Bolt – Making Hardware Easier

Over the past few decades, the most compelling engineers and entrepreneurs I’ve met have tended to be working on problems that can be solved with software. Software has some great advantages but it comes with a few big drawbacks, namely it’s tied to a few standard types of input, although we are trying to impact that with some of our investments in our HCI theme.

Along with the rest of the tech ecosystem, I’m starting to see more and more entrepreneurs with a piece of hardware in their development plan. These are not your parents’ hardware products. Instead, they are software companies that happen to have a physical component in their stack – something I call software wrapped in plastic.

Adding the plastic around the software is no short order. MakerBot, FitBit, Orbotix, Sifteo, Modular Robotics, PogoplugSlingbox, and a slew of others have taught me that even though much of the business-side is similar to a software company, the product-side most definitely is not. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s stunning how much damage one bad component on a PCB board can do to a company’s bottom line, or how different industrial design is from software design, or even how the brains of a software person and a hardware person collide in bizarre ways.

I’ve learned how critical it is to get the right kind of help for young companies with a piece of hardware, which is why I invested in Bolt. Bolt is one of the more unique accelerator programs I’ve seen. Ben and his team have designed, developed, manufactured, and financed a long list of successful products and they’ve built Bolt around best-practices for these kinds of companies. Over 6-months, accepted companies get a long list of benefits, the most valuable of which are a full-staff of senior engineers and designers at your disposal and 24×7 access to their $1M of prototyping equipment.

If you’re a startup with a piece of hardware (or plan to have one) check out Bolt and apply to be part of their first accelerator class. Applications close in two days – Wednesday, May 22nd at midnight.

  • The hyperlink to Bolt appears to be going to broken URL, fwiw.

    • Fixed. Some day we won’t need http://

  • Never really stopped to think how so many “how to build a software startup” discussions are so evolved they’re almost cliche – yet you don’t hear much about hardware startup life. Pretty awesome sounding accelerator program.

    • Yup! Hardware and scaling – next two big topics for me.

  • I’ve worked with hardware for a while now and can say that one of the other advantages offered by these programs is the expectations built around hardware. As much as software processes can help to shake up waterfall development methods (traditionally utilized to varying levels of success in hw companies), there are still some things in hardware that are difficult to get through; yet they still need to be done in order to get to the software stage. Having mentors who know what they’re doing is a big advantage and why I like to see these accelerators popping up.

    On the flip side, I’m a little leary of accelerators because of the timelines involved in making hardware. If it’s a 3 month program, either the project must have already started before the team gets to the accelerator or the scope of the project needs to be constrained. In the latter case, it can result in underdeveloped products. Again, mentorship can help guide the team to attainable projects goals.

    Regardless…yay Bolt! Looking forward to seeing the output of the early classes!

    • This one is six months. And – in addition to an accelerator – they have over $1m of equipment as part of the program.

  • Smart program, team and model! Hardware is hot again.

    With Einstein as a last name, how can you go wrong?

  • fwmiller

    Very kewl. Right up my alley right now…

  • I agree…Ben has put together a great team and I can’t wait to meet the inaugural class of companies.

  • Excellent observation. Definitely a much tougher road for startups but incubators like bolt sound awesome. Also I am guessing that physical products are easier to fund on kickstarter versus pure software products.