Y Combinator doubles down on hardware startups with new resources

Citing a growing number of investments in hardware companies, Y Combinator announced today it will integrate two prototyping labs and expert hardware partners into its startup accelerator.

Y Combinator will build a small electronics shop in Mountain View, but the bulk of hardware work will happen at Autodesk’s Pier 9 space. Pier 9 is home to millions of dollars worth of equipment for metalworking, woodworking, 3D printing and even biochemistry.

Just one room in the massive Pier 9 prototypnig space.

Just one room in the massive Pier 9 prototyping space.

The accelerator’s startups will work out of Pier 9 with the help of Bolt, a venture capital firm that specializes in product design and manufacturing. Other prototyping studios and past Y Combinator startups are offering up further expertise, service discounts and equipment.

Hardware startups must take a more arduous path than new software companies, as it is a long and expensive process to go from idea to prototype to product. Hardware accelerators like Highway1 and Lemnos Labs have cropped up in the Bay Area in recent years to provide startups with basic tools and help them locate resources and factories in China.

As the internet of things begins to meld hardware and software and Silicon Valley grows more interested in more challenging “moonshots,” formerly software-centric accelerators like Y Combinator are taking notice. President Sam Altman wrote in a blog post that Y Combinator will be putting out requests for more hardware startups.

“We don’t shy away from expensive hardware,” he wrote, citing Y Combinator’s investments in startups like UPower, which focuses on nuclear fission. “We’re happy to see all sorts of hardware companies, but we especially like the ones that are fundamentally new ideas that Kickstarter might not support.”

3D Printing: hype, hope or threat?

Anyone who reads the new Gigaom Research report, 3D Printing: hype, hope or threat?,  will be taken through a deflation of the hype to the hope of the technology, likely wondering:

  • Is the technology and the market really that problematic?
  • Is the impact really that far off, if so many industries have already found practical application?

But after he awakens his readers to the scope of the disruptive threat with actual examples across industries (after general prototyping, he sees logistics, toys, apparel, autos and electronics among the sectors being hit first), analyst Adam Sinnreich ultimately rewards them with insightful concluding recommendations, including the following:

  • Embrace the makers. That is, be like Nokia and offer the early 3-D geeks in on the potential to include your products when possible in the 3-D hackers’ world. Further, if possible, try to hire such a geek internally, as part of your technical team.
  • Give consumers the best of both worlds. That is, look to use the technology to enhance and augment your traditionally-supplied products.
  • Don’t just sell. Look to the experience in the entertainment sector to realize that you will likely no longer be selling products as much as services and experiences, with a transformation of what business you are in.
  • Protect (and grow) your assets. 3D printing creates all sorts of opportunities to lose–or gain–control over your branding and image.