If you’ve ever backed a hardware project on Kickstarter, you know that it can be a roll of the dice as to whether or not you’ll actually get it. For every Picobrew success, there are many more failed Brewbots and Gardenspaces littering the Kickstarter platform.
The jump from prototype (and a dream) to manufacturing has stymied many Kickstarter creators. They underestimate how much creating a real product at scale will cost, and wind up having their project die a painful, crowdfunded death.
This mortality rate was not lost on Kickstarter, which realized that a failed project creates a bad experience on its platform. So to help creators set more realistic campaign goals, the company announced the Hardware Studio Connection last year. The first four of these Hardware Studio projects were announced today.
The Hardware Studio is a partnership with Avnet and Dragon, experts in electronics and manufacturing (since the time of the initial program announcement, Avnet has acquired Dragon). Any hardware Kickstarter project creator can apply to the Studio and, if accepted, engineers at Avnet and Dragon go through the project to look at the components and manufacturing plan to assess its readiness. According to the Hardware Studio Connection website:
The ideal products for Connection are electro-mechanical and connected ones like robots, connected-home devices, and wearables, with an expected production run of at least 2,000 units. Connection will help you plan for manufacturing before you launch on Kickstarter.
There are actually three levels of readiness, and each level comes with its own badge that projects can proudly display on their Kickstarter campaign page:
Level 1 – Project has a mature prototype that can become a manufacturable product.
Level 2 – Project is manufacturable at expected volumes and production plans are in place.
Level 3 – Project is fully designed and engineered; manufacturing and production processes are in place.
The program is free for creators and so far, 30 projects have been accepted. Among the first four projects to launch today was Syphon, the argon-injecting wine preserver (it’s rated a level 2). A Kickstarter spokesperson didn’t disclose the terms of the deal between Avnet and creators, but said that the Hardware Studio is a way for Avnet to potentially get creators to sign up for advanced services.
In addition to the expert consultation, the Hardware Studio site is a knowledge resource for accepted project creators, featuring articles, videos, and a product planner.
Here at The Spoon, we are constantly scouring Kickstarter for up-and-coming food tech hardware projects — but always with a skeptical eye. Not only do creators often underestimate their costs, but they can also fail to take into account the complications of working with factories across the globe (often China). Having a Hardware Studio badge displayed on their page will certainly raise a project’s credibility. And for everyday backers, seeing a badge prominently displaying a readiness level will provide nice guidance to help prevent them from throwing away their money.
The badge could also mean higher campaign goals for hardware projects. With expert advice, new creators will have to be more realistic about their funding needs. This will make campaign goals harder to reach, but also provide a little more assurance that they will be seen to completion and backers will get their rewards.