Starting your own electronic-kit business

Voices: 15 steps to starting your own electronic-kit business is an interesting article. This engineer started her own successful electronics-kit business. Limor Fried has made Adafruit Industries into a successful electronics-kit business. You can too. Based on her own experience, she offers 15 practical steps for engineers who dream of starting their own kit business.

595 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How does PS Audio protect from equipment fires?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hFWYdN_66M

    Sometimes the magic blue smoke inside equipment escapes and all hell breaks loose. What does PS Audio do to keep its products and customers safe?

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Patent or Prototype: Which Should Come First?
    https://blog.hackster.io/patent-or-prototype-which-should-come-first-2e99f6e1527b

    Which should you start with first, a patent or a prototype? The large majority of entrepreneurs start the process of bringing their product idea to market by either focusing on a patent or a prototype.

    But should you really focus on either of these as your very first step for your product?

    Early on, your priority needs to be minimizing your financial risk and that means not spending money unless it’s necessary.

    most patents don’t make it to market

    There are two different types of patents. Broadly speaking, a utility patent protects the operation, function or solution that you’ve come up with. A design patent, on the other hand, protects the appearance and aesthetics of a product.

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    3 Reasons UX/UI Is Important for Hardware Products
    https://www.designnews.com/design-hardware-software/3-reasons-uxui-important-hardware-products/113312185860558?ADTRK=UBM&elq_mid=8121&elq_cid=876648

    As engineers, we must embrace the idea that a well-designed user experience and user interface can be the key to the success or failure of a hardware product.

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The 6 Parts of a Hardware Startup You Must Conquer to Succeed
    https://blog.hackster.io/the-6-parts-of-a-hardware-startup-you-must-conquer-to-succeed-480b816f436c

    Even though I’m an electrical engineer that specializes in product development, I still think that most entrepreneurs tend to over-focus on product development.

    One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs and startups make, is they spend years on product development without thinking about any other parts of the business.

    The other three parts come into play once you have a product ready to actually sell. This includes sales, operations, and customer support.

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    https://predictabledesigns.com/why-hardware-is-hard-but-easier-than-ever/

    Stop Saying “Hardware is Hard”
    https://blog.bolt.io/stop-saying-hardware-is-hard-62fdd3052a2

    I hear the phrase “hardware is hard” dozens of times a week. Repeating this cliche misses both the point and the opportunity. If we want to live in a world of autonomous cars, consumer space travel, and a green energy grid (I know I do) we have to stop defining hardware by its difficulties. The truth is, it has never been easier to start a hardware company. Why is this phrase so common?

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Electronics Hardware Product Development Process – EVT, DVT, PVT
    https://blog.techdesign.com/electronics-hardware-product-development-process-evt-dvt-pvt/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=daily+post

    Designers and developers are always requesting what the right process is in order to design and develop a product that will go from initial concept to final MP (mass production) and sell in the market chosen by the designer.

    In this process, you need to get familiar with the terms in design and development of any project: EVT (Engineering Verification Testing), DVT (Development Verification Testing), PVT (Production Verification Testing) and MP (Mass Production).

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Failed crowdfunded gadgets are forcing Kickstarter and Indiegogo to change
    https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/16/18308523/kickstater-indiegogo-crowdfund-gadget-never-shipped?hss_channel=fbp-153488801415

    Third-party manufacturing help and guaranteed delivery

    Mousr
    crowdfunding campaign in 2013

    the team took the cash and began work on their product. They anticipated shipping within a year of launch, but backers ultimately didn’t receive their cat toy until four years later, in 2018.

    Mousr’s situation isn’t atypical. Crowdfunded gadgets are sometimes delayed for months or years, and in some cases, they never ship at all. To address this, crowdfunding sites have been making changes designed to keep backers informed, support campaigns so they don’t end up failing, and ensure accountability if they do. The changes can protect backers from giving money to a project that never materializes. But in some cases, they also reshape the very idea of crowdfunding, taking away all of the risk from a concept that was built around it.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The platforms each work with third parties that assist in manufacturing: Avnet and Dragon Innovation for Kickstarter and Arrow Electronics for Indiegogo.

    https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/16/18308523/kickstater-indiegogo-crowdfund-gadget-never-shipped?hss_channel=fbp-153488801415

    Reply
  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    4 Reasons Why Startups Are The Best Workplaces
    https://blog.thenordichub.com/blog/top-reasons-startups-best-workplaces/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=finland&hsa_net=facebook&hsa_cam=6131326058940&hsa_grp=6131326058540&hsa_ad=6131326059140&hsa_ver=3&hsa_acc=10153561367204814&hsa_src=%5BSITE_SOURCE_NAME%5D

    We went around and asked some entrepreneurs and their startup team to share their thoughts that working for a startup has its clear perks:

    1. Positive Impact
    2. Personal Growth
    3. Lack of Bureaucracy
    4. Flexibility

    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Startup Team – How to Define Roles
    https://blog.thenordichub.com/blog/define-roles-startup-team/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=finland&hsa_net=facebook&hsa_ad=6131326059940&hsa_ver=3&hsa_acc=10153561367204814&hsa_grp=6131326058540&hsa_cam=6131326058940&hsa_src=%5BSITE_SOURCE_NAME%5D

    Can you guess why startups fail most of the time? Lack of traction. Yes. Too much competition? Also true.

    But according to a report by CBInsights, 23% of startups also fail to become viable because they believe they started with the wrong startup team.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How do startups actually get their content marketing to work?
    The best practices have been changing fast
    https://techcrunch.com/2019/04/13/how-do-startups-actually-get-their-content-marketing-to-work/?tpcc=ECFB2019

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Theodore Schleifer / Recode:
    Sources: Anki, the robotics startup that raised $200M+ from investors including a16z, is shuttering and laying off its staff of 200 with one week’s severance — It’s a hard, hard fall. — Anki, the robotics company that has raised over $200 million in venture capital …

    The once-hot robotics startup Anki is shutting down after raising more than $200 million
    It’s a hard, hard fall.
    https://www.recode.net/2019/4/29/18522966/anki-robot-cozmo-staff-layoffs-robotics-toys-boris-sofman

    Anki, the robotics company that has raised over $200 million in venture capital, is laying off its entire staff and the startup is shuttering, Recode has learned.

    The startup is frequently called “cute” for the little robots it produces like Cozmo

    Anki said last fall that it “approached” $100 million in revenue in 2017 and expected to exceed that figure in 2018. So this isn’t some small lemonade stand closing down.

    Despite being a popular choice at places like Toys R Us for its AI race cars, the company in recent years has tried to pivot from toys to becoming a more developed robotics company based on artificial intelligence.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The dark side of crowdfunding
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJhQTxTUIH0

    Crowdfunding gives gadget makers the power to launch their own companies, but sometimes their dream dies not long after launch. In this episode of In the Making, reporter Ashley Carman looks at how crowdfunding platforms Kickstarter and Indiegogo are changing their business to prevent creators from never shipping their product.

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why everything is a subscription
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8yXmULSBfQ

    Selling a gadget isn’t enough anymore. Creators need to find a way to keep revenue coming in, even after they sell a device. Companies like Peloton sell the hardware, but also a service to go along with it. Ashley Carman reports on recurring revenue and subscription services, and why they might be the key to keeping hardware businesses afloat.

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:

    H. Irving Grousbeck: Demystifying Entrepreneurship
    https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/experience/news-history/h-irving-grousbeck-demystifying-entrepreneurship?utm_medium=paid&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=page-content-promo

    The longtime professor talks about building Stanford GSB’s startup curriculum, refining ethics, and keeping pace

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Paintings, PCBs, and Possibilities – How Chinese Copies Became Originals
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWd9nnaDL3M

    What do Van Gogh reproduction oil paintings have to do with PCB circuit boards? They’re more alike than you think! I want to take you on a deep dive into how the oil painting and electronics manufacturing ecosystems in Shenzhen, China are organized, explain how they’re so chaotically efficient, and show you why I think they’re so cool.

    Reply
  17. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How to blow $120 MILLION DOLLARS in one year!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpmd7renbxI

    Part of me laments the fact that I dont have more time to debunk all the junk science and bogus kickstarters out there. Part of me is happy though, cos honestly I think if thats all I did, I would be crazy like a fox within the year!

    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:

    50% of businesses fail in their first 5 years. What’s the secret for those that survive?
    https://venturebeat.com/2019/05/13/50-of-businesses-fail-in-their-first-5-years-whats-the-secret-for-those-that-survive/

    The worldwide workforce is booming, which means by 2030, the world will need 600 million new jobs.

    Right now, entrepreneurs and small, fast-growing businesses create between 70 and 90 percent of the world’s jobs. And these small companies create jobs, foster local economies by boosting opportunity and wealth in their communities, and mobilize ambitious innovators to tackle society’s biggest challenges.

    Startups + enterprise partnerships

    Some dismal statistics haunt small businesses. In the U.S., 20 percent of businesses will fail the first year; 30 percent the next. Fifty percent will go down in their fifth year, and 70 percent fail in their tenth year. But Dell believes that while the economy is always a question mark for hopeful business owners, there’s never been a better time to start a business.

    Once entrepreneurs get their feet on the ground, they can encounter technology roadblocks that can slow their ability to scale. There are three key things a business needs to grow from a one-person shop to an enterprise:

    The first: Secure, cloud-enabled infrastructure that’s simple to deploy and easy to manage.

    The second: modern and consistent operations. In today’s tech world, it’s available with a multi-cloud approach, use of consistent building blocks, and full automation to deliver a secure IT experience with robust outcomes.

    The third and final key is what Dell calls modern service delivery, which lets businesses unlock data, use it to power the highest-value initiatives, fine tune those objectives on the fly, and feel confident that all decisions are backed by data.

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Founder’s Paradox: How to Stay Focused When Other Opportunities Keep Tempting You
    https://blog.aha.io/the-founders-paradox-how-to-stay-focused-when-other-opportunities-keep-tempting-you/

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Kiuas Startups – Building a hardware company from scratch
    https://www.kiuas.com/blog/kiuas-startups-building-a-hardware-company-from-scratch?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=blog+july25

    Starting a hardware company is not hard, it’s just different. But what do you have to keep in mind when founding one?

    “Hardware is hard,” they say. Every company has their struggles and pain points, but often you hear people talking about the difficulty of founding a successful hardware company. As a hardware startup, you’ll face many challenges for sure, but the product itself is not a limitation.

    developing a tangible product takes a lot of time, and often also a lot of money: “Prototyping the products is a bigger investment, both time and money-wise, so planning becomes very relevant. Startup’s products and business might pivot, so how to foresee these type of changes becomes crucial.”

    Sometimes early-stage hardware companies have to outsource services, build prototypes in parents’ garages or even use 3D printers in the public libraries.

    “Sometimes it’s not even possible to built the hardware at home because you need big and expensive factory machines,”

    “Founders have to make their first investment to the product just to get the prototype out of the factory.”

    The challenge lies in the slow feedback loop: When the product development is slow, the gathering of feedback is slower as well.

    “The difficult part is that you need something concrete before you can get proper feedback.”

    To save money and time, hardware companies need to do their homework better than well. “We did a lot of market research and testing, but you can just never do enough of it,”

    Find your competitive edge

    In the consumer market, the most important thing is to stand out – and that’s when we talk about branding.

    When scaling a hardware company, one of the challenges is to keep supporting and serving the old products. “

    Even though hardware companies are different to run compared to software firms, in today’s world for many hardware-driven companies software is an essential element in their offering.

    The joy of creating new‍
    Hardware is not hard, it’s just different: you often need more capital to develop your product and have many stakeholders to communicate with during the manufacturing process, but in the end, the joy of creating something new is worth it.

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Hack My House: UL Certification And Turning The Lights On With An ESP8266
    https://hackaday.com/2019/04/22/hack-my-house-ul-certification-and-turning-the-lights-on-with-an-esp8266/

    Light switches locked in to a cloud provider are simply not acceptable. Enter Tasmota, which we’ve covered before. Tasmota is an open source firmware, designed specifically for Sonoff switches, but supporting a wide range of ESP8266 based devices. Tasmota doesn’t connect to any cloud providers unless you tell it to, and can be completely controlled from within a local network.
    Certifications, Liability, and More

    We’re well acquainted with some of the pitfalls of imported electronics, but one of the lesser known problems is the lack of certification. In the United States, there are several nationally recognized testing laboratories: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Intertek (ETL) are the most prominent. Many imported electronic devices, including Sonoff devices, do not have either of these certifications. The problem with this is liability, should the worst ever happen and an electrical fire break out. The Internet abounds with various opinions on the importance of the certification — a missing certification mark is somewhere between meaningless and a total hazard. The most common claim is that a house fire combined with non-certified equipment installed would result in an insurance company refusing to pay.

    Rather than just repeat this surely sage advice from the Internet, I asked my insurance agent about uncertified equipment in the case of a fire. I discovered that insurance agencies avoid giving definite answers about claim payments. The response that came back was “it depends”: homeowner’s insurance covers events that are accidental and sudden. If a homeowner was aware that they were using uncertified equipment, then it could be categorized as “not an accident”. So far, the myth seems plausible.

    I also talked to my city’s electrical inspector about the issue. He commented that non-certified equipment is a violation of electrical code when it is hard-wired into a house. He echoed the warning that an insurance company could refuse to pay, but added that in the case of injury, there could be even further liability issues. I’ve opted to use certified equipment in my house.

    Reply
  22. Tomi Engdahl says:

    KELPIE Is a Synth Module Designed for Production Scalability
    https://blog.hackster.io/kelpie-is-a-synth-module-designed-for-production-scalability-e512897a379d

    Most makers only intend for their project designs to be produced in very small quantities — often just as a one-off device. For that reason, they usually aren’t designed with scalability in mind. After all, per unit cost isn’t that important when you don’t plan to manufacture your design. But this year’s Hackaday Prize is all about designing a potential product that is scalable. That’s why Kenneth Marut’s KELPIE synthesizer module project can be manufactured affordably in large numbers.

    https://hackaday.io/project/166460-kelpie-synth-module-for-keyboard-controllers

    Reply
  23. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Earn Money as an Electronic Hobbyist / Troubleshooting Circuit Boards
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MWVAh1V1c4

    If you are an electronic hobbyist its time to put your experience and knowledge to work. This video will describe how to get involved in the Industrial Electronics field. Component testing techniques and control board repairs will be covered.

    Reply
  24. Tomi Engdahl says:

    My Crowdfunding Campaign: Here’s What Happened
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G0Vuvb45HQ

    Every Day Calendar crowdfunding campaign!

    Reply
  25. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Entrepreneurial student launches component store over summer break
    https://www.electronicsweekly.com/news/entrepreneurial-student-launches-store-2019-10/

    Kamga Siewe is one such student from Georgia, US, who decided to start his first commercial venture while still in study. This past summer, Siewe launched Circuit-Pop, an online components store for hobbyists. EW got in touch to find out how, and why, he opened his store.

    https://circuitpop.com/

    Reply
  26. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Edward Robinson / Bloomberg:
    European tech companies struggle to compensate employees with profit-sharing in a system where stock options have big restrictions and high tax rates

    Why It’s So Hard for Startups to Create Wealth in Europe
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-10-02/why-it-s-so-hard-for-entrepreneurs-to-get-really-rich-in-europe

    Lawmakers across the Continent haven’t given startups the compensation tools they need to share profits with employees. That’s changing.

    Reply
  27. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Overview of the Various Types of Hardware Prototypes
    https://www.hackster.io/news/overview-of-the-various-types-of-hardware-prototypes-60d33d92e3a3

    There are many types of prototypes that you will hear about when developing a new hardware product. Each stage of bringing your product to market has different prototype requirements.

    A proof-of-concept (POC) prototype is, as it’s name implies, an early stage prototype for proving the basic concept of the product. Rarely will a POC prototype function identically to the final product, and it will never look like the final product.

    In fact, a POC prototype can be considered an early version of a works-like prototype.

    An engineering prototype (also sometimes called a works-like-looks-like prototype) is the first time that appearance and functionality come together in a single prototype.

    Once you have an engineering prototype you finally will have something of sufficient quality to show customers and investors.

    Although the pre-production prototype may look and function very similar to the works-like-looks-like prototype, the key difference is manufacturability.

    During product development many entrepreneurs underestimate the work needed to migrate from a prototype to a product which can be efficiently manufactured.

    The first stage of this testing is called Engineering Validation Testing (EVT). This stage of testing focuses on the electronics. Typically between 10–50 units will be tested during EVT.

    EVT will include testing the basic functionality but also doing various stress tests to ensure there are no hidden problems. This includes power, thermal and EMI testing.

    The Design Validation Test (DVT) is one of the most complex stages. It’s goal is to ensure the product meets any necessary cosmetic and environmental specifications.

    A significantly larger number of units will be needed than for the EVT stage, typically 50–200 units.

    These units will be very aggressively tested including drop, fire, and waterproof testing.

    The PVT stage will be your first official production run. You will establish a pilot production line with the priority of optimizing your production process.

    The focus here will be on improving your scrap rate, assembly time, and quality control process by optimizing your production line, but not by making any further product design changes (unless a serious design issue is discovered).

    Don’t be in a rush to move up to more advanced prototyping technologies until you have gained all of the information you can from less complex, lower cost technologies

    Reply
  28. Tomi Engdahl says:

    When Project Enclosures Go Bad: A Message From The Trenches
    https://hackaday.com/2019/09/03/when-project-enclosures-go-bad-a-message-from-the-trenches/

    A wall-mounted, electric car charging station doesn’t sound like it’d require the most exciting or complicated enclosure. This was pretty much the assumption [Mastro Gippo] and his team started out with when they decided to turn what came back from a product designer into a real enclosure for the ‘Prism’ charging hardware they had developed. As it turned out, the enclosure proved to be the most challenging part of the project.

    Enclosure hell
    https://hackaday.io/project/166859-prism/log/167243-enclosure-hell

    Reply
  29. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How To Make A Living With Embedded Systems
    https://hackaday.com/2019/10/12/how-to-make-a-living-with-embedded-systems/

    One of the biggest dreams anyone has is to make a living doing what they love. For all hackers, makers, and DIYers with a passion for embedded systems, it may make sense initially to pursue embedded systems design as a possible career, but without so much information on the types of qualifications or steps needed to actually secure a job offer, it may seem daunting to try and break into the field.

    YouTuber [iAyan Pahwa] currently works as an embedded software engineer, having been in the field for two years, with prior experience as a hobbyist working with microcontrollers, motors, and programming in the embedded domain. In this video, embedded below, he provides his take on what you need to know to get yourself that first job.

    Embedded systems jobs tend to pay well and have plenty of opportunities to work on interesting projects.

    How to Make career in EMBEDDED SYSTEMS domain Let’s Talk
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM8QAC-mGD8

    Reply
  30. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Your mentors could be your menace. Seasoned founders spill the worst advice they ever got.

    A DEVIOUS PROBLEM KILLING EUROPEAN STARTUPS
    European tech is broken, and the reason is we’re giving our startups dreadfully bad advice. Soaked by Slush found out who’s to blame and how to fix it.
    https://www.slush.org/article/startups-and-death/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=Soaked+Articles&utm_content=Soaked+Articles+-+Website+visitors+not+purhcased+%26+HB+visitors+-+LINK_CLICKS+-+IMPRESSIONS+-+Link+Post+-+Startups+%26+Death&utm_id=5dbac9a64849b65af4527a86

    Reply

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