Hardware, often viewed as the poor step-child of the tech scene, is experiencing a Renaissance with West Coast based companies such as Nest and Oculus being snapped up for mind blowing amounts of cash. However, New York’s hardware scene is flourishing, proving to be a seductive environment for start-ups and partner companies that support the hardware ecosystem. Engrained industries, including marketing and manufacturing have built a formidable platform for new entrants. It’s easy to sense momentum from the dozens of Maker spaces, meetup groups, hack events and conferences centered on hardware, connected devices, wearables and IoT.
In the last few years, New York nurtured some impressive and now well established hardware companies such as Makerbot and Adafruit as well as start-ups such as Canary, the 2013 Indiegogo darling. Companies that showcase and celebrate hardware such as Quirky and Grand St. have also contributed to the success of hardware companies by providing necessary platforms for distribution. New York has always fostered strong e-commerce companies, laying the foundation for hardware marketplaces to thrive here as well.
This ecosystem has been supported by a solid investor base that has been early in identifying this opportunity. It includes VC’s like Matt Turck at Firstmark and Matt Witheiler at Flybridge as well as the various angel investors who have recently breezed through my office to see what’s cooking (or 3D printing!) at the RGA Accelerator. Unlike software, it still requires more cash to produce hardware, so start-ups need to look beyond crowdfunding to deeper pockets – and NYC has some pretty deep pockets.
As the fashion capital of the world, wearables are clearly influencing big brands like Tory Burch who are embracing new technologies. I’ve recently seen my fair share of wacky wearables — everything from a dress that gives directions to 3D printed stilettos that alert you when your feet need a rest. So much of it is happening right in the midst of the garment district, with start-ups working side by side with ‘old world’ garment manufacturers.
On a personal note, I am thrilled to be back in NYC as hardware comes to the forefront of the startup scene. NYC may have not have fully embraced recent tech trends like cloud and big data, but we getting excited about drone charging stations and talking Band-Aids! Software will continue to thrive but be warned, hardware is also here to stay.