Back in 2013, Venture Beat did an article featuring 10 of the best hardware startups to watch – based on data from Mattermark. Now that we’re well into 2016 and these companies have had time to get their products in the market, we want to see if these hardware startups actually lived up to the hype they have received. We’re always hearing scary statistics about 1 in 10 new businesses failing, so did these bright starters manage to buck the trend? Or did they crash and burn like so many others?
And if so, what did they do differently that helped to set them apart from the pack? More importantly, what can we learn from them, and what can we emulate in our own business plans?
The Companies and Where They Are Today
August is a company that develops a keyless home lock controller solution. This allows you to use your mobile phone in order to open your home with no need for a key. This has some obvious applications – especially for the disabled.
It’s fair to say that August hasn’t quite taken off in the same way as something like Nest or Hue; it’s not like half the people you know are now opening their doors with their phones. But nevertheless, the company is still doing well and now offers a range of different products (including Smart Lock, Doorbell Cam, Smart Keyboard etc.) and is now smartly targeting the AirBnB crowd with remote lock access. They closed a Series B round last March 2015 and it’s apparent the money went towards expanding their product lineup. You can check the company out here.
The Whistle ‘dog tracker’ describes itself as the world’s ‘most reliable pet tracker’. The company is far from the only one in this space so it’s interesting that they were selected as one of the hottest startups to watch. The company is still going strong and selling products from its website. Interestingly enough the company was recently acquired by Mars Petcare Group for $116 million on April 6th. A lot of bigger players are seeing the additional revenue streams connected products bring and acquisitions in the hardware startup space are becoming more common.
Nest is one startup that has continued to go from strength to strength. The business earned $80M in series B funding back in 2013 from Google Ventures and Venrock. Since then, it has continued to receive praise from pretty much everyone, and has released a number of different products. More impressively, Google purchased the company in its entirety for $3.2 billion only the next year! Fortunately, Nest Labs is still left pretty much to do as it pleases. The website claims that it has saved over 4 billion kWh of energy across millions of homes. That’s a pretty impressive achievement! They have also started competing in the smart home industry by offering a suite of products beyond their first initial thermometer.
Thalmic Labs is the organization behind the ‘Myo Gesture Control Armband’. This is a device that is designed to disrupt the current status quo in human-computer interaction (HCI). And this is still a very exciting technology with tons of potential applications – from controlling drones to prosthetic arms. Mashable even stated that it may have ‘the potential to change the way we work and live’. The band is commercially available from store.myo.com but as of yet, we haven’t seen a killer app or mass commercial adoption. This is probably a company that is still on the cusp of something amazing.
Unlike Nest, Recon Instruments has not grown to become a household name. That is in part due to the augmented reality Industry going through a lull after the whole google glass fiasco. However, the trend seems to be picking up as Microsoft is putting out their own pair of glasses which might bring a new awareness to the space. Nevertheless, the company is still going strong and making steady progress. The company recently brought IFTTT support to its range of sports eyewear, while they have also entered the enterprise space and begun striking partnerships with companies like Mutualink, so the products can be supplied to first responders. Learn more here.
Here’s an interesting one! DropCam, which develops smart Wi-Fi webcams and home monitors, was actually bought by one of the other entries on this list: Nest! So Google bought one of the companies on the list and then that company bought Nest! The actual selling price was for $555 Million! DropCam was interesting in that they really opened up opportunities for connected device startups to sell additional services beyond just selling a camera. Essentially starting the hardware as a service model.
Spark or now known as Particle started out with creating SparkCore which adds Wi-Fi to almost anything, and was very successful on Kickstarter. After that success, the company went on to create the ‘Electron’, which is a similar product. As of now, all rewards have shipped, and the Electrons will soon be more widely available. The company now focuses on creating a development platform for engineers to develop their IoT products.
Scanadu has taken the trajectory of many of the companies on this list. It is still going well, even though it hasn’t reached critical mass. The products let you get vital health information from home but the site doesn’t make it clear how to buy. Perhaps this is one of the lesser success stories on this list… But the company is still in operation, and that has to count for something! The company closed a Series B round last April for $35 million and needed to seek approval for their medical device. The product is expected to ship sometime this year around a target price of $199.
SmartThings has definitely proven to be a success after being acquired by Samsung in a high profile purchase just one year after the Venture Beats article. The company continues to do great things in pushing towards a truly smart home only now with the marketing and funding of Samsung behind it!
Incident Technologies brought us ‘gTar’, a smart guitar with app integration. The product is a great one, and has continued to find fans since its introduction. However, things seem like they have slowed down for them considerably. The website currently shows that they are taking pre-orders and will ship when product is available. It seems like there is something not being said about this company and the product.
So to conclude, it would seem that these all really were companies worth watching! There have been bigger success stories that seemed to come from nowhere, but each of these smaller startups has continued doing business and in most cases, gone on to greater things.
In the original argument, Venture Beat described Silicone Valley as having something of a hardware renaissance. Of all the predictions that article made, this one certainly rings true in an era that is flooded with virtual reality, augmented reality, wearable tech, smart home solutions, and IoT devices. What do you think? Is hardware on the whole stronger in 2016 than it was in 2013? Is it going to continue to rise? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter for more updates!
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