Building any type of consumer electronics is hard work. Determining whether or not your project will stay afloat a year later is even harder to imagine. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re on the right track to success.

  • Solid communication I think this is one of the main problems that most early startups and companies face that should be constantly monitored and improved upon. Not only does it help keep the team cohesive it prevents (among lots of other things) duplication of work and fosters a sense of belonging. I just recently read a great article on FirstRound discussing John Milinovich’s (CEO of URX) methods to communicating with his fellow teammates.

One liner takeaway:

If you become a leader in your company/group/team/whatever communicate and listen regularly.

  • Attitude: Attitude can make or break a team. As it was mentioned in the article on FirstRound, the mood and demeanor of a leader in a group will influence how the rest of the team feels at that very moment. Stressed out? Getting mad? Most likely you’re teammates are feeling the same. I’ve personally been guilty of this at some (needlessly) stressful points in my life. It doesn’t do anyone any good to show that you’re frustrated or angry because of a trivial conversation with a teammate or some piece of code that won’t compile.

One liner takeaway:

Check your attitude at the door. Your teammates will thank you for it.

  • Don’t do it for the money: Don’t make it your goal to get funding before you even have built your product. Hardware, in the past few years, has become a fad with venture capitalists. Most firms are chomping at the bit to own a piece of the next big acquisition (read: Oculus Rift, Nest). The moment you take a venture capitalist’s money, the expectations for your project will undoubtedly increase (at least) ten fold. What you would consider a success without VC funding (lets say a Kickstarter resulting in 2000 sales netting 120k revenue) would be considered failure because the expectation from your new partners is approximately 17,000 sales resulting in about 1 million dollars in revenue.

Unfortunately, some projects require allot of capital. Want to build a brand (overnight) that will have a lifespan of more than 2 years? Want to build a team of experienced engineers and designers to develop a product pipeline? These are the things that require millions and millions of venture capitalist dollars. Don’t be discouraged though, some of the biggest brands (and richest people) we know of had humble beginnings.

  • Apple was formed by two guys: one with a vision and one with the smarts to execute on that vision.
  • Li Ka-shing grew his empire in China by selling plastic flowers.
  • Warren Buffet grew his first fund by borrowing money from family and friends.

As I’ve have gone through and continue to go through this journey myself, I recommend to bootstrap your project as much as possible. Avoid borrowing any kind of money until you can prove (with numerical data) that the widget you want to sell has a market with people who want to buy said widget. One of the best ways to validate a product is to see how many people would fork over money for your product in real life. But, be warned, before you take anyone’s money:

a) Validate the functionality of your core product

b) Have a clear idea of how much it will cost you to make (this requires intimate knowledge of your bill of materials and some actual RFQs from your local friendly contract manufacturer)

I just read a great guide by Adam Benzion detailing some great resources (most of which i’ve either used myself or know of) and information when it comes to bootstrapping a hardware project.

Also, as a bonus, here is a video of Limor Fried (Lady Ada) discussing the success and growth of Adafruit (which, by the way, started on a shoe-string budget).

One liner takeaway:

Start small. Prototype,Validate,Build,Repeat.

These are only a few things that have been on my mind lately. Feel free to sound off in the comments. I’ll be back next week with more rants on startup life.

Cheers,

Jared