Tech entrepreneurs can be tough to shop for. They are notorious workaholics with separation anxiety when it comes to their business. As a result, it can take serious planning to attract their attention — if you’re not a check-bearing VC or a member of their target market.
So, how do you shop for such a person?
One of the keys to getting an entrepreneur a gift they love is working with their startup obsession, not against it.
Let’s be honest — a nice new shirt is likely to get thrown in the closet in favor of startup swag and hoodies. A relaxing weekend getaway is time wasted not working. A state-of-the-art Vitamix blender for “body-hacking” will just gather dust, since it’s easier to buy a smoothie than expend valuable energy gathering and mixing ingredients.
Rather than manually prying their blue-light glazed eyeballs and keyboard-toned fingers away from their computers, why not get the entrepreneur in your life one of the gifts from this list? They are sure to surprise, delight, and provide momentary distraction from MAUs (monthly active users).
If these suggestions don’t interest you, check out our entrepreneur gift guide from 2012.
Nimbus personal dashboard
Entrepreneurs generally have a lot on their mind. Keeping tabs on all the moving parts of a startup and prioritizing is a daily struggle.
The Nimbus personal dashboard offers a simple way to stay on top of everything — with retro gauges. This customizable four-dial dashboard connects to streams of information that are important to you. It can monitor your commute traffic, weather, email, stocks, calendar, social media, and fitness trackers, and it provides a quick way to see what needs immediate attention.
Inbox getting to “out of control” proportions? Nimbus can show you how many unread messages you have. Traffic terrible? You don’t need to check traffic reports to find out.
Developed on Quirky, the device is $130. It is also at BestBuy and the Home Depot.
Getting entrepreneurs to clean the house can be tough. I know, I’ve tried. Amid all the coding, product strategizing, sales meetings, marketing discussions, and general operational and administrative tasks, cleaning can fall by the wayside.
iRobot’s Braava is a floor-mopping robot that automatically picks up dirt and dust to keep hard-surface floors clean.
It is hard to be creative or productive among filth. A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind, and research has shown that people work better in a clean environment.
iRobot also makes a vacuum cleaner bot, the Roomba, that is a better gift option for those who live and work in carpeted abodes. Either way, these robots make it possible to maintain a baseline level of cleanliness without carving out time to actually clean.
Now, if only there was a robot for picking up clothes and doing dishes. Braava costs $300.
Smartwatches were one of the hottest trends of 2013. If your entrepreneur doesn’t already have a smartwatch, the holidays are an ideal time to buy one.
Pebble is the clear choice among all the smartwatch options out there.
Not only is it the best-designed smartwatch, but it also has the most compelling software platform, as VentureBeat’s Ricardo Bilton recently argued.
The $150 device now supports all notifications coming through iOS 7 — calls, texts, email, snapchats, Uber arrivals, Google Maps directions, flight details, games scores, news updates, and so on. You can also control music and connected home devices easily from your wrist.
Oh, and tell time.
Entrepreneurs can customize their Pebble with various colors, watchfaces, and accessories as well.
Leap Motion is cool, plain and simple. Anyone who loves technology (as one would hope a tech entrepreneur does) should be thrilled to tear open the wrapping paper and find one of these.
Leap Motion is an innovative keyboard-free computer controller that senses the positioning of your hands and fingers, enabling you to control your computer and Leap Motion apps by gesturing in midair.
The $80 device is about the size of a pack of gum and plugs into your Mac or PC. Leap Motion has 140 apps in its library, which transform the experience of playing games, creating digital artwork, and consuming news and other forms of content.
Now you can browse through recipes, search for flights, fly around Google Earth, and even play digital bongo drums — without ever touching a screen.
Even the most stalwart entrepreneurs need ways to blow off steam and unwind, and Anki is a great way to do it.
Anki makes a “real-world video game” with robotic racing cars. With Anki Drive, its first slot car-racing game, you roll a mat on the ground to serve as a race track. The cars drive around on their own, adapting and learning how to compete better. You can also control the game through an iOS app, which enables you to steer the car and fire weapons.
This impressive technology took six years to build, the company claims. The cars have advanced artificial intelligence technology so they can “think” and make decisions. They also have tiny cameras as well as a 50-megahertz processor and multicolor LED lights, and they communicate using low-energy Bluetooth. The racing mat is embedded with a code that tells the car where it is on the track relative to other cars.
The Anki Drive starter kit costs $199 and comes with two cars. You can buy additional cars.
Bushmills X Grado headphones
Whiskey is an important part of life for many entrepreneurs. They use it to relax after a grueling day and get the innovation juices flowing. It’s used to bond with potential investors or clients, celebrate victories, and salve the pain of defeat.
The $395 Bushmills X Grado headphones are made from wood from old whiskey barrels. Rather than letting your senses be addled by whiskey, these headphones help you focus on the project at hand.
It is hard to tune out the world in the open office setups beloved by tech startups. These offices are filled with noise and activity, which can be great for creative energy and collaboration but are a nightmare for someone who needs solitude to work at their best.
Thus headphones are a critical survival tool for many entrepreneurs. These limited-edition sets heighten the style-factor and sound quality. They were designed by actor Elijah Wood in partnership with Bushmills Distillery and Grado, which makes top-of-the-line sound products.
USB Drive cufflinks
The unofficial tech startup uniform is startup swag T-shirts, jeans, and hoodies. Every now and then, opportunities to dress up happen along, and on those occasions, what better way to be stylish and prepared for anything than with USB drive cufflinks?
The cufflinks each contain a functioning 4GB USB drive that remains hidden until you need it. It’s a very James Bondian way to carry around important documents or pitch decks while on the go or to securely store important information (like Bitcoin keys).
They cost $110 and come in silver, gunmetal, and gold, and for an additional charge, you can add an engraving. Also, as I am sure there are entrepreneurs out there who don’t have suits to adorn with these cufflinks, Indochino can help. The e-commerce startup provides an entirely online and convenient way to get a custom-made, tailored suit.
Solid gold iPhone
What better way to get someone’s attention with than with a lot of bling? Particularly when that bling encases the portal to their entire universe. If you or your entrepreneur has already had a significant liquidity event, consider this over-the-top gift.
Apple’s latest iPhone 5s comes with a gold-colored option, but any ol’ Joe could buy that. Instead of a gold finish, how about an iPhone plated in 24-karat gold, platinum, or rose gold that costs about $3,300. If you think that seems exorbitant, keep in mind that it also comes with a cherry oak finished box. If your entrepreneur already has a phone, they can send their phone for gold-plating for the cheaper price of $1,332.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans can’t go an hour without checking their smartphone, and this number is probably even higher among entrepreneurs. A smartphone is an entrepreneur’s best friend — from there, they can always be working and never miss a beat while commuting eating or even using the bathroom (gross, but true).
A device of this importance deserves to be swathed in glory (and gold). It’s like the entrepreneurs version of a “grill” (the teeth kind, not the cooking kind.)