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.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    How littleBits grew from side project to Star Wars

    Like many of the most compelling startups, littleBits began life as a side-hustle — no expectations, no early push for venture capital. Just a bit of tinkering to pass the time.

    “It wasn’t ever meant to be a product or a company. It was just a little project that I was doing. I took it to Maker Fair in 2009,” Bdeir explains, as we sit down in a corner of the company’s spacious Manhattan digs. “It was just me, in a little booth, showing it off to friends, and suddenly hoards of people started coming up and kids starting lining up to play with them. I started to realize there was a real opportunity to inspire kids and empower them to get excited about education.”

    But the startup’s success goes a lot deeper than good timing. Bdeir began tinkering with the company’s modular building blocks a full three years before founding the company in 2011. In their earliest iteration, the “bits” that form the core of the company’s offering were designed for prototyping. In an era when it was becoming increasingly possible to launch a hardware startup from scratch, Bdeir believed she was working on a powerful tool to help inventors bring their visions to life.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    A lifetime designing PCBs: Merging design and fabrication–Merging-design-and-fabrication

    As I should have known, trying to be successful with major responsibilities at two companies was beyond my ability. I have no regrets about diving into the software side; however, the timing wasn’t right.

    Our design team was strong

    I had no worries about their abilities – the company just needed my focus to manage the sales and operations. We also had new design challenges, mostly because circuit boards were getting bigger and denser.

    The business stabilized, and while it wasn’t without the usual problems of a small company

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Erika Earl: Manufacturing Hacks

    Many of us will have casually eyed up the idea of turning a project into a product. Perhaps we’ve considered making a kit from it, or even taking it further into manufacture. But building a single device on the bench is an extremely different matter from having a run of the same devices built by someone else, and in doing so there are a host of pitfalls waiting for the unwary.

    [Erika Earl] is the Director of Hardware Engineering at Slate Digital, and has a lengthy background in the professional audio industry. Her job involves working with her team to bring high-quality electronic products to market that do not have the vast production runs of a major consumer electronic brand, so she has a lot of experience when it comes to turning a hacked-together prototype into a polished final device. Her talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference: Manufacturing Hacks: Mistakes Will Move You Forward examined what it takes to go through this process, and brought her special insights on the matter to a Hackaday audience.

    She started her talk by looking at design for manufacture, how while coming up with prototypes is easy, the most successful products are those that have had the ability to manufacture as a consideration from the start of the design process. Starting with the selection of components, carrying through to the prototype stage, and through design reviews before manufacture, everything must be seen through the lens of anyone, anywhere, being able to build it.

    At the selection of components for the Bill of Materials level, she made the point that high quality certified components can be the key to a product’s success or failure, contributing not only to reliability but also to it achieving certification. In her particular field, she often deals with components that can be close enough to the cutting edge to be prototypes in their own right. She mentioned the certification angle in particular in the context of exporting a product, as in that case there is often a need to be able to prove that all components used to meet a particular specification.

    When it comes to the prototype stage, she made the point that documentation is the key.

    The design review should look at everything learned through the prototype stage, and examine everything supplied to the manufacturer to allow them to complete their work.

    After the talk itself as described above there is a Q&A session where she reveals how persistent and cheeky she sometimes has to be to secure sample parts as a small-scale manufacturer and delivers some insights into persuading a manufacturer to produce prototypes at a sensible price.

    Erika Earl : Manufacturing Hacks: Mistakes Will Move You Forward

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Starting a Services Company: 5 More Tips for Ongoing Success

    Here’s what works and what doesn’t work to help manage and grow a successful services business.

    1. Be prepared for legal issues: You will need a good lawyer, at least part time, on a consistent basis. There’s a myriad of legal and evolving issues of importance in a service business, including how one handles non-standard Master Service Agreements, Non-Disclosure Agreements, partnering agreements, sales agreements, etc.

    2. Manage your staff’s billable hours: In the services business, your staff’s time is the “product.” While long term continuous relationships and retainers are ideal, the mix will vary as will project size. At the same time, you want to provide an engaging, safe and secure environment for your staff.

    3. Good communications skills are essential: While every company says it needs staff with good communication skills, in a services business this is more than just idle talk. In most services companies, virtually everyone on your team is “customer facing.”

    4. Your team (even the engineers) need to be salespeople: Among those of us who are engineers, being perceived as a salesperson can be frowned upon. Perhaps some have had bad experiences with salespeople who were disingenuous or lacked knowledge. In a services company, almost every individual has a potential direct impact on customer satisfaction and landing new business.

    5. Promotion and marketing can involve a range of team members – not just your marketing communications staff.

    A services company needs to learn to continually and evolve its processes.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Mathieu Stephan : The Making of a Secure Open Source Hardware Password Keeper

    Mathieu Stephan is an open source hardware developer, a Tindie seller who always has inventory, a former Hackaday writer, and an awesome all-around guy. One of his biggest projects for the last few years has been the Mooltipass, an offline password keeper built around smart cards and a USB interface. It’s the solution to Post-It notes stuck to your monitor and using the same password for all your accounts around the Internet.

    The Mooltipass is an extremely successful product, and last year Mathieu launched the Mooltipass Mini.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Avnet guides the way

    Whether you’re a startup or an established OEM, change is necessary for growth and innovation – but it isn’t always easy to adapt to. The good news is that at the same time technology and your company have been changing, so has Avnet.

    Today, we’re the first ever to offer true end-to-end solutions in-house that enable you to take an idea from prototype through to mass production.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:


    Karatsevidis and the rest of the nine-person Eve team have spent the last few years building the V, a laptop-tablet hybrid in the mold of the Microsoft Surface, working in remarkable concert with a teeming community of users and fans to create the exact product they wanted. All that was left to do was make it, perfectly, tens of thousands of times in a row. Which Karatsevidis learned is harder than it looks.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Danielle Applestone: Building the Workforce of 2030

    You wake up one morning with The Idea — the one new thing that the world can’t do without. You slave away at it night and day, locked in a garage expending the perspiration that Edison said was 99 percent of your job. You Kickstart, you succeed, you get your prototypes out the door. Orders for the new thing pour in, you get a permanent space in some old factory, and build assembly workstations. You order mountains of parts and arrange them on shiny chrome racks, and you’re ready to go — except for one thing. There’s nobody sitting at those nice new workstations, ready to assemble your product. What’s worse, all your attempts to find qualified people have led nowhere, and you can’t even find someone who knows which end of a soldering iron to hold.

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    First Round Capital:
    Survey: for first time more founders say sales leaders, not engineers, are hardest to hire; 53% say investors have more sway in deals, compared to 39% in 2016 — Every year, we survey as many venture-backed startup founders as possible to figure out what it’s like to run a technology company right now.

    State of Startups 2017


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