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What is good way to hack a hardware prototype. Outsource, recruit (sweat equity ) or any other ?

I have a cool idea for wearable device. Has any of you been on this path. Looking for your experience and advice, what works and what to avoid. Outsource it or hack it with few hardware developers. What are the pitfalls and what to look out for,

Thanks a lot in advance.

11 Replies

Michael Savoie
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Michael Savoie Entrepreneur
Beta version (please excuse the mess)
What I would actually do before hiring anyone is to go to a craft store and buy supplies to make several different cheap prototypes out of cardboard, fabric, wood, foam. That will give you a better idea for the overall design. Let some friends try a prototype to see how it feels and looks. I've heard the first version of the iPod was a hunk of clay with some fishing weights for size and weight. What can you do cheaply to fake the technology and get feedback right away.
Michael Brill
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Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
https://www.mbientlab.com/
Bam.

Harshit Rastogi
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Harshit Rastogi Entrepreneur
Breaking the barrier of being #ordinary
checksktainnopartners.com

they incubate startups mainly in hardware industry. If you need to reach out , i could possibly help you.


Saurabh Palan
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Saurabh Palan Entrepreneur • Advisor
Everything HARDware at Nascent Objects
I have helped several people in similar situation. I would suggest you to build a prototype using off-the-shelf components. You can also attend one of the wearables workshops if you like.
Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta Entrepreneur
Confidential
Thanks Harshit. Let me check them out. Sent from my iPhone
Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta Entrepreneur
Confidential
Thanks Michael. That is very good advice. Sent from my iPhone
Sanjay Gupta
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Sanjay Gupta Entrepreneur
Confidential
Thanks Michael. Let me check them out. Sent from my iPhone
Jamil Ben Alluch Ben Amar - ing. jr, GCIH
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Jr. Computer Engineer, Computer and Network Security Specialist
Usually, if you have the technical knowledge and the equipment, it is a better idea to build your own prototypes for small scale production just to validate your design and/or proof of concept.

If you need to get PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) done, I can recommend services such as OSHPark (https://oshpark.com/).

Also, if you can afford it, I would invest in a 3D printer (Makerbot or custom built, like Prusa/Mendelmax). These are a valuable asset for any in-house R&D.

Cheapest way to go, of course, is off-the-shelf products; if you're looking to just show a design, it's probably best to go that way.
Juan Posada
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Juan Posada Entrepreneur • Advisor
Technology executive, startup advisor and entrepreneur. Also a garage tinkerer and maker movement supporter.
You have been given good advice already. At the risk of duplicating some of it, I'll add a few of my own thoughts:

In all likelihood your prototype is really (at least) 2 prototypes that are likely going to be developed in parallel and will feed off each other: let's call the first one your "engineering" prototype: this is the one that proves that you can build a device that does what you say it will do. The second one is your "industrial design" prototype: this is the one that makes sure yours is a device that people will buy and wear, which meets all of your design constraints including weight, UI/EX, any regulatory or safety compliance requirementsyou need to meet, drop testing, and housing the circuitry from your engineering prototype.

Depending on the degree of specialization, it may or may not be easy to outsource the engineering piece. And if you further subdivide into hardware and software, I would try to keep the software piece in house and outsource hardware if you must. Why? Because if you succeed V2 of your product will likely be an entire redesign from a hardware perspective but may or may not be an entire rewrite on software.

The design prototype can absolutely be outsourced, but make sure you only hire a top-level studio. Experience doing this and familiarity with manufacturing matters. You don't want to end with a stunning design that everyone loves but cannot be manufactured because of a 0.5 degree design mistake on the loft angle in the injected plastic enclosure...

Others may have very different views, this is just based on my somewhat limited experience.
Ian McLean
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Ian McLean Entrepreneur
Developing Startup Grunt, Tech Co-Founder
Depending on whether its simple enough you may be able to find someone on elance/odesk or other who can design and prototype for you. For instance you might have reasonable success going this route if you were to design a USB hub or some other type of hardware that industrial designers are asked to build variations on often. If it's something novel you're probably best with the gum and twine approach to building the crudest proof of concept (POC) possible that still demonstrates the value potential. These guys typically aren't interested in trying to take on anything that too novel as they can't estimate well enough to guarantee their is no no loss for them in taking the job. You can however have them build your functional prototype from your POC after you know all the specifics. Thats typically what you unveil for crowd funding along with renders of the intended production design.
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