Lesson #5: The Hardware Lifecycle

Hardware Lifecycle

This week will be a bit of a debriefing. We’ll also provide a sneak peek at what’s coming up and how we’ve structured the course to maximize your startup’s chance for success.

Some of you may be thinking, when is the course going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to actually build hardware? After all, we build tools for exactly that purpose; we should be offering more than we have on how to make a working prototype, how to pick the right parts, how to transition from a development board to a custom PCB, and more. We could have jumped into it (and we will in due time), but we also know that there are many more moving parts to building a successful startup. In mentoring and consulting for a number of startups, we know that the biggest, most common pitfall for hardware entrepreneurs is that it’s incredibly easy to hyper-focus on the product and neglect the other factors that play a part in a successful venture.

This course is structured and written to include all aspects of running a business. It’s to help guide you through the commonly-forgotten components of building a startup so that you’re not scrambling to make sense of it a month before launch. There’s much more that goes into building a hardware startup from the ground up than creating a new product. The behind-the-scenes stuff like IP, certification, incorporation, pricing, pre-marketing options, etc. All these and more will inevitably pop up and hit you over the head down the line. By providing a complete and holistic scope of topics, we know that you’ll be equipped with all the answers that you need by the end of the course.

What we’ve covered so far

By now, you should have a solid grasp on what type of hardware startup you want to build. You should also have a good foundation for your product, and know how to investigate and further refine your idea through customer discovery. If we haven’t said it enough, customer discovery at this stage is so, so important! Most hardware startups fail because they don’t do enough customer discovery and they don’t do it early enough. Your product should be developed in parallel to your learnings. There are also many positive by-products that arise out of doing customer discovery, like pre-launch traction and a growing mailing list. It’s always good to establish and build a direct channel of communication to your consumers.

What’s coming up

Needless to say, there’s a lot left to be covered. But in order to deliver the content in a form that will include all the different division of work, we’re approaching the course as a chronological playbook with suggestions on when the individual moving parts should fit into the big picture. For instance, sandwiched between our lessons on how to draw a schematic is a non-technical lesson that focuses on pre-sals and pre-marketing tactics. Because this is absolutely when you should start working on the consumer side of the world.

So with that in mind, here’s a small preview of the next five lessons:

Lesson #6: What do you do before you start building?

We’ll cover all the janitorial company stuff, like incorporation, setting up a landing page, crafting the perfect elevator pitch, and more.

Lesson #7: Division of Labour

What’s the difference between a CM, ODM, and OEM? Who’s actually involved in your venture? How do you go about hiring the talent that you need? Throughout the rest of the course, we’ll be injecting guidelines for the rest of your team that should be carried out alongside the development of your hardware product.

Lesson #8: How do you actually build a product?

Resources on how to start out on a development board, design tools, and the pros and cons of low vs. high-fidelity prototypes.

Lesson #9: System Level Design & Early Prototyping

We’ll go over how to sketch out the hardware guts of your device with the Hardware Product Canvas and how to translate that into a workable system level design.

Lesson #10: Picking your parts

How to cost-effectively pick your parts and the tradeoffs that’s involved.

The Hardware Lifecycle

To give you a better understand of all the different steps that every hardware product has to go through before shipping, here’s a checklist that follows the overarching lifecycle. We recommend that you calibrate your startup to it, and see in advance the many stages that occur after design.

These are five major milestones: Ideation, Customer Discovery, Proof of Concept, Pre-Launch/Pre-Sales/Revenue, and Manufacturing & Fulfillment. They are all fundamentally important for the success of your product. Don’t get ahead of yourself, or focus too much on one aspect of your startup. While the device that you’re building should be the center piece to your business, you should also pay attention to the surrounding pieces and build them up accordingly.

Hardware life cycle
Download the hardware lifecycle here.

If you’re just joining us, spend some time going over our earlier lessons and be right on track for next week!


Lesson #1: What Type of Hardware Startup Do You Want to Build?
Lesson #2: Exploring Ideas
Lesson #3: Customer Discovery
Lesson #4: The Cardboard Prototype

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