Start your hardware startup off on the right footing

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The hardware revolution is upon us. There is a massive surge of interest among consumers in crowdfunded electronic devices like Pebble and a legion of hardware startups has sprung up trying to meet this growing demand for innovative new products.Hardware engineers love nothing more than building snazzy little gadgets that do new things and solve new problems, real or imaginary; but how can they be sure that their prize self-made wonder will warrant people parting with their money? After all, coming up with a clever device does not automatically mean you will have a viable business.If you’re thinking about creating a new hardware device and launching it on global markets, here are a few pointers that will steer you in the right direction.Being first with a great idea doesn’t validate the ideaJust because you have come up with an idea that doesn’t exist in the market yet, it doesn’t mean that it will be successful. Andrew Van Noy, CEO of e-commerce solutions provider Warp 9, reminds entrepreneurs that there is a steep price to pay to blaze new trails, and oftentimes the second mover can capitalize where the first can't. To better assess where you stand Van Noy advises tech startups to seek out feedback on their ideas and goals before embarking on their project.Know who you are doing it for and why"Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are more interested in satisfying their ego by proving that they can solve a problem, while the business remains an afterthought," says Andrey Mihailenko, vice president of sales and marketing at project management software company TargetProcess.This attitude actually boils down to the age-old reason for businesses failing: not being clear about who your product or service is for and what problem it is meant to solve. Look beyond the clever solution and your own (deserved) excitement about it and remind yourself that you are building a business and a service for real people.Don’t be a geek with some cool tech that is looking for a non-existent problem.Get out of your own headTo improve the chances of creating a successful product, you need to validate that idea as widely as possible. Get feedback from family, friends, colleagues and prospective customers and take their feedback and criticism to heart. Talk to all the experts you can find and get their feedback before finalizing your product concept and development plan.Talk to your industryMany an entrepreneur has learned all about what customers want and will pay for from interviewing people already in the industry. Even if you are the first person to come up with a smart device for feeding cats or dogs, the pet industry already exists and you can tap into it for valuable input on the validity of your idea and the potential applications for it.Don’t obsess over hardwareThis advice comes from Tony Fadell, founder of smart thermostat-maker Nest and designer of the original iPod. Fadell suggests going through every aspect of how the product will work before committing to building the hardware itself.“Most people focus so much on the hardware,” Fadell said in conversation with Walt Mossberg at the inaugural Code Conference, speaking about the growing wave of young hardware startups that have appeared in Silicon Valley in recent years. “So I say, don’t focus on the hardware. Focus on the problem you’re solving, and then go make the hardware.”Next StepOnce you have defined the problem you plan to solve and digested and analysed all the feedback you’ve received on your concept, the next step is to design and build a prototype of the product you plan to launch. This will be the subject of the next article in this series.

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