Hardware Club‘s team has been quietly building a community of promising hardware startups to share resources when it comes to manufacturing hardware products. Today, the company has two things to announce — a new chairman, former Apple executive Pascal Cagni and some new funding.
French co-founders Barbara Belvisi and Alexis Houssou started the club 12 months ago as they were already helping a few hardware startups and many were struggling over the same pain points. Instead of having to go through the same problems over and over again, the team started a club. When you become a member of the exclusive club, here’s what you get.
The club now has 86 startups from 20 different countries, you can contact all these founders directly to ask for feedback, introductions and more. Hardware Club has also signed a bunch of partnerships with manufacturers, distributors and service providers. Finally, there are regular Hardware Club events happening around the world so that founders can share their experiences and meet.
Let’s go through these points one by one. Hardware Club screens every application as it doesn’t want to accept very early stage hardware startups. Most of the time, these startups have already done a successful Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, are about to go into mass production and have yet to raise a VC round. There are some exceptions of course, and some companies that were accepted 12 months ago have grown quite a lot. While there isn’t any official list, Misfit, Thync, Narrative, Click&Grow, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Prynt, ISKN, Vapio and Lima are some of the club members.
When it comes to the partnerships, Hardware Club is in a unique position. As it can recommend a manufacturer over another or it can blacklist a distributor if there are some issues, Hardware Club can sign some favorable deals.
On the other side of these deals, potential partners are more interested by a club of 86 startups compared to individual startups. Hardware Club already has deals with manufacturers, such as Foxconn, Jabil and Quanta Computer, and distributors, such as Amazon, Target and Media-Saturn.
Hardware Club has also raised an undisclosed amount of money from Pascal Cagni, Bruno Maisonnier, Marie Ekeland, Stephane Distinguin, Ryota Matsuzaki and others. It has also added two new partners in the past few months, former Qualcomm-Atheros senior engineer Jerry Yang and former Apple employee Caroline Lair.
But all of this was just the first step. Hardware Club has a bigger long term strategy. So far, it has created a community with some of the most promising hardware startups. If the company could raise a fund and become a full-fledged VC firm, it could cherry pick the best ones and invest directly in these companies at the seed or Series A level at a larger scale.
Existing and future club members would get access to the same resources. But some of these startups would also receive funding. It seems like a good deal for everyone. Hardware Club has to make sure that it doesn’t accept direct competitors otherwise it could create some conflict of interests. Hardware Club has already invested directly in a few startups, such as two recent investments in robotics startups recently, smart home robot maker Keecker and gaming robot maker Reach Robotics.
Hardware Club’s strategy is promising. Many modern VC funds have tried to create a community that includes non-portfolio companies to improve their deal flow and network, but in many case it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it’s different for hardware startups. These companies can’t survive without strong manufacturing and distribution partners. That’s why I hope Hardware Club will be able to raise a fund in the coming months and execute on this strategy.