Making hardware is tough, but FounderDating is trying to make it a bit easier.
The members-only LinkedIn for entrepreneurs is launching new features that it hopes will help hardware enthusiasts to meet, share ideas, and hopefully start companies.
The company realized it needed to do more to support hardware startups, which had been flocking to the site even thought it wasn’t really catering to them, FounderDating CEO Jessica Alter told VentureBeat.
“Honestly, we were doing a pretty crappy job of helping them,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
For hardware enthusiasts, the biggest improvement is granularity. Recognizing that the word “hardware” can mean “wearables” or “3D printing,” or “connected devices” depending on whom you ask, FounderDating now lets users search for partners using very specific keywords like “mechanical engineering” and “industrial design.”
“We’re really trying to make it much more likely that hardware people can find and learn from each other,” Alter said.
Taking the “hard” out of hardware
All of this emerges from understanding a very basic reality about starting a hardware company: It involves a lot of moving parts, and far more than what you typically see in the software world. Hardware is complicated.
The biggest and most difficult of these moving parts is the supply chain. It may be easy for Kickstarter darlings like Pebble to think up ideas and raise money, but it’s much harder to turn all of that into actual products — let alone viable businesses.
Hardware also comes with another unavoidable risk: When Pebble ships its smartwatch, there’s no patch that can fix a hardware glitch. With hardware, the shipped product is the final product, which means there’s very little margin for error.
To make sure hardware companies understand these and other realities of the supply chain, FounderDating is teaming up with Highway1, a startup incubator created by distribution giant PCH International. If Highway1 does its job right, FounderDating’s hardware entrepreneurs are going to have a deeper, more nuanced understanding of how manufacturing works — which should help them avoid some of the pratfalls common with young hardware companies.
“In hardware, people accept they need business help, especially in understanding manufacturing, the supply chain, and distribution. We’re hoping this understanding becomes part of all the founding teams,” Alter said.
The launch of FounderDating Hardware comes at a very interesting and exciting time for hardware startups, which have traditionally had a hard time getting both started and funded. But with the rise of cheap 3D printing (for prototyping) sites like Kickstarter (for crowdfunding) and now FounderDating (for knowledge sharing), it’s rapidly becoming a lot easier for hardware companies to get started. And it’s going to be a lot easier to make the next Pebble.
“All startups hit points where they don’t know something. The question is, how fast can they get to the answer?” Alter said.