A lot of entrepreneurs are now starting to share the reality of starting up and how hard it is to build a successful startup. However, in the past year, we saw some entrepreneurs take on an even more daunting challenge-starting a hardware startup. When it comes to hardware startups, you suddenly have a lot more moving pieces and a lot more investment needed. But thanks to websites like

A lot of entrepreneurs are now starting to share the reality of starting up and how hard it is to build a successful startup. However, in the past year, we saw some entrepreneurs take on an even more daunting challenge-starting a hardware startup. When it comes to hardware startups, you suddenly have a lot more moving pieces and a lot more investment needed. But thanks to websites like Kickstarter, hardware startups are able to raise funding and validate their idea with the help of the community.

I got to speak with Clement Perrot, the founder and CEO of one of Kickstarter's biggest hits this past 2015, Prynt-the first smartphone case that can print out pictures, like a Polaroid but with an augmented reality twist.

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1. Disrupt a 100-year old product

Clement and his co-founder David were at the University of California (UC), Berkeley doing a program in entrepreneurship when they went to a party where one of their friends had a polaroid camera. Clement shared, "It was amazing how many people wanted to be on those pictures and how much they wanted to get the pictures that were being printed."

This moment made them realize that in a world where everybody has a smartphone that can take pictures, why can't we instantly print the photos we take on our smartphone? If people were amazed by this Polaroid that was created back in the 1930s, there was room for innovation.

2. Build an MVP and test it early on

After their Berkeley program ended, Clement and David went to work, going back to Paris and using 3D printers to hack a minimum viable product (MVP) together. Clement shared, "It took us 4 months from January to April 2014 to build that first MVP. But with this MVP, we could get it in front of people, get more feedback and improve everything we were doing around it."

3. Put yourself in the right environment and community

Once they had this MVP, they would go on to join a hardware accelerator in China called HAX starting on July 2014. This accelerator was based in Shenzhen which is said to be the Silicon Valley for hardware.

Clement shared, "This is where you'll find all the manufacturers and suppliers and everything you need to build a product. During that time we got to learn everything like what is an injection mold and what are the types of plastics that electronics have, and the different steps to get a final product."

4. Iterate and build multiple prototypes

During that period in Shenzhen, the Prynt team had over 12 different prototypes, really iterating their product based on the initial feedback they were getting from their customers.

Clement shared, "We were 3D printing each iteration then getting it on the hands of people and getting their reaction and improving it based on their feedback. The product really evolved. It got smaller and better in terms of user-experience."

5. Learn from what other companies do well

After their stint in Shenzhen, Prynt decided to raise capital from VC investors, including GGV Capital, which has invested in the likes of Pandora, Misfit and Tile.

Clement explained the benefit, "This was great because we got to learn from these portfolio companies. We got to learn about customer service from Tile, sales from Misfit and just get awesome support overall."

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6. Recruit experts to join your team

Clement explained how the challenge with a hardware startup is that you need all sorts of experts and specialists in your team to help you succeed. Unlike when building a software company, you need more than just software developers and marketing people.

He shared, "Here you need software engineers for the embedded circuits and the app; you need hardware engineers to design the circuit board; then you also need operation guys to help with the manufacturing, supply chain and logistics. And ultimately you also need sales people."

7. Have a realistic timeline because 'shit' will always happen

Clement emphasized the importance of having a realistic timeline especially when you're working on a hardware product because 'shit' always happens in manufacturing.

Clement shared what his VP of Operations who has 25 years of experience in manufacturing told him, "You can't really predict things that will happen when it comes to hardware and you can't really do anything about that. This is also hard for people who have never done hardware to realize."

For Prynt, Clement gave examples of some challenges they faced including the packaging and approval that they had to get from Apple to be able to launch the product as an accessory for the iPhone. He also shared challenges they had with FedEx and making sure their customers got the right tracking numbers.

8. Look for great advisers

Prynt has a lot of different advisers, both technical and non-technical including the brand director of Nest. Clement shared, "It's really interesting to share with him what we're doing and discuss with him how to explain what we do to our consumers. He was really helpful in terms of messaging and helped us explain that Prynt was more than just about printing pictures but also about unlocking memories and reliving moments."

Clement emphasized the importance of having these people who are not as focused on the product as they were and having them give overall feedback.

9. Prepare for your Kickstarter campaign

"I don't think a lot of people realize how much you have to prepare for a Kickstarter campaign from the video to the page to the gathering of emails for your mailing list."

In order to drive more people to their page, Clement and the Prynt team also thought of a clever hack of having limited Prynt products that were priced at a low $49 in order to really incentivize people to visit the page. Naturally, these products didn't last long but people still continued to buy at the higher price ranges since they were already in the page anyway.

Published on: Jan 6, 2016
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