One of my favorite MeetUp events has quickly become Hardwired NYC. My interest in hardware has existed since I was a child. I was interested in playing with new electronics, taking them apart (sorry parents!), but I wasn’t great at being able to put them together again. Eventually my relationship with technology became more software based, especially as I began to spend more time online. My older brother was a nerd, he ran a BBS, taught me about IRC, showed me how I could download these high quality music files called MP3s, and even download full length movies for free (I would never steal though)! As Apple became relevant again under Steve Jobs second stint as CEO, the hardware I was interacting with everyday felt inaccessible to experiment with.
More recently with the rise of crowdfunding services like Kickstarter, and Indiegogo, building hardware devices for consumers at scale became possible for hobbyists, hackers, and makers. In recent years the hardware space has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts. As someone who does not have the ability to build a great gadget, I have nothing but respect and admiration for those who are able to do so. Building devices that are well designed, and work how they are supposed to is tough, building a real business around those devices is incredibly difficult. Getting to listen to, and meet with entrepreneurs who are actually building physical products is incredible. The speakers that Hardwired NYC is able to get are intelligent, creative, and inspiring. I didn’t take notes at previous Hardwired MeetUp’s, so I was unable to blog about them afterwards- but I did take some notes during the most recent session.
Here are some notes from the presentations of all of the speakers for Hardwired NYC # 6:
The first presenter was Swingbyte, a company based out of Chicago. Swingbyte has built a device that attaches to your golf club, and delivers real time data on your swing, so you can analyze your swing on the spot. The swingbyte offers actionable data, because it is able to show you what you are currently doing, but more importantly what you need to change in order to swing properly. Swingbyte launched in 2010, “pre-crowdfunding.” Alex the co-founder of Swingbyte explained that for a hardware startup “cash is king,” and that you should raise as much money as possible. That logic goes against a lot of the prevailing thoughts around raising money for a software startup. Alex explained that iteration is important, but it is also extremely expensive for a hardware company. Alex stressed that good PR is much more effective than advertising. A hardware company cannot give away anything for free like a software company is able to, rather it is crucial for a HW company to SELL PRODUCT.
Another interesting presentation came from Jon, the design director for Canary. Canary is a smart home security system, all built into one device. Canary is going after an incredibly large and important market, and is hoping to reimagine the entire experience. Jon spoke to some important things to consider in the early stages of building a product. He explained that in order to sell your vision, you must tell a compelling story. After you know the story you want to tell, you must build the MVP. When building your MVP look towards the future, but build for the present. Jon explained how it is important to understand who your audience is, making the distinction between your initial audience and your future audience. Ask the questions: who are you early users? Who will you eventually go after? It is also critical to survey your supporters, to better understand who you’re actually building for. Jon also explained how there are two kinds of feedback- experiential- feedback people have from using the product, and cerebral- ideas people have without using the product. It is important to listen to everyone but to stay focused.
The personal highlight of the meetup for me was the conversation between Matt Turck (the organizer of Hardwired NYC) and Slava Rubin, the CEO & Co-Founder of Indiegogo. Indiegogo is an international crowdfunding platform for any project. I didn’t take any notes, but will try and recap this incredible talk. Slava was born in Belarus. When his father got cancer, he found it incredibly frustrating to raise money for a charity he wanted to start. When one of his friends, a fellow consultant went to business school at Haas, he went to hangout and figure out what to work on. In 2006 the web began to start democratizing, with Twitter, YouTube, and the rise of Facebook- the web was clearly changing. Slava detailed the difficulty of building the business, and raising money for Indiegogo. He spoke about how VCs would always ask him to circle back in a few months after he hit certain milestones, only to give him new targets to hit when he reached out again. Indiegogo is a rapidly growing, and seemingly successful company now, but it was refreshing to hear a CEO speak openly about the frustrations of the early days. Based on the conversation, it was apparent to me that Slava has a clear vision for where he would like Indiegogo to go in the future (think small business loans), and is confident that they will get there. I will come back and post a video of the talk once it is posted. Update: Video of the Indiegogo conversation.
If you are looking for an interesting MeetUp with great speakers, and intelligent people to meet, I suggest you come to the next HardWired NYC. See you there!