This summer, at Foo Camp, I reconnected with an old friend who’s been flirting with bringing a few hardware related technology products to market over the years. As our hallway chatter turned to his recent project, he sighed and said:
After all these years working on hardware, I totally get why people build websites.
I was reminded of this comment when an email hit my inbox today from a hardware related project I backed on kickstarter. As they’ve moved from prototype to production, they’re hitting a number of unantcipated snags. From the email:
Let’s start with the problem area: the printed circuit boards (PCBs). As mentioned briefly in Update 8, we finally received our newly designed boards a little over a week ago, which was very exciting. We immediately got to work building them up. While conceptually the process of building up and testing the PCBs is relatively simple, it can take a lot of time and there can be a lot of road blocks. The bread boards that you design on don’t always translate well when you shrink down to an actual PCB. There can be problems with drawing power, supplying the motors, and just general connection failures. The whole process is about taking the time to test every component and resolving the problems you find as you go. Presently, we are facing problems supplying a current to the motors and once that gets resolved we will hopefully be able to move on to coding the firmware and establishing commands for the software to interact with. Unfortunately, we don’t know at this time whether or not we will have to do another round of PCB design and testing. We will have to let you know at a later date whether or not this could mean more inopportune delays.
Unfortunately, as we continue to encounter problems with the PCBs, that slows down the completion of our SDK. PCBs affect firmware, which affects software and subsequently the SDK. While we are exceptionally eager for the SDK to be released so that others can produce amazing work with it, we have to make sure that we get everything right first.
Without nailing the hardware, they can’t build the firmware or the software which means the developers they were hoping to attract to the platform are on ice.
This isn’t unique to them. As early believers and backers of this Maker movement, we’ve seen this story play out over and over. It serves as a common cautionary tale, especially for the new wave of founders touting hardware at the next big thing.
That’s not to suggest founders run screaming from hardware. Quite the contrary. It’s simply a moment to reflect on where we are along this development curve vs. it’s accompanying hype curve.
As more founders tackle these markets there will be more learnings to share and more opportunity to think through what a modern development process and supply chain might look like through these fresh sets of eyes.