Silicon Valley is home to so many software startups, from giants like Facebook and Google in the South Bay to Twitter, Zynga and Salesforce in San Francisco. There seems to be a new app, social network or cloud tool emerging every day.
But software startups don't have all the fun.
Even though software startups outnumber hardware startups in the Valley, new technologies are opening the door for a hardware startup renaissance. Take the popularity of Maker Faire and the emergence of international hardware accelerator programs like HAXLR8R for example - living proof that hardware innovation is alive and well.
Ian McCullough, startup expert and co-founder of Giant Cardboard Robots, shared his thoughts with me about how new tech developments are making it possible for hardware startups to design and manufacture products better and faster.
Software has dominated the Valley economy since the early 1980s. Even today, 8 of the top 12 most valuable startups in the world are based in the Valley, and only one of these companies (Square) manufacturers hardware.
There are several reasons why this is the case — but it's certainly not because hardware is unprofitable. Hardware startups often face greater challenges getting off the ground because of VC funding decisions, higher barriers to entry and higher costs associated with going to market.
Software has an easier time getting off the ground because they can avoid the time-intensive, operational challenges of getting a hardware product to market. But new tools (like Arena PDXViewer and Arena PartsList) and technologies (like 3D printing), hardware startups may be able to dramatically reduce the amount of time and labor that goes into developing a hardware product and bringing it to market.
How we build prototypes, for example, may fundamentally improve with the emergence of 3D printing, a technology that could revolutionize how hardware products are developed. Imagine if you could simply print a part and assemble a hardware prototype entirely in-house.
How can we encourage more hardware startup innovation in the Valley and around the world?