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Hardware development outsourcing?

Does anyone have any particular experience in outsourcing hardware development? My product requires producing a small consumer-electronics component, but the real value is in the software and network. I would like to investigate working with a hardware partner that can handle the design and production (and possibly even distribution if they have the right network) of the device, while I provide the software, branding and pricing.

I am not even sure what companies do this sort of thing. Belkin was suggested to me by a VC. Are there others? Has anyone done this or otherwise had experience working with hardware partners? I would love some information on how this relationship typically works, what kind of financial arrangements are common, what types of upfront costs are required, how long it normally takes (this is not a complicated device), and how to best reach out to them.

19 Replies

Andrew Moss
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Andrew Moss Entrepreneur • Advisor
President at Booster.com
I've spoken to these guys and they get high reviews http://www.coghlincompanies.com/index.php
Dan Abdinoor
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Dan Abdinoor Entrepreneur
Check out Dragon Innovation (http://www.dragoninnovation.com/). They work as a design and manufacturing partner with offices in the US, China, and Hong Kong. I can put you in touch with the CEO, Scott, if necessary. Thanks, -Dan-
Chris Robertson
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Chris Robertson Entrepreneur
Technical Operations, DevOps, IT and all that jazz
I worked with a local guy here in the SF Bay area who can do full stack hardware design much more cost effectively (at least on small projects) than the big shops I looked into (for small server boards). If you're interested I can put you in touch and you guys can talk and see if it's a good fit. Chris
Alex Gourley
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Alex Gourley Entrepreneur
Founder at Active Theory Inc
I'll second Dragon Innovation, they're the best at bringing your thing all the way to market.

If this will be connecting to a smartphone or tablet, let me suggest you talk tohttp://punchthrough.com/ who is top notch at this stuff and is based in SF.
Derek Dukes
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Derek Dukes Entrepreneur • Advisor
Business Development, Startups at Amazon Web Services
Do you know the scale of your first product run?
Mike Sigal
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Mike Sigal Entrepreneur • Advisor
Entrepreneur, Advisor, Startup Coach.
Hi Eric, Check out http://pchinternational.com/Accelerator/Accelerator.aspx They work with startups on design, prototyping, etc. all the way through supply chain organization. Best, Mike
Sam Feller
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Sam Feller Entrepreneur
Mechanical Engineer at Foliage
I have some experience in hardware development.... of course it's an "it depends" questions, whether you're looking for a proof of concept prototype, or you're looking for a branded, sleek industrial design, and whether you want to take it to production tooling.

Most firms will work as consultants and eventually set you up with a contract manufacturer. Some smaller shops I know take equity. Feel free to contact me, I'mcuriousto learn more.
Brandon Burns
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Brandon Burns Entrepreneur
Experience Design & Creative Director
makersrow.com

[removed to protect privacy]
Eric Lange
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Eric Lange Entrepreneur
VP Product Management
Thanks for all the responses! To be more specific, over the past 9 months I've built a working prototype based on the Raspberry Pi. So what I want to do is essentially strip the Pi down to only its most basic components (SoC, RAM, USB, HDMI conn, mini-USB conn) and add built in flash & wifi. I don't need all the leads and connectors. And then I want to package it in a single, small, USB-key sized form factor. It needs to be ultra-cheap (which, fortunately, the Raspberry Pi is). So when I say it is not a complicated device, I don't mean that it is just a lightbulb connected to a USB port. I just mean that all of the cost & technology challenges have been solved by others.

I am in the process of raising funding, so there is a bit of a chicken and egg. I don't really know how big the first run will be. I was thinking 10k. But it will highly depend on the amount of capital I can raise. That's why I am interested in how much it would cost me for all of the setup and design costs through to getting the first samples. Because the likely route will be to raise angel funding for up until the first 10k (or whatever I can afford) are developed and then series A for scale.

Dragon Innovations sounds very interesting indeed for this. I am a software guy, not hardware, so I am looking for a full solution. I don't mind managing the process, but I am not going to be opening up CAD, for instance. I am, however, quite versed in systems-level and embedded software/firmware so I can take it from there and all the way up the stack.
Ken Myer
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Ken Myer Entrepreneur
Interim Executive/Advisor
Eric, Here are a few companies in Seattle that do this kind of work: Stratos www.stratos.com Synapse www.synapse.com Ken Ken Myer [removed to protect privacy] [removed to protect privacy]
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