It’s impossible to talk about hardware without talking about software, ecosystems, and Kickstarter. Or at least that’s what you’d think after the “Made for life: The new hardware revolution” panel at the F.ounders 2013 conference.
Wired’s Bill Wasik was joined by OUYA’s Julie Uhrman, Quirky’s Ben Kaufman, SmartThings‘ Alex Hawkinson, and PCH International’s Liam Casey to discuss the intersection of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter with the hardware revolution. how Kickstarter has changed the way hardware startups get funding — or whether they get funding at all. In some senses, Kickstarter has warped founders’ views of the hardware game.
SmartThings’ Hawkinson argued that Kickstarter is “100 percent not about the money.” It’s about getting the ecosystem engaged. Turning to Kickstarter allowed Hawkinson’s SmartThings to raise more than $1 million to build a central “hub” for the Internet of Things. The top benefit of that was to awareness of the product and get developers on board.
Kaufman, who founded Quirky to “reinvent the invention of inventions,” said that the hardware game is about more than Kickstarter. (Naturally.) “Yes, money is important, and yes, community is important, but neither of those things matter unless you’re willing to spend years and years and years building a company,” he said.
Casey noted that his company PCH International refers to Kickstarter as “foreplay,” pointing out the sobering reality missing from many huge Kickstarter success stories: there is much more that companies have to worry about than meeting their fundraising goals.
It is a solid start, though. “Kickstarter is fascinating because it allows you to find your audience,” said Uhrman. “It says, I have this idea. And if you believe in it too, then we’ll make it.” Raising money on Kickstarter offers validity, she said. That validity makes it possible to form partnerships with retailers and manufacturers that otherwise would have passed on a product like OUYA.
So, yeah. The hardware revolution is kind of about Kickstarter, so long as it’s used to raise money and awareness — but remember, the money only kinda-sorta matters — and founders must be aware of how much effort goes into building a hardware product that has nothing to do with the crowdfunding site.
They never said the revolution would be easy.
[Ouya image via]