The Hard­ware Club that’s feed­ing Hard­ware Star­tups

Technowize Magazine - - Technowize Features -

Two years ago, af­ter hear­ing a hard­ware startup com­plain about how painful it is to scale in hard­ware, bar­bara belvisi de­cided to act on it. build­ing a hard­ware startup is hard. Hard­ware en­trepreneurs have to do some up­front leg­work: 1.) build a sus­tain­able go-to-mar­ket strat­egy; 2.) Man­age cash-flow, 3.) iden­tify the right con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers, and 4.) build a costs im­prove­ments strat­egy. Get any one of this steps wrong and your startup is doomed, and that’s be­cause the world of hard­ware does not al­low it­er­a­tion. belvisi found that the best way to start was to bring hard­ware en­trepreneurs to­gether around din­ner, so they could ex­change their ex­pe­ri­ences. Ev­ery ecosys­tem she came across re­in­forced the ini­tial vi­sion: a com­mu­nity; a place for hard­ware en­trepreneurs to gather, share

best prac­tices, and build com­mon knowl­edge. Thus, the Hard­ware Club was born!

The pair of ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists, bar­bara belvisi and Alexis Hous­sou first met while at­tend­ing busi­ness school in Lyon, France ten years ago. belvisi is a self-de­scribed geek and has been a fan of ro­bots and dis­rup­tive hard­ware. Hous­sou has a strong in­ter­est in fi­nance and en­trepreneur­ship. She worked in ven­ture cap­i­tal for sev­eral years, while Hous­sou co­founded a dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing com­pany be­fore go­ing to work as a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor at one of France’s largest banks, BNP Paribus.

in 2012, the duo formed Ele­phants & Ven­tures, which backed hard­ware and soft­ware com­pa­nies. it was here

that they felt that the tra­di­tional model didn’t re­ally fit the new wave of emer­gence in hard­ware. Their search for a so­lu­tion be­gan with a se­ries of in­for­mal din­ners with hard­ware en­trepreneurs around the world, where they dis­cussed the is­sue faced and so­lu­tions they had found. The meet­ings con­tin­ued to draw more mem­bers, un­til the duo for­mally an­nounced the cre­ation of the Hard­ware Club in Jan­uary 2015.

The first Hard­ware Club din­ner was at­tended by the five most promis­ing hard­ware star­tups in France & Europe: Aë­dle, ISKN, Lima, Prynt, and Smokio. The col­lab­o­ra­tion sur­passed any ex­pec­ta­tions belvisi had at first. Point­ers on re­tail and dis­tri­bu­tion strat­egy were ex­changed, rec­om­men­da­tions on part­ners in man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion, and the ben­e­fits of the newly formed hard­ware com­mu­nity.

Since then, belvisi has or­ga­nized The Hard­ware Club meets in 7 dif­fer­ent cities, in­clud­ing ber­lin, Las Ve­gas, Lon­don and Shen­zhen, and over 100 hard­ware en­trepreneurs have joined. The hard­ware star­tups have col­lec­tively raised more than $12 mil­lion on crowd­fund­ing plat­forms like in­diegogo and Kick­starter and man­aged to se­cure over $37 mil­lion in VC fund­ing.

“We looked at what was go­ing on with hard­ware and the in­ter­net of Things,” said belvisi in an in­ter­view with Ven­ture­beat. “When we dug a lit­tle bit more and looked at hard­ware star­tups, we thought this rev­o­lu­tion was not go­ing to hap­pen be­cause ev­ery­one was rein­vent­ing the wheel and not co­op­er­at­ing. This is not go­ing to hap­pen if this ecosys­tem re­mains closed and ev­ery­one is fight­ing against each other.”

The hard­ware land­scape has dra­mat­i­cally changed in the past decade. it’s brim­ming with crowd­fund­ing plat­forms, new con­nec­tiv­ity sys­tems, and lower costs. Ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists who would run from hard­ware are now pour­ing more funds into hard­ware star­tups. The hard­ware rev­o­lu­tion is more vis­i­ble in early stage star­tups. New­com­ers are no longer afraid to en­ter the startup ecosys­tem, thanks to pro­to­typ­ing meth­ods and the power of crowd­fund­ing.

The emer­gence of hard­ware ac­cel­er­a­tors, mee­tups, and labs have made things much sim­pler for early stage star­tups. Over the course of the last two years, Paris-based Hard­ware Club has an­nounced more pro­grams to be­come a vi­tal cat­a­lyst for the hard­ware rev­o­lu­tion. its long-term strat­egy is to cre­ate a com­mu­nity with the most promis­ing hard­ware star­tups. it cherry picks the best star­tups and in­vests di­rectly in the ones at the seed or Se­ries A level at a larger scale.

SCHOOL is de­signed as an ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram made of on­line cour­ses and free on­line pre­sen­ta­tions. it

launched the first on­line course, called #Hack­the­crowd, ded­i­cated to sup­port­ing en­trepreneurs in the launch of their crowd­fund­ing cam­paigns. The on­line course is lever­ag­ing the com­mu­nity, fea­tur­ing feed­back from over 25 crowd­fund­ing grad­u­ates and ex­perts like in­diegogo, Omage, Lima, Dragon in­no­va­tion, Nar­ra­tive, and many oth­ers.

A few months ago, the Hard­ware Club opened a mem­ber­ship-based pro­gram called SCALE, which lever­ages on the com­mu­nity to sup­port hand-picked star­tups through re­sources and smart cap­i­tal.

Today, The Hard­ware Club as over 90 star­tups from 20 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, where you can touch base with all the founders di­rectly to ask for feed­back, in­struc­tions and more. it has also formed part­ner­ships with man­u­fac­tur­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and ser­vice providers. Next, it has signed on over 120 cor­po­rate part­ners, in­clud­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing big­wigs like Fox­conn and dis­trib­u­tors like Tar­get and Ama­zon. Fi­nally, it or­ga­nizes reg­u­lar Hard­ware Club events around the world, so founders can share their ex­pe­ri­ences and grow their net­work.

The Hard­ware Club screens ev­ery sin­gle ap­pli­ca­tion it re­ceives as it doesn’t ac­cept very early stage hard­ware star­tups. A lot of times, th­ese star­tups have al­ready done a suc­cess­ful Kick­starter or in­diegogo cam­paign, and are about to go into mass pro­duc­tion and have yet to raise a VC round. Of course, there have been ex­cep­tions in the past, and a lot of com­pa­nies have been ac­cepted in the past have grown by leaps and bounds. Take a look at some of the club mem­bers, Click&grow, H y p e r l o o p Tr a n s p o r t a t i o n Tech­nolo­gies, Va­pio, Mis­fit, Nar­ra­tive, Prynt, ISKN, Thync, and Lima.

The Hard­ware Club en­joys a unique po­si­tion in the hard­ware com­mu­nity. it can rec­om­mend a man­u­fac­turer over another, or it can black­list a dis­trib­u­tor if there are some is­sues. it has also raised an undis­closed amount of money from bruno Maison­nier, Marie Eke­land, Pas­cal Cagni, Ruota Mat­suzaki, and Stephane Distin­guin. it has also added new part­ners in the past few months, for­mer Qual­com­mAtheros se­nior en­gi­neer Jerry Yang and for­mer Ap­ple em­ployee Caro­line Lair.

Ex­ist­ing and fu­ture Hard­ware Club mem­bers en­joy ac­cess to the same re­sources. Although, some star­tups also re­ceive fund­ing. The

club also makes sure that it does not ac­cept di­rect com­peti­tors. in re­cent months, Hard­ware Club has made in­vest­ments di­rectly in a few star­tups, smart home ro­bot maker Keecker and gam­ing ro­bot maker Reach Ro­bot­ics.

in De­cem­ber 2016, Hard­ware Club formed a part­ner­ship with Har­rods depart­ment store in Lon­don to place a small pop-up store in­side. The idea was that Hard­ware Club would de­sign it, cre­ate the ex­pe­ri­ence, and train the Har­rods’ em­ployee who would work in the space. it has over 25 star­tups to sell their prod­ucts. The space al­lowed cus­tomers to try the prod­ucts and re­ceive de­tailed in­for­ma­tion from trained em­ploy­ees. Har­rods, on the other end, wants to work with more star­tups, although it found it chal­leng­ing to con­nect and vet all the new gad­gets.

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