As a founder of a hardware startup, I can affirmatively say that the cliché is true: "hardware is hard." With all due respect to other industries and types of companies, a hardware startup requires an extra level of risk, capital, execution and vision

There are a few reasons for this. The costs are higher, you must carry inventory, and since you can't just "change code" with hardware, a single mistake could kill you. Sounds dramatic, but it's not an exaggeration.

This is why it's imperative to seek funding from an investor who has experience with hardware. These investors understand the demands and they have the playbook to overcome them (or avoid them altogether).

You can enjoy massive success with hardware startups. Just look at Nest Labs, which sold to Google for $3.2 billion in 2014. If you're creating companies or technologies in the areas of IoT, Autonomous Vehicles, Drones, Augmented Reality, and other areas of "frontier tech", consider approaching this list of experienced VCs and investors in HardTech.

1. Wen Hsieh - General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers

A former McKinsey semiconductor consultant, Caltech PhD, and 12-year veteran of VC firm Kleiner Perkins, Hsieh not only leads the HardTech team but is also a Managing Partner of the Kleiner China Fund.  Recent additions to the HardTech team, including former August Chief Business Officer and IoT expert Nate Williams, make this team a must-meet for new technologies. 

Select investments include: DJI, Desktop Metal, Shoof Technologies and Relayr.

2. Jenny Fielding - Managing Director, Techstars

Fielding is one of the leading voices in HardTech and IoT through her leadership of the Techstars IoT program and her board role at Internet of Things Consortium. A former entrepreneur with extensive corporate development experience, Fielding helps early stage startups form and grow. 

Select investments include: Chainalysis, Latch, Filament and LISNR.

3. Trae Vassallo - Co-Founder & Managing Director, defy.vc

As an engineer, an entrepreneur, and an investor formerly of Kleiner Perkins, Vassallo recently co-founded Defy.vc to create an early stage venture fund exclusively focused on emerging high-potential opportunities. 

Select investments include: eero, Nest Labs, Dropcam and Opower.

4. Rob Coneybeer - Co-Founder & Managing Director, Shasta Ventures

A former aerospace engineer, Coneybeer is widely known as one of the first investors in Nest. As a founder of Shasta Ventures, he focuses on investing in emerging platforms - Robotics, Space, the Connected Home and AR/VR.

Select investments include: Airware, eero, Fetch Robotics and Turo.

5. Michael Yang - Managing Director, Comcast Ventures

Yang focuses on emerging technology markets such as health tech, Internet of Things, and VR/AR. As a former startup executive, he brings both operating experience and an extensive rolodex to his portfolio companies. 

Select investments - NextVR, August, Automatic and Accolade.

6. Dayna Grayson - Partner, NEA

Formerly a product designer before transitioning to Venture Capital, Grayson focuses on overlap between business and consumer behaviors, which drives new product adoption. 

Select investments include: Desktop Metal, Onshape and Upskill.

7. David Weiden - General Partner, Khosla Ventures

Tracing his professional experience back to internet pioneer Netscape, Weiden combines both business and technical acumen to look at opportunities across Internet software, hardware and services. 

Select investments include: ZocDoc, Jawbone, Lookout and LogMeIn.

8. Helen Zelman Boniske - Founding Partner, Lemnos Labs

With a focus on hardware, Boniske invests in industries that include robotics, consumer electronics, sensors, manufacturing, 3D printing, transportation, and more.

Select investments include Airware, Momentum Machines, Spire Global, Sproutling, Pantry and Local Motion.

9. Jennifer Gill Roberts - Co-Founder, Grit Labs

Roberts has an emphasis on IoT and robotics. She supports entrepreneurs and startups in early stages via Grit Labs, a hardware incubator in Silicon Valley.

Select investments include: Moxxly, Rhumbix, RallyOn, ChaCha and more.

10. Hemant Taneja - Managing Director, General Catalyst

With a full handful degrees from MIT, Taneja is one of the most diverse investors in HardTech. In addition to leading investments in Stripe and Snap, he's managed to back successful entrepreneurs seeking to disrupt HardTech. 

Select investments include: Samsara, Color Genomics, GridCo Systems and CyPhy Works.

11. Josh Elman - Partner, Greylock

While most of his career experience and investor successes are in internet companies, Elman led Greylock's investment in SmartThings, which was acquired by Samsung.

Select investments include: SmartThings, NextDoor, Medium and Discord.

12. Jason Krikorian - General Partner, DCM

Krikorian shifted to venture capital and created a leading portfolio of connected consumer and HardTech investments. 

Select investments include: Matterport, Roost, Cirrent and Kespry.

13. Bilal Zuberi - Partner, Lux Capital

An entrepreneur turned investor, Zuberi and the Lux team pursue deeptech investments ranging to drone technology to material science. 

Select investments include: Saildrone, Desktop Metal, Veo Robotics and Happiest Baby.

14. Lak Ananth - Managing Partner, next47

Lak came to run the Siemen's Venture Capital arm, Next47, from HP Enterprise where he was VP, Corporate Development and Managing Director of HP Ventures. In his role at Next47, Ananth focuses on five fields of innovation: artificial intelligence, autonomous machines, distributed electrification, connected mobility and blockchain applications. 

Select investments include: Markforged, Veo Robotics, Indentity3D and Atom Power.

15. Lior Susan - Founding Partner, Eclipse

Formerly of Flextronics Lab IX, Susan founded Eclipse to take advantage of opportunities at the intersection of connectivity and hardware. 

Select investments include: Swift, Lighthouse, Owlet and Clearpath Robotics.

16. Tim Chang - Partner, Mayfield Fund

Chang has been a very visible evangelist for Hardtech investing, including wearable technology, and for Mayfield Fund.

Select investments: 3DR, Basis and HealthTap.

17. Dr. Manu Kumar - Chief Firestarter, K9 Ventures

Dr. Kumar is a seasoned founder and investor who is currently investing out of his third fund, a $42M vehicle. 

Select investments include: Coin, Lyft, NimbleVR and Lytro.

18. Grant Allen - Managing Director, ABB Technology Ventures

Allen leads ABB Ventures out of Silicon Valley and focuses on industrial robotics, AI, vision/sensing, advanced manufacturing, IoT and cybersecurity investments. 

Select investments include: Industrial Defender, Persimmon Technologies, Enbala, and Atom Power.

Final Word

When we started SkyBell, so many investors turned us down. They didn't understand hardware or the vision to execute a game-changing technology like an IoT video doorbell. That's why I compiled this list. I want to help make that process easier, so you can find the right investors, attract the capital you need and use these investors to help you scale quickly.

Disclosure: None of the VCs or investors on this list have invested in SkyBell.

Published on: Feb 8, 2018