Workshop Review: Building a Hardware Startup

by Eric Benoit

I recently attended a two-day Hardware Workshop offered by Bolt, a Boston-based VC fund. A dozen sessions gave hardware entrepreneurs exposure to practical tips for building a successful hardware startup.

Before the workshop, most of us were in the realm of not knowing what we didn’t know about running a hardware startup. After, we’re probably still in the same boat—with a few less unknowns, perhaps—but knowing what things to focus on.

The variety of topics was just right, a sampling that spanned patents, picking a supplier, building the right sales team, going through manufacturing, getting funding, and a handful more.


Marc Barros talking about ways to define your minimum viable product and how to differentiate yourself from competitors.

For me, the best talks provided clear action steps you could immediately start to use. One such talk was from Scott Kirsner, on building press relationships. A topic likely unexpected for many but, surprisingly, the one from which I learned the most.

Here are a few tidbits from Scott’s talk:

  • To find the right channels for your product, ask the people you’re looking to get in front of, “What do you read?” Over time, you’ll start to get a good sense of where you need to get your word out.
  • Once you know the right channels, identify a journalist for each who fits your product. (A good way to do this is by reading their past ten articles.) Start to build a relationship with the journalists: follow them, comment on their articles, and send them any tips or thoughts on the areas they typically cover that they may not be aware of (but without selling yourself).
  • You’re wasting time with PR lists. Take the time to write messages targeted directly at an individual journalist. It will take more time but you’ll see better results.
  • Have three stories to tell: your founder story, building story, and product story. A common trap is always thinking you need to push the story about your product. Other stories may pique the journalists’ interest. This gives you options if your product story gets turned down.
  • Be the go-to resource for the journalist. Journalists are looking for experts in the field and if you can always be on call to provide great info and quotes, then you’re building a lasting relationship.

Steve Schlafman going over his process for funding startups.

One nice touch between each talk was having three new people come up from the audience to pitch their startup and where they needed help. This was a great way to start connecting people.

Overall, I highly recommend this workshop for people looking to get a good taste of the different topics one needs to think about when building a hardware product.


Topics: hardware, workshop, education, startup