500 consumer products companies, we have a special place in our hearts for early stage start-ups. While they often require a lot of hand holding on our part, and they all certainly don’t make it, how can’t you not be swept up by the energy and spirit of a start-up?

These companies are driven by the vision of the founder (it’s usually one guy or gal, occasionally it can be a small team). She has invented a unique product and won’t let anything get between her and the goal. We get just as excited as the founder, climb on the bus and throw our energy and experience into getting the new hardware built.

Having done this many times, we’ve learned that there are a number of mistakes or pitfalls that early stage companies repeat again and again. We’ve drawn up a list of the “Top Five Mistakes Made By Hardware Start-Ups’ and it’s shown below in the form of “The Most Important Things To Remember in a Hardware Start-Up’..

  1. Know how much your customers will pay for the product. Don’t guess – do your market research. Invest in photo realistic renderings and models and hold voice of the customer sessions to really learn what your market wants and the effective price point.
  2. Talk with an IP attorney before you start manufacturing and protect your device, copyright and trade marks. Don’t wait to “test the market”. IP protection represents money well spent.
  3. Finish the design. Going out to contract manufacturers with a partial design that doesn’t include a complete BOM, CAD files, tolerance & surface finishes and Product Requirements Document (PRD) is paving your path forward with bottle caps, broken glass and thumb tacks. Manufacturers won’t “get it” and fill in the blanks in such a way as to support your product vision.
  4. Plan for more time than you imagine is necessary… There are thousands of details associated with a hardware start-up. Some you can imagine, some you can’t. Not all of them can be tackled by the founder. Be prepared to ask for help.
  5. Budget enough money to fund the entire launch effort. It’s more than you can believe. Most simple consumer products require at least $375K to get to the cusp of commercialization. Vendors won’t fund the project no matter how cool the design may be.

We think that elements on our fall into the category of common sense… Pay attention to these items and that rocky path will look more like a freshly paved stretch of interstate.


Jack Daniels

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