Hardware and IoT startups can be more difficult than software startups because of the need for more resources and time to develop physical products. Hence, the need for hardware and IoT startups to acquire both financial and mentoring support is much higher. Approaching investors is one way for hardware and IoT startups to get funding. However, hardware accelerators are another great source providing not only finance, but also mentoring for hardware and IoT startups.
Many accelerators provide cash, connections, resources and mentoring. But hardware startups need to be more vigilant in selecting the right hardware accelerator that aligns with their business philosophy. Founders must perform due diligence to ensure the accelerator is reputable. They must also check mentor profiles of such accelerators and determine whether these mentors will be able to address all of their needs for advice and feedback.
Before joining a hardware accelerator, startups can take a few time saving steps like:
- Finding their own mentors from their industry who can assist them.
- Attending hardware events and networking with the right people, like investors, potential clients, future founders, and team members. This can also be useful for planning a proof of concept for their hardware startup idea.
- They can look for specific hardware startup programs offered by universities or companies like the ANSYS Startup Program that help provide hardware startups with heavily discounted engineering simulation software. This can help hardware startups in reducing their financial and resource burden, reducing time to market since the need to build and test physical prototypes is lessened.
We have discussed choosing the right accelerator for startup founders, and the impact this choice has. It may involve decision making to identify how much equity to part with, considering whether to relocate to the accelerator location, quality of mentors, track record, etc. The best accelerators are those that are in line with strategy and are focused in helping you grow and make your business successful.
In this article, we will first discuss large global accelerators that focus on all startups, not just hardware. Since these accelerators are well-known and successful, you can’t go wrong with them, and your business would benefit if you were to be accepted to any one of them because of the mentoring, networking, and connections they can provide.
We will then continue with hardware startups specific accelerators.
General accelerators for Startups
Here are some of the general accelerators that you can apply to for your hardware or IoT startup.
Y Combinator is a seed accelerator started in 2005. Y Combinator is one of the world’s most active accelerators and invested so far in more than 1,400 companies and runs a twice a year program. They have nurtured many successful startups, like AirBnB, Dropbox, Reddit, Mixpanel, Stripe, Coinbase, etc. Since 2014, they have started taking hardware startups under their wing. Some successful hardware companies that have emerged out of Y Combinator are Lockitron, Estimote, Double Robotics, etc. Many of their past hardware startups serve as advisors once you join Y Combinator. Their hardware accelerator wing provides hardware startups with the right partners that will help startups quickly create prototypes and iterations, conduct successful product launches, and scale production. Since Y Combinator is a big name in the industry, most startups would benefit greatly from the valuable connections and media coverage they provide.
WeWork labs was founded in 2011 to support early-stage startups and provide them with space, community, and programming that could turn creative ideas into scalable solutions. This accelerator program welcomes everyone with a startup of any stage: whether it is only an idea or an existing startup project. The plan is to give the necessary support right from the first steps and help entrepreneurs and startups grow big. At the moment, WeWork labs can be found in 31 cities around the world and 44 locations in total. Nevertheless, WeWork labs would not exist without its main branch- WeWork- that provides the world’s famous coworking spaces with dozens of benefits for its members. Speaking of which, StartupBlink community is entitled to an extra perk that allows cowork at these shared offices cheaper. Follow this link and you will get up to 15 % discount in several hundred WeWork locations worldwide.
Techstars was started in 2006 in Colorado, United States, and has hence expanded to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Some successful companies from Techstars are SendGrid, Plated, DigitalOcean, Graphic.ly, etc. Since this is a global accelerator, hardware and IoT startups can benefit from a global network of mentors, advisors, investors, corporate partners, and other connections. Once selected, your hardware or IoT startup has to undergo a 3-month mentorship program. Qualifying startups also get an investment and a lifetime membership in the Techstars member network.
Hardware and IoT Startups focused Accelerators
Here are some of the accelerators that focus solely on hardware and IoT startups-
It is the world’s first and largest accelerator that is focussed solely on hardware startups. Some notable and successful startups from Hax Accelerator are Makeblock, Simbe Robotics, Prynt, etc. It is based out of Shenzhen and San Francisco. Since China is a well-known low-cost manufacturing hub, it is a great option if your startup is eligible for Hax’s program. Hax offers mentoring to hardware startups on large scale manufacturing as well. If this is something you are looking for, Hax is a great option.
Started in 2013 in Berlin, Hardware.co is a global accelerator and community for hardware startups. They provide a 2-week intensive accelerator program that doesn’t ask for equity. Qualifying startups are mentored by about 40 experts that include investors, lawyers, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, engineers, developers, and product managers. After the program is over, they still maintain contact with the hardware startups and continue working together.
Revvx is an Indian accelerator for hardware startups that assists them in prototyping and manufacturing. They focus on India, China and Taiwan startups that produce innovative consumer electronics and connected devices. They also help in mass manufacturing, scaling up, and distribution.
Based out of San Francisco, this accelerator is a PCH company. PCH is a global custom design manufacturing company. Highway1 accelerator mentors eligible hardware startups on mass manufacturing, GTM strategy, and inventory risk management. Started in 2013, they already have 83 startups under their portfolio. Joining Highway1 can be a great opportunity to leverage their huge network of PCH connections.
This accelerator guides early-stage hardware companies on manufacturing, funding, and connecting them to the right manufacturers and customers. It is based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States. AlphaLab Gear also partners with the ANSYS Startup Program, a leading provider of virtual prototyping and engineering simulation software.
Hardware Club isn’t an accelerator but a community-based venture firm for hardware startups. It is based out of Paris, Tokyo and SFO. Started in 2015, they provide a great community to hardware startup founders to discuss the issues they are facing. They also help eligible hardware startups scale globally. Hardware Club is a good choice for your hardware startup if you are looking to get access to their exclusive community of contacts and private events.
Lemnos is a VC fund for hardware startups. Started in 2011 in San Francisco, they focus on early-stage hardware startups and assist them in engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and capital. They are interested in hardware startups in the fields of industrial automation, sensor platforms, applied robotics, intelligent machines, and embedded systems.
Apart from the list mentioned above, there are several other hardware focussed accelerators. Hardware startups are increasingly popular after the success of companies like Fitbit, Nest Labs, GoPro, Oculus, etc. However, hardware and IoT startup founders must perform a thorough due-diligence before applying to any startup programs. Some good parameters to check to find out if an accelerator is right for you: do they align with your goals, do they have great mentors aboard, what level of equity do they need, what are their areas of expertise, and what is their previous track record.
It is also often smart for hardware companies to join accelerator programs, since apart from providing funds, they also provide great connections, mentoring, and more. Hardware startups can also watch for other support options like the ANSYS Startup Program that provides eligible startups with heavily discounted engineering simulation software.