Hardware Startups Aren’t as Hard as You Think

Gathering Intel
The following is a guest post from fnBlog Contributor Bill Santana Li, Founder of Knightscope, Inc. This post, originally posted on Bill’s blog.
Hardware is Not Hard!


So I’ve been a rebel all my life and I guess at this moment here we go again.  I’m tired of hearing the media, investors, pundits and talking heads keep saying that “hardware is hard”.  I even heard it from well intentioned folks at the recent robotics conference in Silicon Valley.  Knock it off!

Who the heck do you think built this country?  Do you think the automobile, the light bulb, the silicon chip – those and every single reality you come across in the physical world everyday was downloaded from the cloud just for you?

Smart, driven people have done it for decades and will do it for decades more.  Since when in our country have we said “oh, that’s too hard” I think I’ll try something easier.  I’ll think I’ll just coast because going to the moon is just too hard?  Sorry, no matter if you keep saying it and short sighted folks looking for a quick buck keep funding it, it is not and should not be part of our culture.

Here is an excerpt from the conference I attended – what is wrong with this picture?

Okay, so you’ve survived that whole production process (hopefully, with your sanity). Things are looking up…but when you are starting to talk to VСs, life doesn’t seem so nice anymore. Especially when they say things like:

“Oh, you guys are doing hardware? How nice, but we like mobile apps more.”

“Wait, you can’t turn product around in a week? No thanks, try your luck next door.”

“What, you are not going to do multi-billion dollar IPO in a few months after launch? Pass.”

Sounds terrible, right? Exaggerated? Maybe. But there will be doors shut in your face unless you know who to talk to and how to talk to them about your company.

So it is gotten so bad that a conference needs to setup a specific time slot on this particular subject?

Sometimes I don’t understand how some folks can be so bright but have so many broken viewpoints.  We want massively outsized returns, the outlier huge return on investment – but you must fit in to our pre-determined bucket including size, color, shape, scent and feel.  But other than that….go ahead and please innovate!   Oh, and we want some portfolio diversification but we will continue to concentrate everything into the same 95% we are comfortable with right now – anything else is “too hard”.

Hardware is hard if you have not done it before and have not done it repeatedly, grown up with it, know who to get involved and know how to plan.  For the “rebel” entrepreneurs that keep bucking the trend and sticking to it – keep hammering away.   Tune out the naysayers – because they’ll keep talking and talking as actually building something is “too hard”.   Ignore the noise, focus on your mission and deliver results.

You have the greatest minds in the world and history on your side!

Want to learn more about Knightscope, Inc?  Check out Bill’s blog or connect with him on Twitter @WSantanaLi


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