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“There’s been very little in the way of actual numbers or data documenting the growth of the [hardware] ecosystem.

From the editors of MAKE magazine, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Please send items to us at [email protected].

This week: a special issue devoted entirely to a post by Renee DiResta, a principal at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, that addresses something that’s been hard to find in the excitement about hardware and the “new industrial revolution”: data.

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Hardware, by the Numbers


Conventional wisdom around Silicon Valley is that hardware is hot. Influential incubator founders and VCs have been blogging about their interest in the space, and popular tech blogs are constantly writing about prototyping technologies and hardware startup fundraises. However, there’s been very little in the way of actual numbers or data documenting the growth of the ecosystem.

So, let’s have a look at hardware by the numbers: the number of companies started, the flow of venture and crowdfunding dollars, the overall growth of the hardware community, and the degree of broader public interest.

It’s tough to track exactly how many hardware startups are out there, or whether that number has increased over time. One interesting data point to start with is the number that have gone out and attempted to fundraise. AngelList keeps track of this, and was generous enough to share their data. In 2011, 94 hardware companies went out and opened rounds on AngelList … 25 of them successfully closed a round (though not necessarily via AngelList’s platform). In 2012, that number jumped to 267 opened, 96 closed. So far, as of mid-July 2013, 259 have already opened rounds, and there have been 46 closes. While fundraises aren’t an exact proxy for number of startups, those figures make it seem like there is an increasing number of hardware companies. (The slight dip in percentage closed is also an interesting thing to note.)

Let’s have a look at the actual dollar amounts that angels and VCs are investing in hardware startups. CrunchBase and AngelList both track this information. Since we’re looking for indications of a hot market, I pulled data for angel, Series A, and seed rounds.* The information below comes from CrunchBase and is represented in an interactive chart form so you can dig in and see the underlying funding events. The chart is derived from CrunchBase’s funding data from all 12 months of 2011 and 2012; the data from 2013 stops at 30 June 2013.

[Note: click on chart to reach original interactive chart.]

There were 52 early-funding events in 2012, totaling $209.5MM; in the first six months of 2013, there have already been 47, totaling $222.9MM.

Since crowdfunding has had a profound impact on the growth of the hardware startup ecosystem, let’s have a look at Kickstarter data as well. Kickspy is a great resource for tracking Kickstarter project stats.

Year 2011 2012 2013
Hardware Projects 121 248 365
Total Projects 26,319 42,113 23,274
HW as percentage of total 0.46% 0.59% 1.57%
Hardware project dollars raised $2,551,986 $9,750,168 $22,683,014
Hardware project number of backers 19,181 93,870 195,449
All backers 1,438,657 4,496,155 3,354,019
HW backers as percentage of overall 1.33% 2.09% 5.83%

Based on the data, in the first seven months of 2013 we can see an increase in the percentage of hardware** projects on the site, and an increasing percentage of the site’s backers are helping to fund hardware projects.

To gauge community interest, Nick Pinkston (@nickpinkston) recently looked at Hardware Startup Meetup data. The growth in the San Francisco membership roster is interesting (see graph below). Nick has some additional stats about community on his blog, including a map of hardware meetups around the country.

But what’s happening outside the tech and early-adopter communities of Silicon Valley? Checking Google Trends for “hardware startup” was completely inconclusive (seems like a lot of people search for that term when they’re having a difficult time getting their computers to boot up). However, looking at specific hardware-focused technology terms shows that interest in topics such as the “Internet of Things” and “3D printing” is at an all-time high.

 

The examples of growth cited in this post are based on potentially incomplete data. There are some confounding factors (ie, AngelList and Kickstarter are themselves startups that have experienced high growth in their own audience between 2011-2013). There are also other indications of growth that I didn’t touch on here — the arrival of top-notch hardware-specific incubators, and the new crop of logistics and distribution startups designed to help the hardware startups take their products to market. However, overall, all of the data seems to validate the conventional wisdom that investors are paying an increased amount of attention to hardware companies these days. It’s great to see such a thriving ecosystem.

If you know of any other interesting data or touchpoints around the growth of hardware startups, please share in the comments on this blog post!

Many thanks to the folks at AngelListCrunchBase, and Kickspy for their help in pulling together various data sets for this post, and to Justin Hileman for his help with the viz. Also: the folks at Hizook have been keeping tabs on the robotics subset of hardware startups — check out the funding data they’ve compiled!

*You’ll notice some outliers; while most people traditionally think of a Series A as being under $10MM, CrunchBase applies the term more liberally; for example, Anki and Lytro’s $50MM “Series A” rounds. I didn’t include B or later because I felt that those rounds were a function of the specific successes of individual companies than a reflection of investors making early bets on a hot vertical. CrunchBase has it, though, so you can get it if you’d like.

**There is a potential for misclassification to be skewing results here — some projects are classified only as “technology,” and lack the more specific “hardware” tag.

DC Denison

DC Denison

DC Denison is the editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

The former technology editor of The Boston Globe, DC is also interested in content management systems.

One of the places where DC can be found online is Google+ (which I’m adding here only because I want to see if by adding “rel=author” and “rel=me” to those two links I can get Google to display my picture in its search results.)

Hey, it works!


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