Hardware is not ‘software wrapped in plastic’
Bilal Zuberi

Thanks for this note. It is amazing that there are still these two types of businesses that get hardware development all wrong. First, the start-ups of course, because of lack of experience/ maturity. Second — and this is rather surprising — large consumer electronic brands that have hitherto grown their businesses on a steady supply of — often me-too — white labelled ODM products from China.

Apart from the software, and the ‘readymade’ kit that the likes of Mediatek bestow to you and you hold sacrosanct, there’s so much more to be thought about. Brand values, industrial design, physical user experience, plastic and metal part engineering, failure modes analysis along the lifecycle and mitigating the consequent risks (what Jawbone got wrong), managing a BOM, documenting changes with ECRs, preparing unambiguous documentation with tolerances, maintaining design history files at least to know what design and business risks you’ve taken, and working with manufacturers to achieve that ‘difference’ in production, which could take months by itself. Not to forget hustling distributors and big box retail. And I wouldn’t attempt a new hardware product design without 5 teardowns of products you admire or compete with.

I’m a product designer and engineer myself, and a recovering consumer electronics brand co-owner. We pilot launched a superior tablet, but were done in by half-the-price competitors. We didn’t indulge in negative marketing, nor did we have the pockets for massive promotions. My design centric ventures have spent most of the last two decades supporting large brands and smaller hardware+software ventures with pretty much everything except the hardware+software itself, and manufacturing. Here’s some recent successes

http://bplmedicaltechnologies.com/lifephoneplus/ Pretty much the only product that allows you to measure a clinical grade ECG/EKG in <1min, with no electrode cables, and solicit a cardiologist response for <$2

http://www.handheldgroup.com/en/rugged-computer/tablets-notebooks/algiz-rt7/ World’s first ultra rugged 7" LTE tablet

https://getkiba.com/ The future of home videos and CES 2016 winner.

http://suretouch.us/ Taking a patented pressure sensor based breast examination through design and production

Off late a lot of the enquiries we get for collaboration, co-branding or our investment — often sweat equity — are from other VCs and investors. So I’m hopeful that the maturity will spread soon.

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