6 Tips for Success in Hacking + Prototyping Hardware

Lessons from Entrepreneurs Who’ve Done It Successfully + Those Who’ve Failed.

This post is inspired by a talk from the Parallel18 community — entrepreneur Nezare Chafni, CEO of ChuiThis is one post of a series diving into the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Puerto Rico. For more, follow @kittengeorge on Instagram + Twitter.

Did you know that the IoT industry (a.k.a. Internet of Things and products such as Nest) has been around for 25 years? This surprised me due to just learning about this over the last couple years during the recent surge of hype and product development. The term IoT was coined by Kevin Ashton of MIT a quarter of a century ago but has evolved due to the development of reversing the sales model.

Pre-sales platforms such as Kickstarter provide deep value for hardware companies for a few crucial reasons.

Pre-sales platforms such as Kickstarter provide deep value for hardware companies for a few crucial reasons — first, pre-sales platforms that eliminate the bottleneck of seed investment and raising the first round to get your product on the market. Second, they serve as a source of product validation. The third transformative factor in the new era of IoT — and the most important — is the new easy to use development boards. The Founding Director of MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, famously coined “Deploy or Die” that is the catchphrase for successful IoT approaches in this day + age. Chui’s CEO and current entrepreneur part of Parallel 18’s Generation 3 cohort, Nezare Chafni, shared 6 tips for hardware hacking.

6 Tips for Hacking Hardware in an Agile Way:

Tip #1: Don’t take too long to produce.

This is derived from Moore’s Law which states the power of computers will double every 2 years (or in other words, the cost of computers halves every 2 years). Given this rule of thumb, getting your product from concept to consumer as quickly as possible is imperative for survival.

Tip #2: The “Beachhead Strategy”

  • Definition: focusing your resources on one key area, usually a smaller market segment or product category, and winning that market first, even dominating that market, before moving into larger markets.
  • In 4 words: Focus on your market.
  • In 3 steps: Narrow your market. Win your market. Proceed.
  • ex: Doorbot launched too quickly, received bad Amazon reviews, and the only way they survived was rebranding to Ring to outrun the bad reviews despite fixing the kinks of their first product.

Tip #3: Continuous Innovation

Chui, on the other hand, took another approach than Doorbot. They immersed themselves in an innovative, entrepreneurial ecosystem by going to an accelerator and started doing customer development in gyms, restaurants, hotels, and not to mention – the co-working space where they were participating in the accelerator. A customer that became one of their biggest sources of sales.A personal favorite continuous innovator of mine + rapid prototyping genius is Tom Chi, former lead designer of Google Glass, self-driving cars, and beyond. Check out his TED talk here and if you’re interested in more, he offers all of his brilliance in this online course.

Tip #4: Avoid Scope Creep

  • Keep. It. Simple. Can you describe what you’re doing in one sentence?
  • The gist? Ask your market. Prove it first – add more to it later.
  • A success story is the example of Instagram. On the other side of the spectrum, Nitrous learned lessons from their failure.
  • The case of Chui: Despite the advanced technical capabilities of Chui’s product, a survey of their users uncovered that the mass majority of their customers buy their products for simple reasons. This saved the company R&D costs and creating a more complicated product that their customers didn’t necessarily want.

Can you describe what you are doing in one simple sentence? Tweet This Quote

Tip #5: Don’t Become a Commodity: A Lesson from GoPro

  • Marc Andreessen predicted GoPro would have future problems from the get-go (as opposed to other thought leaders like Chris Dixon and the mass majority of tech press).
  • GoPro’s easily replicable features were the eventual cause of its demise from initial stock price per share being $90 from original launch to currently averaging at $5 per share.

Tip #6: Your Story Sells

There are a million people make the products you’re making — your story is what makes you stand out. Take time to communicate and put an emphasis on why you’re doing what you’re doing.Take Chui for example — one of their most compelling talking points was their founder story based in Morocco in a surfing village. This story helped Chui get massive media coverage on CNN. Personal side note from the author and favorite resource: If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s work, check out his TED talk here or his legendary book “Start With Why.

There are a million people out there who make the products you’re making – your story is what makes you stand out. Tweet This Quote

As Chafni ended his talk, he noted the trends in IoT and the ongoing correlation between electricity upward trends and IoT industry. Though the industry is in a holding pattern for innovative developments, there’s exponential possibility for the future + impact of IoT.

“Though the Internet of Things is in a holding pattern for innovative developments, there’s exponential possibility for the future + impact of this industry.”  Nezare Chafni, Chui

BURNING QUESTION // What’s the bottleneck holding back IoT’s potent force to define our future?

For more, check out Nezare’s full slide deck here. And you can watch the full recap via Parallel 18’s Facebook live post.

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