It is not the first time we hear that “hardware” has the word “hard” for a reason. However, I have not met anyone who talks about IoT and the challenges of hardware startups with more energy than Bay McLaughlin, co-founder of Brinc, the main accelerator of IoT in Hong Kong.
Bay arrived in Hong Kong after a few years in Silicon Valley, but … being an ex-Apple and with 10 years of experience in startups does not mean you have all the work done in Hong Kong. The first 3 things he learned were: Name dropping, real money matters and everything is about guanxi,
After the best coffee we had in Hong Kong (and almost in our lives), Bay told us about some IoT projects, maybe they sound to you like futuristic technologies but they are already a reality. Medical patches that inform your doctor if you have had or not your medication and wearables that alert you 10 minutes before you are going to have a heart attack were just some of the projects that we were talking about. Also, we took the opportunity to learn more in depth about IoT and the challenges of hardware startups.
Every hardware startup is also a software startup
And however everything that suits for a software startup is not applicable when it comes to hardware. Some of the challenges that a hardware or IoT startup faces are:
- Make the right product for the right person. Validation is an important stage because once you get to make the product … There’s no turning back (and if there is, is expensive).
- Launch quickly. It is useless if you get triple of your objective in your Kickstarter campaign and then it takes you five years to deliver the product. This is a challenge for IoT and it is necessary to have a good network of contacts (suppliers, mentors and experts in the field) so the product comes to light in “time to market”.
- The big distribution. For Bay this is the most critical challenge and requires not only understand your consumers, but also understand how the global distribution and international markets work.
Also, and although we have already discussed in other posts of the strategic position of Hong Kong as the capital for startups, for those focusing on IoT … Hong Kong is where they must be.
From pedometers to emotionally relevant objects for consumers
The “great promise” of the Internet of Things (IoT) are not the objects that have been added technology and now you can interact with them on your phone. See the millions of digital pedometers in the market. This is just to familiarize ourselves with the technology, until we finally include it in our daily basis, like brushing our teeth after every meal. Think about the example of the wearable we have commented at the beginning of this post: call 10 minutes in advance of a heart attack is a breakthrough that could prevent 90% of heart attacks.
Moreover, IoT startup are going to face a big challenge in the coming years: create objects emotionally relevant for consumers. Bay has one thing clear, in 20 years we will not recognize the world in which we live now.
“Digital Disruption in the IoT world means unleashing the data and the information from all the objects in our life. So understanding ourselves, the world around us, how we interact with things that we never paid attention to, and then doing something with that information, so we can unlock unbelievable insights and make life better from everyone around the world”