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The Time is Ripe for Hardware Startups – These Entrepreneurship Programs Can Help

A person working in a prototyping lab

The Time is Ripe for Hardware Startups – These Entrepreneurship Programs Can Help

Advances in technology, such as 3D printing and computer-aided design (CAD), have made it easier than ever for aspiring entrepreneurs to take an innovative idea and turn it into a physical product.  

In “The Next Startup Wave: Why the Time is Ripe for Hardware Startups,” a keynote that aired earlier this year on eCornell, Ken Rother, Director of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works discussed the rise of hardware startups with panelists, Carl Bass, Board Member and Former President of Autodesk; Jason Guss, CEO and Founder of Iterate Labs; David Putnam, Associate Dean, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Cornell Engineering; and Anna Thornton, author and professor of mechanical engineering at Boston University. 

“A lot of the entrepreneurship we are seeing now is not just software and services but physical products—things people are going to hold in their hands,” Rother said. “To paraphrase Nicholas Negroponte, these are atoms and not bits, and sometimes the best ones are combinations of atoms and bits.”  

The panelists shared their thoughts on the explosion of the hardware startup ecosystem and the innovations that have allowed for this “revival” of hardware entrepreneurship, pointing to advancements in prototyping tools, and the rise of crowdfunding on platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They also discussed the challenges facing hardware startups, including scaling up production and the presence of “all or nothing” goals, and shared what they think is key to making a hardware startup successful. 

“The most successful products are ones where some product visionary somewhere in the company has an idea for something that’s better, and then that idea collides with what customers want,” said Bass. 

Hear more about what these experts had to say about the future of hardware startups in the full recording of the panel.   

Interested in learning more about hardware entrepreneurship? Individuals looking for assistance with their hardware innovations are encouraged to check out Rev’s suite of hardware programs:  

  • Prototying Hardware Accelerator: This time-tested program has trained early-stage entrepreneurs since 2014. Many alumni have gone on to launch their own companies and realize phenomenal growth. In this 11-week summer program, participants take a deep-dive into hardware entrepreneurship. Product teams are led through a process for determining if their ideas are commercially desirable, technologically viable, and economically feasible. Upon completion of the program, graduates are positioned to recruit team members, bring on partners, and pitch to investors.  
  • ClimateTech Prototyping Hardware Accelerator: Launched by Rev in 2021 and funded by the New York Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), this program is uniquely focused on supporting entrepreneurs developing technologies to address climate change. The program runs in parallel to the “classic” Prototyping Hardware Accelerator, but offers separate workshops, speakers, and trainings tailored to cleantech and climate tech startups.  
  • Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator: Offered in partnership with the College of Engineering at Cornell University and funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, this is a 60-week cohort-based program for startups based anywhere in the U.S. that have a fully functional prototype and identifiable customer market. The Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator is currently accepting applications for its second cohort, which begins in October 2021. The deadline to apply is September 20, 2021. Questions? Attend an information session to learn more.  

In addition to these program offerings, Rev regularly hosts networking nights, including its annual Hardware Accelerator Demo Day, and workshops that feature thought leaders, industry experts, and successful startups from the region, and maintains a purpose-built prototyping lab that is open to all hardware program participants and Rev member companies. 

Follow Rev’s Hardware Accelerator page on LinkedIn to stay in the loop on the latest hardware entrepreneurship opportunities and happenings, or reach out to [email protected] with questions.