Maker Pro News: A Great Startup Doesn’t Need a Breakthrough Technology

Computers & Mobile Technology
Maker Pro News: A Great Startup Doesn’t Need a Breakthrough Technology

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“At some point we may not be a hardware company anymore.” – Bragi Executive Vice President Darko Dragicevic

Second Time’s the Charm

Entrepreneurs often promote their products as breakthroughs, or the first of a new category. But even though a totally new idea can occasionally take the world by storm, it’s often more prudent to watch the market for a new proof of concept, then move into its space with a more compelling version.

In a terrific new blog postBolt co-founder Ben Einstein analyzes the role of “predicate companies” — brands that demonstrate customer demand for a new product or service, but don’t necessarily bring the idea to its full potential. His key example is Peloton, a consumer-oriented stationary bike that streams spin class lessons into buyers’ homes.

But there would be no Peloton, Einstein argues, without the success of SoulCycle, the popular chain of exercise studios where instructors lead group stationary bike rides. SoulCycle, according to Einstein, demonstrated a new customer behavior — and Peloton, realizing that there was an entire unexplored opportunity for exercise buffs who wanted a similar experience at home, moved into that space with a beautifully designed hardware product.

Can Open-Source Hardware Be Like Open-Source Software

Open source software has come to dominate the world, from the countless servers running Linux to every phone powered by Android. In a provocative new pieceHackaday’s Elliot Williams asks whether the same thing could happen to open source hardware.

There are pain points, Williams acknowledges, wherever manufacturing is required — hardware will probably never be as simple as downloading a patch. At the same time, he argues, we’re living in the golden age of small-scale manufacturing — and that’s an opportunity for maker pros.

Building a Maker Pro Business Outside a Tech Hub

It’s worth checking out this terrific new piece by 3d Innovations that looks at how maker pros can grow their businesses outside a major tech hub. Key takeaways: focus on the product, seek out local support, leverage your existing connections and find people who have forged similar paths.

“Connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs that you admire online — via blogs, their websites, weekly digest emails,” reads the guide. “You don’t necessarily have to have a two-way conversation with them to glean useful information that you can put into practice.”

We’ve written previously about hardware entrepreneurs who are launching and building their businesses outside of traditional tech havens — like Kela Ivonye, who founded his smart mailbox company MailHaven in Louisville, Kentucky.

Toe to Toe with Big Tech

We’ve written before about the difficulty small companies face when they enter the same markets as big tech. But for German startup Bragi, that’s part of the appeal.

According to a new TechCrunch profile, the company is eagerly working on a pivot from its flagship Bluetooth earbuds into a whole ecosystem of IoT devices that, according to an executive, will be meant to compete with offerings from Google.

“At some point we may not be a hardware company anymore,” Bragi Executive Vice President Darko Dragicevic said. “That was the plan from the beginning. That was not really a secret.”

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Hardware projects can attract less funding that software, because of the many perils involved in bringing a product to market. But there’s still hot interest in the space — according to a new report, 31 Boston startups raised more than $367 million in February.

Elevation Lab posted a harrowing account of how their flagship headphone mount was stolen by overseas counterfeiters. And if you’re worried about unscrupulous imitators, check out this guide, from last year, about how to deal with fraudsters on online markets.

Vegans rejoice: the hackers at makerspace and DIY bio lab Scihouse have figured out a way to grow a leather-like material from the bacteria that makes the fizzy drink kombucha.

Particle founder Zach Supalla called last week for a new approach to the IoT — one that moved beyond low-security gimmicks and into serious use-cases like manufacturing and environmental monitoring.

Automaker Volvo announced a venture capital fund that it will use to explore everything from new manufacturing processes to car maintenance, machine learning and microtransactions.

Make: Senior Editor Caleb Kraft wanted a mid century modern desk in the style of Helmut Magg — but since those units often go for $5,000 or more, he decided to make his own with a CNC router. The result is impressive.

Opportunity knocked — or maybe rang — this week for smart doorbell Ring, which accepted a whopping billion dollar acquisition offer from Amazon. The buy is part of a larger strategy by Amazon to shore up its smart home assets.

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

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian