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How To Stand Out In Your Hardware Studio Application

Two colleagues sitting at a table with one looking at his laptop

You don’t need a finished product, just a compelling story and logical plan

We get it: hardware is hard. So we cooked up a way to make it a little bit easier on creators. Hardware Studio, a program started by Avnet along with Kickstarter and Dragon Innovation, aims to help educate hardware creators about the journey of bringing a hardware product to life via crowdfunding. Avnet brings technology knowledge, working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to help creators select the best components while also knowing how to develop from idea to product to market. Dragon Innovation helps hardware creators design for manufacturability (DFM), select factories and do quality oversight. Kickstarter is the platform where creators can get funding and feedback from the community.

To start, creators can dive into a variety of topics, including a creator’s journey, tips from experts or advice on crowdfunding. When creators can benefit from a deeper level of engagement, they can apply to Hardware Studio Connection: an application-based workshop program that allows the experts at Avnet and Dragon to provide more hands-on help to get products to market.

Companies or individuals accepted into the Connection program gain access to:

  • discounts on online orders through Avnet,
  • longer free use of Dragon’s Product Planner, and
  • complimentary consultations with representatives from Avnet and Dragon to review the product, troubleshoot issues, and help design a product roadmap.

But to gain access, you’ve got to get in. From our experience, some Connection applications tell a short story about a product. However, good Connection applications tell a story with logical continuity. Being accepted into the Connection program is less about having a finished product, and more about telling a cohesive story and having a sound plan.

What truly makes a standout application to Hardware Studio Connection? Here are our top 7 tips.

Understand the best product fit

Creators who will benefit most from the Hardware Studio Connection program are those whose hardware also includes electronic hardware components such as sensors, LEDs, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or MCUs. The Connection program is geared towards helping creators with electrical design, bill of materials (BOM) optimization, prototyping, factory selection and DFM.

Identify the product stage you’re in

The application is designed to detail concrete information about the stage of your product development, including what you believe to be the steps needed to advance the product to “Kickstarter ready” or “market ready”. Note: these steps may not be the same. A good application gives a realistic overview of the current state of the product, and an informed list of current challenges. This isn’t the place to paint a rosy picture of where you’re going in ten years; transparency is key at this early stage. This makes it easier for us to know if we can help you or not.

Focus in on true Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

Perhaps the single most important question in the application is the product’s anticipated cost of goods sold. COGS are everything! For example, listing a plan to use every technology under the sun (LED, MCU, Bluetooth, MEMs sensors and wireless charging) with an anticipated COGS of less than $20 is a big red flag. Invest enough time and effort into understanding the product—specifically the tradeoffs necessary between features and pricing—before completing the application.

While it’s nearly impossible to nail down your COGS to the penny at an early stage, strong applications have a realistic sense of the relative cost to create their product. After all, it’s difficult to determine reward prices on your campaign if you don’t know what it’s going to cost to make your product.

Bring together the right team

No man or woman is an island, but sometimes you have to start out that way. It’s definitely OK to be a solo founder, but as you go through the application process, create a solid plan for how you’re going to handle everything that comes with launching a hardware product on your own. What experience do you have? What have you accomplished that makes you uniquely positioned to get a product to production on your own? How will you leverage external resources to accomplish what you cannot?

Conversely, if you have a team or co-founders, it’s not an automatic hall pass. You should still explain what makes your team unique, well-positioned, and well-balanced to get through production.

Figure out your funding

It helps, but you don’t have to have raised money—or even a plan to raise it—to participate in Hardware Studio Connection. However, it’s important to remember that hardware can be expensive. If you don’t have money, you should have a plan. (Hint: “Raise a million dollars on Kickstarter” is not a good plan without a lot of analysis to back it up.)

Hardware Studio offers some discounted and free services, but manufacturing physical products without planning for costs for any external firms, contractors or vendors is almost impossible. While you can defer these costs by way of your Kickstarter campaign, remember that hardware products have to be designed, optimized, built, and shipped, all of which cost money. Not to mention the requirements and certifications you’ll need to ensure your product complies with all laws and regulations. If you plan to cover more of these costs via funds raised through Kickstarter, you’ll need to adjust your price points to be higher, and likely sell more units.

Tighten up the timeline

Be clear about what you have accomplished to date, your goals for the future, and how long will it take you to get there. It’s perfectly okay (maybe even preferable) for Hardware Studio Connection applicants to have launch date targets 18 months out. Our program is designed to help ensure successful product build and delivery via Kickstarter, and that process can take time. You don’t have to deliver product in 6 months if 12 or 18 will give you the time to make the product you want to make in a scalable, sustainable way. Having a realistic timeline communicates that some thought and planning has gone into the product.

Get started

It comes down to this: the only application that has absolutely no chance at getting accepted is the one that never begins. So what are you waiting for? Take the tips above and get applying.

Bob Merriman is a Business Development Manager for Avnet and has wide range of professional experience, having previously held roles in global system deployment, project management, and general management. In his current role with Avnet, Bob is responsible for deploying Avnet's expertise to help new and exciting technology get to market. A hardware startup founder himself, Bob is uniquely positioned to understand the challenges in bringing a hardware product to market.

Bob Merriman, Business Development Manager at Avnet


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