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Sparse's Story Illustrates the Potholes Faced By Hardware Start-Ups

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the oh-you-wanted-them-in-black? dept.

Businesses 103

waderoush (1271548) writes "Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion. Bits and atoms aren't so different after all, the creed goes; just as the cost and complexity of starting a software company has drastically declined over the last decade, it's now becoming much cheaper and easier to start companies that make physical things. But talk to almost any real hardware company, and you'll discover that the promised land is still some distance away. Sparse, a San Francisco product design startup, learned that the hard way. The company raised $66,000 on Kickstarter for its uber-cool theft-proof bicycle lights, but it took more than a year to deliver the first units to backers, thanks to a string of unforeseen manufacturing and supply-chain snafus. 'We had all the t's crossed and all the i's dotted and still there was a big daily surprise,' says industrial designer Colin Owen, Sparse's co-founder and CEO. Today Sparse is shipping and profitable, with a vision to 'change the face of mobility' for urban cyclists, but its story illustrates just how high the bar still is for aspiring hardware entrepreneurs. Says Owen: 'I wish there was more of a handbook for these things, but the biggest hiccups were very localized and unpredictable.'"

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rad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184201)

Rad

One year (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | about 6 months ago | (#47184271)

from "no company" to "company delivers a product to customers" is not bad at all.

Re:One year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184343)

I totally agree. It's just people are so used to the fact that they can build MVP over few months & have full control of it that they are shocked, shocked when they encounter problems every other industry have to deal with daily.

Re:One year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184371)

This does sound like self-entitlement. many people before "crowdfunding" would save up and/or start smaller businesses to make the money needed to enter the big league - this could take years and years, and include loaning in your house - and no guarantee for success. Here we have some people using other peoples money and a attitude of "right to succeed" despite seemingly having a rather ordinary product. Stop whining.

But i guess they got their name on slashdot.

Re:One year (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 6 months ago | (#47184483)

Here we have some people using other peoples money and a attitude of "right to succeed" despite seemingly having a rather ordinary product. Stop whining.

But i guess they got their name on slashdot.

Just like regular corporation Stockholders. If you do not have results by the next quarter, they throw you to the wolves.

Re:One year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184653)

Here we have some people using other peoples money and a attitude of "right to succeed" despite seemingly having a rather ordinary product. Stop whining.

But i guess they got their name on slashdot.

Just like regular corporation Stockholders. If you do not have results by the next quarter, they throw you to the wolves.

So what mental illness causes people to randomly capitalize nouns that are not proper nouns?

Re:One year (1, Funny)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 6 months ago | (#47184699)

Just like regular corporation Stockholders. If you do not have results by the next quarter, they throw you to the wolves.

So what mental illness causes people to randomly capitalize nouns that are not proper nouns?

It's Related to the mental Defect that causes people to comment on Stupid typos.

Re:One year (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 6 months ago | (#47184809)

Man, if you could have made those caps into a vulgar term, you would have been gold.

Re:One year (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 6 months ago | (#47184841)

Man, if you could have made those caps into a vulgar term, you would have been gold.

I see what you mean! I'll work on that.

Anyhow, the real reason I tend to hit the shift key is from long years and hours of working with titles for videos and PowerPoints. So I used a lot of title case typing. And it slips in everyonce in a while, even when AC's decide it is a mental illness. Hey, I am - but not for that reason.

Re:One year (1)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | about 6 months ago | (#47184959)

Well, where else is a troll to get their kicks? /. is the place to be a perfectly anonymous asshole

Re:One year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185421)

Benjamin Franklin did this. Apparently is was standard practice in those days.

Re:One year (1)

waderoush (1271548) | about 6 months ago | (#47188103)

Author of TFA here. Actually the guys behind Sparse are bootstrapping the company with their own money and "sweat equity" and one modest SBA loan. I don't think Colin Owen was whining at all. In addition to telling the story of a scrappy company with a cool product, I wanted to frame Owen's experiences in a way that might help tamp down some of the recent hype around hardware startups. They are still *a lot* harder to build than software startups.

Concentration (3, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47184323)

thanks to a string of unforeseen manufacturing and supply-chain snafus

That's why China already owns the USA's ass in manufacturing. There are too many holes in the manufacturing capability now while in China the place to make that other thing is just down the road - like it used to be in the USA.

Re:Concentration (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#47184345)

The lights are made in China.

Re:Concentration (4, Interesting)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 6 months ago | (#47184379)

I'm going the "100% made in the US" route for my crowdsourced thing.... wish me luck!

http://igg.me/at/minilaser/ [igg.me] If you want a cheap laser cutter.

Re:Concentration (1)

horm (2802801) | about 6 months ago | (#47185301)

Out of mod points. Legitimately impressed.

Re:Concentration (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 6 months ago | (#47185849)

no, you are going "100% sourced in USA" from a guy who gets M140 diodes and the rest of the stuff from china.

Re:Concentration (2)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 6 months ago | (#47186055)

Where does it stop though? I mean, do I have to mine the silicon and copper, make the wafers, etc. in the US?

I get parts from the open market and build something that is more than the sum of its parts. The PCBs are made here (But, where is the copper mined? where is the solder mask stuff made? etc.), assembled here (but where does the solder come from?), the machining is done here (but who mined the alluminium and made the extrusions, and where?), and the plastic parts are printed here (but where does the filament come from?).

These days it's as close as you can realistically get...

Interestingly, NASA and the DoD have problems getting US-made basic components such as resistors because they're just not being made here anymore.

Re:Concentration (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47184967)

Co-ordinated from the other side of the planet - hence my point!

Re:Concentration (0)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 6 months ago | (#47184491)

That's why China already owns the USA's ass in manufacturing.

China Owns America's ass in manufacturing because their Guvmint heavily subsidizes it.

Re:Concentration (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184575)

How? and why? Their manufacturing accounts for something like 80% of GBP, what would they subsidize it with?

They keep their currency artifically low & they allow for huge inbalance in trade by buying gazxillons of dollar bonds. But you do realize you have to pay them eventually. Sooner or later China finishes preparing (they buy tons of gold right now), and say "check". You believe that USA will be able to pay all that bonds? Riiiight.

Re:Concentration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184747)

You believe that USA will be able to pay all that bonds? Riiiight.

China just owned about 15% of all outstanding US Bonds, maybe you should be more concerned about the other 85%?

But don't let facts get in the way of your rant.

Re:Concentration (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#47186245)

They subsidize new markets to kill competition. Once they have a monopoly they raise prices to subsidize another market entry. It'll work for a while, until other cheap manufacturing that doesn't require a lot of almost free labor is available.

Re:Concentration (3, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 6 months ago | (#47184671)

and because environmental and human safety does NOT MATTER in china. people die? who cares. air can't be breathed? who cares. but hey, they are selling walmart shit to us and so, wow, go china, go! ;(

Re:Concentration (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 6 months ago | (#47185339)

Please stop spouting bullshit like this. Where did you read it, Huffington Post? China isn't like what you think it is. Frankly, it's racist to say that people can't care about the environment because they're Chinese. There are protests all the time and these things do have an effect.

You can't expect people to take what you're saying seriously if your argument is "Walmart blaaarrrgh!"

Re:Concentration (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 6 months ago | (#47185869)

China doesn't care about its people because it has too many of them. Life is cheap, much like India. It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture.

They have way too many living beings so no one cares what happens to a few.

Re:Concentration (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 6 months ago | (#47191371)

No, you are wrong. Stop saying it. You are a racist piece of trash, and I can only hope that you and your kind are thrown on the ash heap of history along with your buddies in FOX News.

Re:Concentration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47188061)

The fact is the environment is horribly polluted in china. So the fact that there are protests doesn't make a lick of difference. Obviously they don't care that much, or they wouldn't continue polluting like they are.

Problem is you can't sell products for pennies when you need to watch for the environment and human rights

Re:Concentration (2)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 6 months ago | (#47184981)

There are too many holes in the manufacturing capability now while in China the place to make that other thing is just down the road - like it used to be in the USA.

Manufacturing is coming back to the Americas (North/Central/South) specifically because of problems mentioned in TFA

But Sparseâ(TM)s manufacturing partners there initially had trouble making the die-cast metal parts to the right tolerances, and there was a high rejection rate for units with the silver finish.

âoeI really care about making things perfect, and it takes a certain amount of time to solve things when the problems crop up and the information has to filter up the supply chain,â Owen says. âoeIt can take you a week to see if they are shipping the same part you presented to them.â

Problems like those can still happen with local manufacturing, but they get noticed and resolved in days, not weeks.

Re:Concentration (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47185239)

Problems like those can still happen with local manufacturing, but they get noticed and resolved in days, not weeks.

Once again, an example of my point. A concentration of industry and the designers having access to the process line/s makes a massive difference. Selling the farm to China, Mexico etc removes those advantages.

Re:Concentration (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 6 months ago | (#47185133)

We're still number 2 in the world in manufacturing, so perhaps its a bit of an exaggeration to say they "own us" in that category. The idea that our manufacturing sector is in shambles is a myth.

While some is treading water plenty is a shambles (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47185263)

Pick a field outside of the military (or even inside the military with rocket engines coming from Russia) and it is a shambles, especially with computer and electronic equipment. Try getting something done with a "US" manufacturer when there is a holiday in China or a big snowstorm over there and you'll see exactly how much of a shambles it is. Not a complete failure but some stupid outsourcing choices have removed a competitive edge and some industries have to rely on government enforced trade barriers to survive at all. Personally I see it as due to seeing the ideal as people like Edsel Ford instead of Henry Ford - the cult of the specialist manager with no clue about what they are managing dropped into a "too big to fail" situation and seen as a success. Today even people like Donald Trump with a vastly negative net worth are seen as winners because they pinned the consequences of their multiple failures on others. You can't run things so badly without consequences, hence the slip to number two and a continued decline.

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 6 months ago | (#47186779)

Pick a field outside of the military (or even inside the military with rocket engines coming from Russia) and it is a shambles, especially with computer and electronic equipment.

mac pro made in america. moto made in america. model s made in america. prediction, 10 years more than half of apple's stuff will be made in america.

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47188319)

10 years more than half of apple's stuff

As I wrote, treading water :(
Hopefully that outlier will become a trend and hopefully it will take less than ten years while some electronics industry still exists in the USA to take up the work.

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 6 months ago | (#47188755)

dude, america's back. we're the factory of the world. apple is just the start. they have the money to overcome the first hurdles, then we start to have a growing trained expert workforce. america you get high technology high quality products mostly automated by robots.

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47193965)

I wish you were correct instead of overconfidently deluded.

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 6 months ago | (#47197031)

heavy manufacturing is the cornerstone of the nation. can't spell america without "I", "me", and "a car"

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47202251)

Heavy manufacturing in the USA has been utterly fucked over by a mismanaged steel industry on government life support that has forgotten how to stand on it's own. That has forced serious costs on other industries and started the avalanche of manufacturing industry departing offshore in the first place some decades back. Electronics is a late departure but most of the heavy stuff left the building about when Elvis did. Think about things like shipbuilding, mining equipment, trains etc - all stuff that used to be made in the USA in vast quantities and exported some years ago but now there is very little of that or any heavy engineering in comparison to the 1970s.

Re:While some is treading water plenty is a shambl (1)

packrat0x (798359) | about 6 months ago | (#47188499)

Fifteen years from now those Chinese made parts will be manufactured in Africa and SE Asia.

Shame the light itself sucks (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 6 months ago | (#47184325)

For all the marketspeak and fancy looks they're still asking $140 for a 200 lumen light. That's about a half step above terrible. The light I use, which is pretty much the minimum brightness I would consider safe as a "see" and not a "be seen" light, is 900 lumens.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184365)

For all the marketspeak and fancy looks they're still asking $140 for a 200 lumen light. That's about a half step above terrible. The light I use, which is pretty much the minimum brightness I would consider safe as a "see" and not a "be seen" light, is 900 lumens.

But . . . but . . . this is like an iLight. IT'S SO GORGEOUS.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 6 months ago | (#47184389)

In fact, they charge money for a device making light, who needs that? We have a fusion reactor in the center of our solar system that delivers us with light. So why pay money for something you get for free?
(Sorry had to make this stupid comparison)

Its about the marketing, not about the hard numbers. Do the people buy apple hardware because there is no cheaper alternative, or the storage-capacity is the cheapest?

When you buy a device, you not just buy the specs, you purchase a bunch of things, as the brand, the design, or the feeling.

About the safety: I don't know.

No cheaper alternative compatible with purchases (1)

tepples (727027) | about 6 months ago | (#47184557)

Do the people buy apple hardware because there is no cheaper alternative

Correct. There is no cheaper alternative to play books, videos, and apps with Apple DRM, except perhaps an as-is previous-generation device from a pawn shop. And when the iPhone and iPod touch first came out, iTunes Plus hadn't landed yet, and people wanted a phone compatible with their library of FairPlay DRM purchases from what was then called the iTunes Music Store. Finally, the iPhone arrived roughly a year before the HTC Dream, and the iPod touch had a four year lead over Samsung's Galaxy Player, giving people plenty of time to lock themselves into what was then called iPhone OS.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 6 months ago | (#47185827)

In fact, they charge money for a device making light, who needs that? We have a fusion reactor in the center of our solar system that delivers us with light. So why pay money for something you get for free?

You jest, but my bike's headlight is a Harbor Freight LED flashlight that I got for free (with a coupon).

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 6 months ago | (#47184441)

What 900 lumen light are you using?

I've got a couple 900 lumen lights and they're bright enough that if I shine them at cars the drivers are mildly upset about the brightness. It's like hitting them with high beams (although not covering as much area as a headlight).

I agree 200 lumens and the down-facing output is strange. I expect this is for urban riders who mostly use the streetlights to see.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 6 months ago | (#47184603)

One of the older magicshines I've had for a while. 900 lumens is closer to a regular headlight than highbeams, which can be into the thousands of lumens over a much larger area. As for bothering people... it's a headlight, it's SUPPOSED to be that bright. That's why you angle them down a bit.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184835)

So your the wanker that rides a bike at night with a light aimed at drivers eyes. Hint my trucks headlights shine down for a reason and you will only barely scratch the paint when you blind me and I run you over.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185617)

So your the wanker that rides a bike at night with a light aimed at drivers eyes. Hint my trucks headlights shine down for a reason and you will only barely scratch the paint when you blind me and I run you over.

That should be you're not your. Other than that, your post was perfectly correct.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184785)

For all the marketspeak and fancy looks they're still asking $140 for a 200 lumen light. That's about a half step above terrible. The light I use, which is pretty much the minimum brightness I would consider safe as a "see" and not a "be seen" light, is 900 lumens.

Do you have a source/link for the light you use?

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | about 6 months ago | (#47185319)

It's a years old model at this point. It WAS one of the top end magicshines at the time, now it's probably midrange compared to the thousand plus lumen multi-lights they've got. Bright side of mine though is the controls are much simpler and I get much better battery life. You can find them pretty much all over ebay.

Re:Shame the light itself sucks (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 6 months ago | (#47186795)

whatever dude. LED lights are for pussies. I use class IV lasers to burn holes in anything that is endangering me.

Fixed battery?! USB charger?! (2)

BaronM (122102) | about 6 months ago | (#47184333)

I was thinking "looks good", until I saw that this setup uses a dual-headed USB charger that sure looks designed for indoor use only. I'm fine with a fixed battery in my cell phone, tablet, and even laptop, but my bike a) lives outdoors and b) need to accept a spare battery because working lights can be a life-or-death matter.

Nice design, but seriously deficient function.

Re:Fixed battery?! USB charger?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184527)

NP, ride an e-bike, and have a breakout from your 5.2V rail.

Or if you must ride full-manual, and you habitually carry a spare battery you can habitually carry one with velcro and a micro-usb jack, and strap 'er on when it's time to ride. If you don't habitually carry a spare battery then the idea of swapping a replacement when it's late and dark out is kind of unlikely - where would you get it? Who sells C sells by the late hour?

^see what I did there? ;-)

Re:Fixed battery?! USB charger?! (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 6 months ago | (#47184851)

Who sells C sells by the late hour?

^see what I did there? ;-)

Yes. You misspelled "cells".

Re:Fixed battery?! USB charger?! (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 6 months ago | (#47186809)

yeah but if your light is detachable, then you can take it inside to charge it or whatever MIND == BLOWN

Re:Fixed battery?! USB charger?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47187063)

The C store sells C sells by the late hour.

huge surprise there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184341)

Daily cockups when manufacturing in China? Why I never!

Simple solution, make your product in the US and create some jobs.

Crowdsourced OSHW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184357)

I am also crowdsourcing, an OSHW combined drinking water distiller and thermostat cooker which is energy saving:

Twibright Distillcooker [twibright.com]

Its ready to release.

Line up suppliers beforehand, and use their flex (4, Informative)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 6 months ago | (#47184367)

I have the same problem -- my kickstarter hit 200% and I was not ready for it. So I am having to scale up.

The good thing is that my supply chain was already in place, so all I had to do was increase quantities. I did, however, have to design a simple machine (a jig, basically) to semi-automate a task I had intended to do by hand.

http://igg.me/at/minilaser/ [igg.me] if anyone cares.

Re:Line up suppliers beforehand, and use their fle (1)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 6 months ago | (#47186073)

Basically I had to build a couple of simple machines to let me make stuff in series:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] This is what I use for the machining.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] This is how I get the 3D printer to just keep going (I am going to be selling this as a kit too).

This is an integral part of engineering a product to me - you can't just make a prototype and send the drawings "off in the cloud" to be made. I mean, I guess you can, but then how can you be sure that it was made well? See all the product recalls, etc.

Trivial hardware is still challenging (4, Insightful)

erice (13380) | about 6 months ago | (#47184411)

Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion. Bits and atoms aren't so different after all, the creed goes; just as the cost and complexity of starting a software company has drastically declined over the last decade, it's now becoming much cheaper and easier to start companies that make physical things. But talk to almost any real hardware company, and you'll discover that the promised land is still some distance away.

No. Hardware is Silicon Valley's founding religion. Software came later and now real hardware startups can not get funding. Sparce's experience shows that even if your development is trivial (no significant R&D) and you don't do any of the manufacturing yourself, it can still be a bumpy road to selling product.

I see no evidence that this is improving. All that has happened is that ambitious hardware startups no longer happen and people are getting excited over hobby scale development that didn't use to make the news. Well, to be fair, Kickstarter has allowed "super hobby" scale developments to take off that used to fall into a no-man's land. They were too small to form a viable business around and yet too big for a couple of guys to pull off in their spare time. Still, this is nowhere near a hardware renaissance. The promise land is not just some distance away. There is little evidence that we are going there.

Set good expectations (1)

Enry (630) | about 6 months ago | (#47184431)

I've backed a bunch of projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. A few completed in the time they expected, most didn't. It didn't bother me that they were late, it bothered me they didn't take this kind of stuff into account when setting expections with the backers.

That's not hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184507)

That's a light for a bicycle. Bikes should not be out after dark anyway. Unless you have an unfulfilled death wish.

Re:That's not hardware (1)

basecastula (2556196) | about 6 months ago | (#47185067)

What about those who get off of work after the sun goes down? Should they not be allowed to ride to work? That's is exactly what I did today. I work from 4pm to 1am. It is nice to ride home when it's nice and cool.

Re:That's not hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185321)

I don't think he was talking about India. It's a lot safer on a bicycle there than on a train, for example. And I mean, literally, ON a train.

Re:That's not hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185337)

How about pedestrians?

Greedy capitalists complaining again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184553)

Maybe they just need to change their business model.

IMHO It's not that hard. (1)

braden87 (3027453) | about 6 months ago | (#47184555)

Our hardware (also software heavy) start up was recently acquired for an exponent of our annual gross revenue. The company started ~18 months ago, and we went from idea to Indiegogo to shipping in 12. ALL MADE IN NORTH AMERICA (sure some components were sourced from Asia but design and assembly all in NA). I've done harder things in my life.

Re:IMHO It's not that hard. (0)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 6 months ago | (#47185019)

Our hardware (also software heavy) start up was recently acquired for an exponent of our annual gross revenue.

What does that mean? Exponents go negative, so you're basically saying that it was acquired for the annual gross revenue multiplied by a numer between epsilon and infinity.

Re:IMHO It's not that hard. (1)

braden87 (3027453) | about 6 months ago | (#47185201)

Do you think I'd mention it if it was a negative exponent?

Re:IMHO It's not that hard. (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 6 months ago | (#47186821)

Our hardware (also software heavy) start up was recently acquired for an exponent of our annual gross revenue.

hopefully the gross revenue was >> 0 and the exponent was > 1

Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 6 months ago | (#47184663)

uhm, who writes this tripe?

SILICON VALLEY has always been about hardware.

where do you think the word 'silicon' comes from?

sheesh.

#include <stopped_reading_there.jpg>

Re:Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 6 months ago | (#47184861)

I hadn't thought about it when reading the submission and web page link. But that is true, isn't it?

Thanks for cracking me up. :^)

Re:Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47186309)

Silicon Valley currently has 0 semiconductor foundries after the last one closed in 2008.

Re:Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47191141)

What kind of language allows you #include a JPEG?

go elsewhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184729)

Silicon Valley is great if you can do something consumer facing and very, very easy. There are great designers in Silicon Valley, but the old-school infrastructure and blue collar understanding is gone. The people who are really good at hardware have moved to different places in the country.

If you want to do anything with any amount of technical difficulty, go to San Diego, Boston, Austin, etc.

Re:go elsewhere (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 6 months ago | (#47184975)

Silicon Valley is great if you can do something consumer facing and very, very easy. There are great designers in Silicon Valley, but the old-school infrastructure and blue collar understanding is gone. The people who are really good at hardware have moved to different places in the country.

If you want to do anything with any amount of technical difficulty, go to San Diego, Boston, Austin, etc.

I don't think that it's strictly consumer-facing/easy vs. other stuff; but 'shovelling software' vs. other stuff. Yes, the valley is host to a plague of idiotic mobile-social-app-centric-nonsense-startup-wankery; but part of what makes setting up yet another stupid company to deliver worse-than-worthless drivel so fast, cheap, and relatively frictionless is the presence of actual real work, done by adults, in areas like refining the hell out of datacenter operation.

You certainly aren't going to have a good time doing any sort of nontrivial manufacturing in an area that has just outsourced all that long enough for the supporting infrastructure and understanding to decay, migrate, or retire; but Silicon Valley is plagued by shit software peddlers popping up like weeds for roughly the same reason that electronics manufacturing regions of China have a plague of seriously dodgy hardware clone shops: because they do have the support infrastructure that makes setting those up fast and easy.

Real Potholes (1)

The Snowman (116231) | about 6 months ago | (#47184757)

I misread that. I was hoping this was a startup that had some innovative, cheap way to repair potholes. Some of us have to deal with [cleveland.com] some really awful potholes [google.com] even in June, well past the end of winter [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Real Potholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184829)

I misread that. I was hoping this was a startup that had some innovative, cheap way to repair potholes.

I read it as a new way to grow pot.

Re:Real Potholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184965)

Dude, try Michigan. We have potholes year round, on some highways even.

Re:Real Pothole Repair (1)

Animats (122034) | about 6 months ago | (#47186981)

The can do the job. One-person operation. No need to leave the cab to patch a pothole. A patching job takes only a few minutes. Good quality patches. Requires a skilled operator who's good with a complex joystick, controlling air jets, asphalt conveyors, and rollers. [pythonmfg.com]

Do web design, and want to do something useful? Contact the company, in Saskatchewan, and offer to redesign their 2009 web site with bad layout, non-streaming video, and a lack of testimonials.

A more ambitious plan would be to use computer vision and robotic control on this thing. It needs an aimbot. Something where the operator aims the boom at the pothole, a Kinect-type sensor maps the pothole, and the computers handle the job of cleaning out the edges of the hole, dumping the right amount of asphalt in the right places, and tamping it down. Then you'd get a consistently good job even with a mediocre operator.

This product turns a profit??? (1)

grelmar (1823402) | about 6 months ago | (#47184771)

$160.00 for an over-designed, under-powered, pretty light made out of a couple of pieces of stamped metal, a lens, and some LED's???

Wow... Hipster bicycle wanks are even bigger suckers than Hipster cult of the Mac wanks...

Oh... Wait. My bad - subset of the same Hipster wank crowd. Carry on.

Re:This product turns a profit??? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 6 months ago | (#47184901)

Besides that, how "theft-proof" is it really, if the thief just have to be able to take the seat/post out of the frame? A couple of my bikes, back when I still rode bikes, had the quick-set levers on the top of the upright tube, to make it easy to set the height of the seat. This light would make stealing my seat worth $70 more.

As for bikes without the quick-set levers, a set of tools to adjust that same opening isn't that hard to come by, or difficult to use.

Re:This product turns a profit??? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 6 months ago | (#47185839)

That's what locking skewers [amazon.com] (link is an example, not a suggestion) are for.

Re:This product turns a profit??? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#47185447)

It's not turning a profit. Buried in the article is the fact that none of the employees are getting paid. The "profit" would turn into a six figure loss if they accounted for all of their costs.

i's crossed and t's dotted (1)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about 6 months ago | (#47184791)

'We had all the t's crossed and all the i's dotted and still there was a big daily surprise,' says industrial designer Colin Owen...

I'll assume Mt. Owen is just inexperienced, and not outright delusional. There are no inherent problems with hardware manufacturing supply lines that experienced managers can't compensate for. If one vendor flakes, you buy from the second or third source you already lined up. In advance, because you are not stupid/inexperienced/delusional.

Re:i's crossed and t's dotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185021)

The fact that he couldn't source an already CE compliant USB charger is something I can't wrap my mind around. You can buy those things from multiple reputable electronics and wholesale distributors, in both N.A. and Europe.

Re:i's crossed and t's dotted (1)

ShoulderOfOrion (646118) | about 6 months ago | (#47185381)

Better still, some of them come with a full set of adapters that will fit pretty much any plug anywhere. I didn't understand why that was such a problem either.

Everyone is wrong again. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184807)

The fact that people here are surprised by these "unexpected difficulties" is highly telling.

In the virtual world - which is all the data within any properly functioning computer - one thing is made true by design which isn't true of the real world.

It's very, very simple! *Entropy is conserved*.

IE: Within the computer, things stay exactly where they're left. Nothing degrades, bits stay exactly as they are. (abeit RAID 5 may "lose" one every ~100TB or so).

What this means, is that the second law of thermodynamics *does not apply here*.

When you are used to working in such a domain, the only source of entropy comes in *through you*. (or your users). But either way, the environment doesn't suffer "murphy's law".

When you are building something in the real world, and most especially when you are making something for the first time, or even more meta - making a way of mass making new somethings in order to effect change to the whole world. for the better.... 2nd law of thermo/Murphy's Law applies.

And it applies *hard*. In the real world "No plan survives contact with reality".
IE, you might have thought things through "perfectly" in advance - and this is exactly the skill that works fine for programming, especially programming far divorced from the real world - but it *does not work* in practise.

This is because no theory is exactly true - all have a domain of validity. Which is to say - all are wrong under some particular circumstances.
This means that as good as one might be at planning "reality" in advance, it will never work. We just convince ourselves that we're "sticking to the plan" when we're actually really adapting the plan on the fly. Which is to say, NOT FOLLOWING THE PLAN EXACTLY.

All told, in the real world, doing real value-producing work, such as this start up. IS HARD.

Much harder than any fancy software-only work you might ever do, simply because of thermodynamics, which is to say - The universe does not give a shit. Everything that can happen, probably will at some point. Every mistake that could be made, eventually *will* be made by someone somewhere somehow.

People who think that they're shit hot managers, CEO's and the like, probably have long forgotten what development is REALLY like at the "coal face" where the little details keep causing little unexpected problems daily.
They like to gloss over the problems, after all, those little details *ARE SOMEONE ELSES PROBLEM!*. Else, why have employees at all?

Don't you think it's telling just how few jobs have been taken by robots... which are controlled by computers... which need programming... which must predict the real world in all situations the robot might face, in advance....

Where's the janitor bot? Oh wait, turns out a seemingly complete instruction like "go clean the toilet" is beyond even the most powerful AI's that presently exist.
Hell, just walking around without falling over turns out to be HARD.

So no - hardware is a completely different ball game from software, because it requires actual *real work* which is predominantly comprised of not just the interesting high level stuff, but an absolute shit-load of "re solving" old, boring problems, because something in the real world decayed/changed/broke.

And this is fiddly, hard, boring, stressful, unbelievably time consuming, thankless and possibly the least automate-able work that exists.

Which is why all the smart, yet lazy, people prefer to stay as deep as possible in their virtual worlds. And also why global society can't seem to get it's act together, with all the brightest effectively removing themselves from having actual real effect.

In essence, the difference is that between a comp-sci grad, and a computer engineer who does hardware..

So how to you think the programmer/engineer balance goes in some companies?
Do you really think that the part of MSFT that is responsible for their OS's is comprised of engineers?
How about APPL? Do you think their hardware teams are comprised only of really bright programmers?

Advert -- nothing to do with Silicon Valley (5, Informative)

statemachine (840641) | about 6 months ago | (#47184831)

The summary made it sound like an electronic hardware startup, and the difficulties behind competing with the bigwigs like IBM, AMD, Intel, Cisco, Apple, etc.

No, it's click-bait.

As nice as a bicycle headlamp is (that will still be stolen -- thieves don't use normal tools, and they're usually supporting a drug habit), the article didn't even talk about manufacturing in Silicon Valley, or even San Francisco (which is 45 miles north), and they had no unoriginal issues with certifications in other countries. I'm voting this article down. Re-submit with an accurate summary next time.

Re:Advert -- nothing to do with Silicon Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185003)

I agree, total clickbait.

Now show an article about someone trying to startup to compete with AMD or NVIDIA, or better yet, someone trying to startup a competitor to Apple. That's what I want to see. Where are the challenges in trying to startup a company that makes computers with custom software.

Wrong approach to theft. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184997)

The right approach to theft is to have a light that's so ubiquituous and cheap that it's not worth stealing - as in: nobody will buy it. Going high-tech, high-pricetag is precisely the wrong thing to do. You should make it not worth stealing in the first place.

Stories like these are what deters investors... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185085)

from investing in hardware companies.

It sounds like one big excuse for delivering late. They should have anticipated hiccups. That's the case for software companies and web services, too. You build a website that looks great and works great, now what? how to get critical mass? surprises start showing up...

I read the entire article and there isn't a single mention of a specific problem that they faced. It's all.. oh oh it's so hard because surprises showed up. What surprise???

The closest I can find is this:

"The analogy I would make is to when you first futz around with 3D modeling software. It’s joyful and fun to do something, anything. But the frustration comes when you want to do a particular thing. You want a representation of what is in your mind, with specificity and correctness. And that’s very hard to achieve, for random reasons"

Seriously, the reason is random? You can say about software, too. You build a website, and it comes out too slow for random reasons. You develop some state of the art algorithm, and it doesn't run on the hardware in reasonable time for random reasons. Let's face it, you can't go in and make a few tweaks to make the algorithm run faster.

Let's face it. Business is hard. Hardware is not especially harder than any other business. So called "social networking" type businesses tend to pick up faster for various reasons, but the risk is still high.

This article is one huge whiny marketing gimmick.... and deters investors from investing in hardware start-ups. Why are they trying to do a disservice to other entrepreneurs working on hardware ideas?

A bicycle light - pathetic (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about 6 months ago | (#47185345)

Too many of these supposed "high tech hardware startups" are producing the kind of crap that came from China two decades ago and Japan four decades ago. Bicycle lights. iPhone cases. Even the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino are just PC boards stuck under systems on a chip made in China. This is not high tech.

There were some guys at TechShop last year making a plastic gizmo for attaching an iWhatever to a an auto dashboard. They had a big "Made in Silicon Valley" poster. I felt they were embarassing Silicon Valley.

We need to do better than this.

Re:A bicycle light - pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185471)

There were some guys at TechShop last year making a plastic gizmo for attaching an iWhatever to a an auto dashboard. They had a big "Made in Silicon Valley" poster. I felt they were embarassing Silicon Valley.

What you are witnessing is the completely unqualified wealthy class getting more than their share of opportunity, simply because they are wealthy. That poster? sounds about right...that's all SV ever was.

Re:A bicycle light - pathetic (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 6 months ago | (#47188005)

What you are witnessing is the completely unqualified wealthy class getting more than their share of opportunity, simply because they are wealthy.

What you are witnessing is the completely broke poor class trying to break into the wealthy class that has absolutely no interest in penny-ante plastic trash. The wealthy class pays people to pay people to pay people to make shit like that bicycle light. They do not bother to even read the reports, let alone participate.

Re:A bicycle light - pathetic (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 6 months ago | (#47186037)

The point of the Pi and Arduino is not so much the hardware as the support and community. The hardware for both is trivial, especially the Pi which is literally the minimal reference design from the datasheet. Before they came along the was no standard low cost platform for Linux and microcontroller development that was as easy as Lego to get started with.

These days hardware is usually the easy part, it's what you do with it that counts.

Re:A bicycle light - pathetic (1)

BitcoinBenny (3025373) | about 6 months ago | (#47186343)

I agree that we need to do better, but the funding for hardware startups isn't there. The risks are perceived as being too great, and long gone are the days when someone builds an Apple I in their garage. I thought the Novena laptop was a good step in the right direction, but that clearly demonstrates the challenges involved when competing with hardware designed at scale. Software is just so much more accessible and cheaper to build.

That's normal (1)

Aviation Pete (252403) | about 6 months ago | (#47185483)

From the article:

the biggest hiccups were very localized and unpredictable.

What a surprise.

The things you anticipate are those that you predicted and prepared for. It is always the unpredicted ones which cause hiccups.

In the end, you cannot prepare for all eventualities, but you must budget for a number of them that will hit you, even when you cannot say precisely in advance what or when they will be. If you don't, your project will come in late and over budget.

Blatant Slashvertisment (2)

evilviper (135110) | about 6 months ago | (#47185745)

TFA is 20 full-screen pictures of their product, and page after page of copy about how awesome the product is. Only barely a mention of some minor hiccups, that get treated as an industry problem, rather than the realities of an incompetent start-up that simply didn't know WTF it was doing.

And frankly, $140 for a set of 'sleek' bicycle lights makes me want to go on a killing spree.

Buy a couple 3-mode SK68 lights for $5/ea. Brighter than you could ever want, with high/low/strobe, and multiple zoom settings:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006E... [amazon.com]

Some $2 bike mounts:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AD... [amazon.com]

And if you don't want to cut-out some red cellophane to fit, you can get a kit with red lens for the tail light:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0000... [amazon.com]

Batteries and Charger, < $13:

http://www.amazon.com//dp/B004... [amazon.com]

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004N... [amazon.com]

Re:Blatant Slashvertisment (1)

jimicus (737525) | about 6 months ago | (#47186947)

Only barely a mention of some minor hiccups, that get treated as an industry problem, rather than the realities of an incompetent start-up that simply didn't know WTF it was doing.

I tend to agree with you on that one. The PSU was refused certification in the EU three times? How the hell is that even possible? The damn things use a USB charger, I cannot believe you can't just buy one off the shelf in bulk at a decent price that has already been through all the international certification process.

Boo hoo, learn to plan for the unknowns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47186965)

Staying anonymous... I'm involved in a hardware start-up. IMNSHO, these guys are diddling around and should get better/professional advice. Our design is very involved and the manufacturing is moderately complex (not even considering the software). It sells for thousands of dollars and we're cued up to sell close to a thousand units this year. In the back of our minds is that the likes of Panasonic, Sanyo, and LG are taking a wait-and-see. We're using US-based tech manufacturer(s) because we get their experience, expertise, contacts, while cutting out timezone and language issues. This expertise costs but can't be underestimated, these manufacturers have people who can look at your design and tear apart your prototype and help you scale the assembly. Now back to time tables, we brainstormed what could go wrong and built into the plan weeks of extra slack for us, the manufacturers, our suppliers, and their suppliers: Holidays in China, MOQ's and stocks, upstream supply problems, substitutions, assembly line revisions, QA testing, more QA testing, agency certifications, storage and delivery, etc. and padded it out a little to cover unknowns. We figured we'd be early. You know what? Even with that padding we're running right up to our Production target date. Why? We didn't pad for ENOUGH unknowns of the forehead slapping variety: supplier fails to include part of an order then puts the components on a slow boat instead of expediting it; assembler ignores BOM and uses wrong component requiring rework; part is in practice completely below datasheet spec, the list goes on. These guys didn't do their homework and didn't ask enough adults what to bring to their first rodeo.

hardware _is_ silicon valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47187609)

Hardware _is_ Silicon Valley's only religion. Software is a by-product. These guys do not know why it is called *Silicon Valley*.

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