11 Steps to Creating a Hardware Startup

January 26, 2016

This is an exciting time to be a hardware entrepreneur.  For the past two decades, the majority of the startups and venture capital  in the US have been focused on software and the internet. This is no longer the case. 

We are now in the age of the hardware startup.  Three new technology developments have opened the door for this exciting new era: rapid prototyping, cheap and flexible computing platforms, and hardware startup accelerators.  We will explore these developments further in later blog posts. 

For now, let’s explore how to get in on the action! Below are 11 steps to creating a hardware startup. Each of these steps takes a significant amount of planning, research and time. However, this is your path to fame and fortune - nothing worth having comes without hard work.

  1. Brainstorm a big list of ideas. Find a place where you can focus without any distractions and start listing anything and everything that comes to mind. Think through your daily routine, your workflow, the hardware you interact with and let the ideas flow. Put the list down several times and come back to it. If you can, get other people involved in the process and bounce ideas off each other.

  2. Choose the best 2-3 ideas through a survey with friends and family. Once you have your list from brainstorming, pick out 10-15 ideas you think are the most promising and share them with everyone you know. Get their feedback and narrow the list down to the top 2-3 ideas that received the best response.

  3. Develop prototypes and graphics as cheaply and as quickly as possible. Create a rough, working prototype of the top 2-3 ideas (this is where the rapid prototyping and flexible computing platforms come in) and draw up some graphics that show how your idea would look when market-ready.

  4. Test out your concepts through Facebook ads. Create a Facebook product page for each of your ideas using pictures of your prototypes and the graphics your created. Then run a simple Facebook ad campaign showing each of your products.

  5. Enter design competitions. Submit each of your ideas to hardware design competitions like TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield and Engadget Insert Coin.

  6. Create a landing page. The engagement with your Facebook ad campaigns will show you which idea is the most popular. Any invitations to design competitions from your submissions will lead you to the best idea as well. Grab the top performing idea, kill off the rest and create a landing page for your product. Use that landing page to gather emails of people that are interested in your product by attending trade shows and running Facebook ad campaigns.

  7. Develop the top idea and crowdfund. Pick a crowdfunding platform that best fits your product, build your campaign page and run a campaign. Email the people who signed up on your landing page when you launch your campaign to create momentum on day one. Use Facebook ads, cross-promotions with other crowdfunding campaigns, and PR to drive traffic to your campaign. Track your conversions with Google Analytics to see which channels perform the best and tune your ad spending and marketing.

  8. Run a pre-order campaign. After your crowdfunding campaign comes to a successful finish, set up a website with ecommerce capability, like weebly or Squarespace and start taking pre-orders.

  9. Roll out production. Find a manufacturing partner, ramp up production and fulfill your crowdfunding orders and pre-orders.  This is easier said than done.

  10. Sell online. Transition your website from pre-orders to orders, build out your store and sell, sell, sell. Monitor your sales with Google Analytics ecommerce tracking. Remarket to website visitors through Google Adwords and Facebook. Utilize Facebook and Google Adwords conversion pixels to fine tune your ad campaigns. Optimize your website for conversions with A/B testing using Optimizely. Run sweepstakes contests using Viralsweep. Create as many landing pages as you can stomach with Leadpages. Use exit technology products like picreel and drivemill to drive online sales.

  11. Slowly move into retail using small test markets. Find smaller stores in your most promising markets and start selling your product. As you learn more about how to engage with your customers in retail, expand your market.

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