Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Kickstarter platform that came with built-in relationships with all the big Asian OEMs? Turns out, there is.
Platforms like Kickstarter have become the first option for would-be hardware makers to find crowdfunding and early adopters.
But in the past year or so, backers on those platforms have found themselves always waiting to receive the real thing. Delays were largely due to hardware design and manufacturing issues.
That’s where some Asian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) see new business opportunities. The key problem, from their perspective, is that some software developer-turned-makers have little knowledge in hardware design and have no idea how much time is needed for producing certain parts.
Taiwan-based HWTrek looks like every another crowdfunding site. The big difference is that it plans to use its resources in the OEM sector across Asia to help makers around the world know which ideas related to hardware manufacturing won’t work before said makers build a prototype or reach out to manufacturers.
Taiwan is famous for its wealth of OEMs. Nest, the smart thermostat that was acquired by Google for $3.2 billion earlier this year, has its manufacturer in Taiwan. HWTrek has partnered with some 130 OEMs in Taiwan and other places in Asia to help make projects from its crowdfunding platform.
There are experts with years of experience in consumer electronics manufacturing, waiting at HWTrek to review projects submitted to the site and point out problems in hardware designs.
HWTrek is also developing standardized tools for makers to make feasible prototypes online. For instance, HWTrek will provide types of waterproof materials that can be used for a “smart mug.”
Based on the approved prototypes, the platform will help find the right manufacturers out of 130 OEM partners. IIt’s not an open bidding process; rather, HWTrek will choose manufacturers they feel are suitable for the task at hand. For instance, the platform might recommend a manufacturer that has previously produced watch-shaped devices to a smart watch project.
If a project is particularly noteworthy and unique, HWTrek will consider taking a stake in it. So far, the company has invested in three projects. The first projects on HWTrek will ship in the third quarter of 2014 at the earliest.
HWTrek isn’t the only organization that has seen the problems makers have been through. Others also want to take advantage of manufacturing capabilities in Asia — especially in Greater China. The Taiwanese government is working on helping local OEMs take orders from makers. We have also heard that some big-brand smartphone makers in the Guangdong area, a major manufacturing center in China, plan to establish similar crowdfunding platforms. The edge HWTrek has over them must be that it started with projects from the U.S. and Europe that were more mature.
Other Chinese players are eyeing the market too. Online retailing platform JD.com is building a channel sell smart devices of all kinds. Chinese search giant Baidu wants to have all smart devices use its cloud storage services and future data analytics services.
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