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For the Love of Hardware

 
 

For the Love of Hardware

by Daniel Tomov

 

 

Having invested in several amazing hardware startups, we at Eleven are not only truly in love with hardware, but we built great confidence and expertise in how to support talented engineers who build the next generation of hardware products!

To be honest with you, hardware was not even within our investment focus when we started Eleven. Why? Well, in spite of our boyish love for gadgets (mainly Dilan’s :), we, like many other early stage investors, have been frightened by the common challenges that hardware startups face like:

  • Hardware startups are harder than software startups;
  • Product iterations are very slow;
  • Hardware startups require more capital;
  • More time is required to build a prototype, which sometimes goes beyond an acceleration program of 3 months;
  • It’s easy to build a prototype but very difficult to go through the production and manufacturing stages.

 

So what made us fall in love with hardware?

 

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It was Playground Energy – our love of first sight with hardware! It was Hristo Alexiev, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Walltopia, and his partner Ilian Milinov, industrial designer with two Red Dot awards, who helped us understand what it takes for a hardware startup to be successful. They smashed all our fears and showed us how it is possible to build a prototype, organize production process, get a TUV certification, file for patent, build R&D capacity and get early traction with customers with just EUR 100,000.

And our confidence and expertise have been growing ever since with more investments in fantastic hardware startups such as Lionsharp, Clicko, Wr1st, Join the Players, Strawberry Energy and Stepsss – all of which demonstrate solid progress. And we also have our stealth mode hardware startups building drones, futuristic aeroponics home furniture and telemetry for racing cars.

Today, we’re one of the very few accelerators around the world that invests actively in hardware startups. And this is possible, because we learned a very important lesson – hardware startups need much stronger in-house support infrastructure than the software ones. And we built it with the help of the founders, investors, mentors and partners of our own hardware startups.

New hardware startups at Eleven could rely on:

 

  • Industrial designer in residence (with Red Dot awards);
  • In house Design Thinking Lab helping founders build consumer-centric products;
  • Several entrepreneurs in residence who are great in prototyping and organizing a production process;
  • Small army of engineers that one could always count on;
  • Expert in residence on procuring components from China (and fluent in Chinese);
  • Industrial partners helping with production and manufacturing;
  • Network with industrial clusters in other places like Germany and UK.

 

Also we have adjusted our investment offer to the needs of hardware startups

 

Currently, we provide EUR 25K for 8% equity plus EUR 75,000 as convertible note. From experience this is sufficient to carry the founders through the prototype and the first production batch. Along the way we could invest more (up to EUR 200K in aggregate) together with our healthy network of angel investors, who are not only bullish on hardware startups but most of them are serial entrepreneurs from the hardware domain. So they know a thing or two about manufacturing and scaling up from a hardware startup into a successful hardware business.

We live in the times of the Hardware Renaissance, which gives new life to hardware. It makes cities, homes, cars – actually everything around us – smarter and hopefully all of us happier human beings. And as Paul Graham said it “We know there’s room for the next Steve Jobs. But there’s almost certainly also room for the first .” Let’s do it together at Eleven!