The loner in the room: being a hardware startup in Australia

If you are like me and find the idea of creating something that you can touch and feel exciting, then you need to get used to being the loner in the room.

 

I’m on my second startup, after wrapping up my first one in 2012, an app for pre-ordering food and coffee. My latest startup is a portable standing desk, which I have been working on with my father for the last two years. We launched three weeks ago on Kickstarter.

 

The experience of launching a hardware startup in Australia has been pretty different to my initial startup, and for others thinking about it, here are some of my observations about a hardware startup in the land of software.

 

  • You are not sexy

Unless you have some software buried in your hardware you will find it hard to get too many people seriously excited. This makes PR more difficult as well as raising capital.

 

  • You are an outsider

As Marc Andreessen famously said, “software is eating the world”. At startup events and incubators you are usually less than 10% of the crowd and sometimes you are the only one in the crowd. This can be daunting when you continually get surprised looks when you nervously explain what you do.

 

  • There are very few mentors

When you think about Australian physical goods, it is difficult to think of too many recent success stories. It is even more difficult when you have to think of local startups that have become global success stories over the last decade. They are out there but you don’t hear them speaking at many start up events.

 

  • Raising capital is more difficult

It has felt more difficult to prove a scalable model when you have a hardware product. The risks associated with IP protection, manufacturing, fulfilment and distribution possibly scare a lot of investors. As a result it can be a lot harder to get a coffee, let alone a term sheet.

 

Crowd funding and online retail are obviously big game changers for physical goods. As barriers to entry come down it will be interesting to see the ecosystem change and evolve. Maybe one day the loner in the room will have a few more friends.

 

James Moore is Co-Founder of ZestDesk, the world’s first portable adjustable standing desk. They are currently live on Kickstarter.


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