An introduction from RUKI co-founder, Sergey Nochovnyy
I think the most important goal one can have is to make a contribution to society by helping others live more meaningful and happy lives. Starting your own business is definitely one way to achieve this.
Founding a company used to be a complicated process, but today, thanks to the evolution of digital technologies, launching your own startup has become easier than ever. In the past decade, we’ve seen countless Internet companies emerge and grow from small ventures into huge corporations. These successful startups have transformed our digital lives and showed us that business is becoming more accessible. Even people with no previous background in entrepreneurship or significant starting capital can find success.
We’re now facing a new challenge. The material world has to change, too. It’s outdated, uncomfortable and detached from the culture and technology running circles around it. We can’t update our physical environments the way we do our software. Our cities aren’t prepared to deal with Airbnb and Uber, brick and mortar shopping chains can’t compete with Amazon, and the film industry doesn’t really know how to process the implications of Netflix.
I believe that ‘digital natives’ (like Sasha) feel the urge to re-manufacture the material world more than older generations because it’s natural to them. They were born into the reality of software updates. Everything that didn’t need to change was stored somewhere up in the cloud. Because of this, they are also better accustomed to change for change’s sake. So the stagnant, physical world is naturally a bit of a question mark for them.
Housekeeping, transportation, work, medicine and even family life have to be re-designed and digital natives will be the ones to do it. In fact, they have already started. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of promising connected devices and material objects. However, hardware development is STILL a very challenging process. Software can be updated and enhanced at any time, but material products are naturally more involved — at least as far as the update cycle is concerned.
A lot of creators attempt to cover both aspects of connected devices — material (hardware) and digital (software). Hardware inevitably sucks all the focus out of the process simply because of the complexity and time required for development. But in the end, hardware is just 10% оf any good product. Equal energy must be spent thinking about things like design, culture and user experience.
We started RUKI because we want to help young founders focus on these factors and avoid getting stuck in that 10%. That will allow them to zoom out, develop their world and keep from becoming a bunch of scattered devices that lose their relevance shortly after their release.
Digital natives operate on their own terms, and they have their own set of values that differ from traditional corporate-oriented VC efforts. We want to be partners with the founders we support and spare the kind of parental control typically enforced by old-school investors. We want to be the door to a whole new universe for the next generation.
I understand how much of a struggle manufacturing can be for hardware entrepreneurs — I have been living and working up close in China for the past ten years. I have worked with local factories and helped companies manufacture many different kinds of products — from electronic devices to clothing to skateboards. In 2014, we began working with Lapka, and a year ago we launched RUKI with its founder Vadik Marmeladov.
Our team is located in Shenzhen, in the south of the Guangdong province. It’s the world capital of manufacturing — the Silicon Valley of electronics.
RUKI’s mission is inspired by our fundamental beliefs. We want to help young entrepreneurs build culture-driven companies and support them during the prototyping and production stages. It’s a very complex process, during which founders make decisions that will define their companies’ futures. At the moment, we’re working in a number of different areas:
RUKI Incubator is focused on assisting companies that require manufacturing, and helping first-time entrepreneurs create products from scratch. We are the first culturally relevant companion for young hardware founders. We provide ‘VC-safe’ support for their future companies.
Beginning with emerging markets (China and Russia), we are participating in the fourth industrial revolution. Beyond our philosophy of hardware development, we offer a formula that can be broken down into six parts: idea > prototype > product > business > company > culture. My job is to make sure this formula is implemented and understood, so that founders will develop more than just a product.
In the year since we founded RUKI, we have had the chance to connect with many entrepreneurs. Our team reviewed more than 100 proposals, held dozens of meetings and spent a good deal of time consulting young inventors. We’re thrilled to present RUKI’s first partner, Vova Alekseev, the founder of Āpas, which is producing connected water dispensers and offers a complete water supply service.
Shenzhen may seem like a cold and unfriendly place, but it’s very dynamic and full of opportunity. We want to establish an office space that serves as a passageway to the city, as seen through the eyes of like-minded people. That’s why we have opened RUKI Space — a workplace for young entrepreneurs — in one of the city’s industrial districts. We chose this location because we want to give founders the most direct access possible to the qualified manufacturers we have worked with.
Our team will help startups that have product development going on in China and aren’t yet familiar with the local business culture yet. Entrepreneurs will have access to RUKI Space while we assist them in finding the right contractor, complete preparations for manufacturing, fill out the necessary paperwork, etc. There are also a number of rapid prototyping spaces next to the office who we have made long-term agreements with. That includes access to CNC machines, 3D-printers and other equipment, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with local specialists. Startups that we support can use RUKI Space for free. Late-stage companies that need consulting support can also approach us for agency work.
Investing in startups isn’t enough — we want to build an entire world around the creator. RUKI isn’t just an incubator. We are our own universe, our own subculture.
And before rushing into the manufacturing battle, RUKI offers founders a dynamic set of tools meant to kickstart their vision: something that will promote the vibe, spark some magic moments, deepens their understanding of hardware and make them more confident moving forward.
RUKI Product Planner
Hardware founders often ask us about the costs of manufacturing. That’s why we created RUKI Product Planner. This online tool helps founders understand how much their product will cost, how the production cycle is organized and who they need on the team.
Product Planner will be able to process personalized requests. By plugging in the type of product and size of consignment, it will calculate an estimated cost and manufacturing schedule. We will also add a product journal that keeps track of all the versions of our partners’ devices, saves files and comments, facilitates team coordination and quality control.
The Product Planner will become a virtual window into the world of manufacturing and one after another, our founders’ products will become part of that world.
We created a beautiful product to keep our partners motivated through the difficult process of founding a company — a token of our vibe. We chose the ultimate maker’s tool: the caliper. It embodies accuracy, craftsmanship and patience.
RUKI Token is an all-black, aluminum, smart precision tool. It transmits data via Bluetooth to your iPhone and syncs to the cloud, allowing unprecedented access to numbers, logs and units to work and play with. For instance, you can effortlessly recreate a component on your iPhone and share that blueprint with your team.
Between its built-in gyroscope and its special app features, RUKI Token guarantees a precise and transparent measurement process that cannot be met by other calipers.
Check it out here — we’ll be selling it soon.
We believe that practical knowledge and inspirational stories can transform people’s lives, so we’re compiling ours into one place. RUKI Journal is an online magazine featuring interviews with people changing the material world around us, as well as articles about technology, culture and everything in between.
We publish original content to ignite interest in young creators and provide a look into the life and work of professionals who passionately believe in their ability to create their own universes. RUKI Journal builds a community by documenting the transformation of everyday life through design and technology, and uniting like-minded people through text, events and a shared philosophy.
I’m excited about the future because while hardware becomes more accessible, RUKI gives me the opportunity to meet more people who share my interest in producing tangible objects. Even if you already have the manufacturing process figured out, there’s always context, concept and the overall vibe of your product to dig further into. The combination of these elements is the only way to stand out and change the world.
In the coming months, we’ll be laying a foundation for our makers’ ecosystem, continuing our search for new talent and working with Āpas. Our long-term goal is to give people the ability to make a contribution to the world all while making the right steps and establishing the vibe that they want. As I mentioned, RUKI is much more than a hardware incubator — we’re inspiration and support for a new movement of young founders with shared values. To truly support makers in China, Europe and the U.S., we not only need to give them an outlet to come together, but also a reason to. My hope is that RUKI provides both.
RUKI is a hardware incubator, based in Shenzhen, Moscow and San Francisco.
To find out more: useruki.com