Back in 2008, Paul Graham of Y Combinator shared some ideas of “startups we’d like to fund”. In the same list of ideas for startups, Paul listed “Hardware/Software Startups” such as Meraki. Since Meraki was acquired by Cisco 4 years later for $1.2 billion, I’d chalk that up to a fairly astute consideration.
In the last several years, with the advent of cloud hosting such as Amazon AWS or Azure, with collaboration platforms from Heroku to GitHub, a highly available worldwide labor market for design and engineering, and a slew of “startups for startups” such as LaunchRock, one can engage in a software startup on a 4 or 5 digit budget, rather than a 6 or 7 figure budget of years gone by.
A number of trends of late are moving hardware design and development towards similar levels of accessibility in a way never before possible. Moreso, platforms such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi are bringing software-like agility and iteration to hardware development. For under $100, a newcomer to hardware with an idea for sensor-aware hardware that tethers to the cloud through a phone, wifi, or Bluetooth connection, can be up and running with a prototype in weeks. The increasing miniaturization of Arduino form factors, allows prototyping and testing of product/market fit to be undertaken without the need for PCB design and pick-and-place of components. Furthermore, the availability and lowcost of 3D printing and techshops, ushers in an era of industrial design within reach. Software is no longer eating the world by itself. Hardware has found it’s appetite again.
And so just as Paul Graham predicted back in 2008, that “startups for startups” would be an interesting opportunity for rapid growth companies (and I think GitHub and Heroku, amongst others, would agree), so too is the same opportunity creating itself for hardware+software startups to support hardware+software startups.
I’m going to focus on a number of these in ensuing posts; are there any such startups that you’re tracking ?