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I love software wrapped in plastic. So it warmed my heart when I heard that Cyril Ebersweiler and my long time friend Sean O’Sullivan were starting an accelerator in Shenzhen, China called HAXLR8R as part of their Chinaccelerator initiative, both which are part of the Global Accelerator Network.
Following is a guest post from Cyril about the program along with a link to their Demo Day event in San Francisco on June 18th.
Three months ago, what seemed to be a crazy idea became reality: HAXLR8R gathered 9 startups from the US, Europe and Asia in the electronics mecca – Shenzhen, helping entrepreneurs to kickstart their ventures based on physical devices.
Coming from various background (hackers, makers, academics, business) this new breed of pioneers took advantage of the convergence of several factors which have been playing in their favor across the last few years. To name a few: the ever growing computing power (and corollaries in the fields of vision, audio, and sensors), the cost drop for parts and prototyping, the higher quality in mass manufacturing, the increasing effectiveness of the logistics involved as well as the other benefits coming from the digital space such as crowdfunding (e.g. Kickstarter), communities (e.g. Thingiverse), collaboration (e.g. Upverter) and the natural viral effects of the social web. This fostered a new wave of entrepreneurs building products which were unthinkable a few years back.
But building and selling a complete hardware product is still hard. Really hard. The team needs to be composed of superstars who have a remarkable sense of market timing and vision in terms of product. The first iteration of a hardware product and its final version will have few in common, as new constrains (quality, costs, and time) are discovered by just witnessing the magic of ‘how it’s made’. Getting things done in China ensures that those needs are taken care of very early in the process, while providing a relative peace of mind to entrepreneurs after leaving the country as they now have a perfect understanding of their product but also a long-lasting relationships with their local partner.
The remaining traps to avoid are in the fields of logistics, distribution, financing and fundraising, among others. The HAXLR8R program aims at answering those very practical questions which – for the most part – have been dealt with hundreds of times by previous entrepreneurs, now turned into mentors. And they were many to come across the HAXLR8R office: the founders of MakerBot, Pebble and Sphero, an entire team from IDEO, Bunnie Huang and plenty others who have nurtured a group of people working in robotics, toys, connected devices, IOT, energy, appliances, self-quantified and medical.
The HAXLR8R team will hit San Francisco on June 18th for their Demo Day, which will be hosted at Autodesk on Embarcadero. If you are an investor and interested in witnessing a new leap in technology, I’d suggest you take a look and drop an e-mail to makeit [at] haxlr8r.com in order to register.
PBS Newshour has a neat eight minute segment on accelerators. TechStars is featured, along with several others. This makes me happy as part of our goal when we started TechStars was to “open-source” the mentor driven accelerator process. It’s been awesome to be part of this incredible (and – in my opinion – incredibly important phenomenon).
The punch line from the interview is in the first 30 seconds.
“The Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, recently found that startups create about 3 million new jobs a year.”
I really wish every member of Congress would read this over and over and over again. Whenever I see stuff like Protect IP and SOPA making progress through Congress (both bills – which if passed – will have a chilling effect on entrepreneurship and job creation) I get frustrated. It’s easy (but incorrect and uniformed) for people in Washington to dismiss accelerators, and entrepreneurship, as a small part of our economy. But when there’s as much focus as there is on creating jobs, it seems like our friends in Washington should be turning everything else upside down to be supportive of activities that create jobs, especially when the job creators (e.g. entrepreneurial companies) aren’t asking them for anything. And remember that these are only direct jobs – think of all the indirect jobs that get created by the payrolls, wealth, and taxes generated by these entrepreneurs.
If you don’t understand what an accelerator is, or just want a nice eight minute overview, watch this video. And repeat to yourself “startups create about 3 million new jobs a year.”
Near the end, Vivek Wadhwa makes the comment that “other countries like India and China are learning our secret sauce. They are learning what made America what it is.” I’d add Europe to that – following is a picture of me talking to a group of entrepreneurs in Copenhagen this moving via Skype as part of Startup Bootcamp, a TechStars Network partner with accelerator programs in Copenhagen, Dublin, and Madrid. This is a worldwide phenomenon – and it’s awesome.