The Alphalab Gear National Hardware Cup 2016 by Alphalab Gear

Attending the National Hardware Cup Finals by AlphaLab Gear in Pittsburgh

Last week, I flew to Pittsburgh, PA, and watched the AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup 2016 Finals. It was exciting.

Winners from 9 cities were competing

The finalists are winners of regional finals in 9 cities: Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor, Washington DC, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Austin. Also, one wildcard team is selected based upon feedback from the audience.

In the finals, two winners from a competition from Korea joined the competition. So, each of the 11 teams made a 5 minute pitch on stage (OXX, the winner from Ann Arbor, did not show up after all).

The audience of nearly 100 people came to the AlphaLab Gear site to watch this hardware competition.

After the opening speech by Ilana, Managing Director of AlphaLab Gear, TechShop’s CEO Mark Hatch came in and shouted “welcome to the Revolution!” with a boom! The audience was instantly heated up.

Ilana Diamond (left) and Mark Hatch (right)

After Mark’s passionate speech, 11 teams introduced their products. Some had live demos of their products while some only showed theirs in the slides due to very short presenting time.

No time for appealing competitive advantage?

Generally speaking, all the presentations were good and well organized. Great work!

But I talked with a guy from Carnegie Mellon about one thing. These people did not talk about their competitive advantage well enough. So, it makes sense to me some judges were asking about patent of the product.

Many of the teams insisted they have patents. But it is too short to make us (or at least myself) fully understood if such patents are strong enough to protect them from competitors.

I personally do not like relying on the patent if you are a startup, because it is very time consuming and costly but it is usually not so strong as to become your competitive advantage against your rivals. But who knows.

VR Cam startup “Lucid VR” won $50K investment

Two out of the three final winners are New York startups (one is from the wild card), but the first place is from San Jose, CA.

From left to right, Dog Parker from New York, BotFactory from New York, and Lucid VR from San Jose

The third place is Dog Parker, who provides on-demand on-street doghouses.

Surprising is their price. $25 for initial membership and 20 cents per minute for dog parking. The mobile app can lock/unlock the dog house, monitor the dog and accept payments.

The second place is BotFactory, who develops and sells Squink, a sort-of-3D printer for personal electronics circuit creation.

They first started their Squink project on Kickstarter in Summer 2014 and raised $100K in 4 weeks.

Recently, they introduced the multi-layer printing that allow to print multi-layer boards.

The first place is Lucid VR, who creates LucidCam, a stereoscopic 3D camera which captures the world as you see and hear it. 180° wide-angle lenses enable an active view, and spacial audio enhances the experience.

According to CrunchBase, Lucid VR just raised $2.1M a few weeks before this competition. So the prize for this result as $50K in the convertible notes is probably not so relevant to their business today, but I think this win should make the company different from what they used to be.

Again, congratulations!

NYC’s Hardware Bootcamp Program with travel to Japan

I went to Pittsburgh not only to see this competition and feel the temperature of hardware startups, but also to extend our network for our hardware boot camp program called Monozukuri Bootcamp.

We are accepting applications for our first batch by June 6th. We will select only a few startups for the first batch, because we will give a 6 weeks long tour to Japan for higher-quality manufacturing, followed by marketing mentorship in New York City with an opportunity to do interactive demos for weeks to get direct feedback from the world’s biggest market, before the Demo Day.

For the first batch, we will NOT take any equity or fees for the program. Rather, we plan to subsidize the travel expense to Japan. Please read the following post if you’re interested.

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