The Hardware Renaissance is gaining speed

As I’ve written before, I’m bullish on hardware. Yet even I was blown away by how far the hardware renaissance has come over the past year. Version One recently spent a few days at Solid, Tim O’Reilly’s new conference that focuses on the intersection of hardware and software, where I led a panel on scaling hardware companies.

The panel brought together some of Version One’s early hardware bets – Indiegogo, Tindie, and Upverter. Whether it’s by providing help with funding, selling, or developing, all three start-ups enable hardware creators to build their products and companies. Essentially, they make hardware less “hard.” With the emergence of SaaS, we got a completely new way for software to be developed and distributed and now hardware is going through a similar disruption. From changes in the supply chain, prototyping, and production, physical things are undergoing a major transformation. Here are three trends that struck me the most at Solid:

1. Enthusiasm for hardware is at an all-time high: For decades, software has been the preferred path to success in Silicon Valley, while hardware has taken a back seat. Yet at Solid, I met tons of smart people (including both entrepreneurs and investors) who are all looking to get more engaged in physical products.

2. Big names are entering the space: Look back just two years ago and the majority of hardware activity was driven by startups and hackers…aka “The Maker Movement.” But now, the GEs and Samsungs of the world are taking note and looking at hardware in a whole new light.

3. A new twist on old themes: Some of the key underlying themes for the hardware movement are still around, but are gaining more traction in new ways. For example, 3D printing is hardly a new theme, but now it’s getting rolled out in industrial applications. Arduino and Raspberry Pi have been present for years, but their adoption is still accelerating today. And then, there are also robots, drones, the Internet of Things….

We were bullish about the hardware movement prior to Solid, but the conference has validated, even strengthened our commitment to this merging of software and physical products. This will be an exciting year for hardware start-ups and investments.


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