5 ways to beat OEMs • TechCrunch

Creating a disturbance Hardware parts startups can be very interesting. Few things compare to the joy of physically interacting with your creation when you design and build it from scratch.

But hardware startups are challenging. “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Think of it as the business version of the age-old question. You need to know which comes first: the components you create or the tools designed to use those components.

This may seem like an easy question to answer, but it’s not. For example, our company has developed a new way to deliver long-distance wireless electricity using infrared light. To “capture” those electrical beams, however, the devices must have receiver chips built into them, and product designers must radically modify their devices to run on wireless power.

We hoped that manufacturers would be excited about our system and move quickly to update their products. We got positive feedback too, but mostly they simply didn’t have any bandwidth to interrupt when they were struggling with their load of running a business and worrying about getting calls. They liked the idea but put it on the back burner.

So we started building devices with built-in important receivers to show how they work. Here are five things you should do if you’re on the same path.

Creating your own tools doesn’t mean abandoning your original goal of supplying components for use by other manufacturers.

Start with just one

Let’s be honest. The chances of cargo containers or Qualcomm SoCs achieving world-changing success are slim. So there is no point in rushing when building a hardware startup. Instead, start by making a single prototype that you can use to show OEMs.

Don’t worry about perfecting this first version of your device or packing it with all the features you envisioned. Think of people as a relatively abstract display that can provide as much insight as possible.

For example, we developed a small digital display device for a supermarket shelf that works without wireless power. We 3D printed it and used some tape on the inside to keep things in place. The sole purpose was to show buyers a proof of concept that proved our idea.

While showing off your first device, gauge people’s reactions and ask for both initial impressions and constructive feedback. Will they use it? Want more? What would make it work better?

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