Ready to get a move on? In this fifth installment of our series featuring a behind-the-scenes look at building a wearable tech brand, Karol Muñoz, lead designer and co-founder of wearable tech startup Luma Legacy talks about ways to accelerate your process–and gives an inside look at what it’s like inside one of the top hardware accelerators.
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Startup founders are their own breed of people. We are driven and lost our patience somewhere in grade school. Growing a business is difficult but especially with hardware because it’s slow. Without a great set of resources, our progress is really slow. For first time founders, even more than fabrication tools, mentors and a connected support group can be the difference in growing a business or staying in an early stage. That’s where accelerators come in.
Accelerators have become a staple in startup culture. There are many great resources out there outlining what you should look for and what the benefits are but not many actually talk about what it’s like to be part of one. My team just finished Highway1, a hardware manufacturing accelerator, and I thought it would benefit many to understand what it is like to go through one of these programs. Some key thoughts:
Relocation & Focus
Four months ago we hopped on a plane from New York to San Francisco, a trip I had done many times–but this time I brought my iMac. I left behind my apartment and most things that keep me sane. (Founders shouldn’t be too sane anyways.) Most well-known accelerators are in San Francisco and we knew that setting a base in the Bay Area would be valuable for us even if we didn’t stay permanently. Relocating also gave us focus; I was in San Francisco to grow my business as much as I could in four months. Every event I attended and coffee meeting I had was focused on that purpose.
It is amazing to meet people who are crazy in the same way as you. Going into a niche program will put you in a room with these people. Some companies will be further along than yours; learn from them. Great friendships are formed in this extreme situation. You laugh together when things are going wrong and celebrate when they are going awesome.
Your Team Will Be Tested
Startup teams struggle all the time; we are driven and stubborn people. When you disagree, all the ammunition comes out. But when you agree, you push the pedal to the metal and get $h!t done. Accelerators accelerate everything, disagreements are no exception. Be sure you are with people you respect and can communicate with. Speak about your issues. If you are going to work out, you’ll come out stronger than ever.
What’s in a Name?
I recently spoke to an investor who said, “We always look at Highway1 teams.” I’m the one who always roots for the underdog, but when it comes to an accelerator–I’d say go for a mix of reputation and niche focus. A well-known program will pull the attention of investors on demo day and have a strong list of mentors.
Demo Day is actually a fun day, or it should be. The weeks leading up to it will have a lot of late nights and stress. For months you do so much work and it feels like nothing gets accomplished, somehow it all comes together right before demo day. Someone on your team will pitch and then you will go back to your table where investors and press will walk around. Your job that day is to intrigue people enough for a follow up.
If you have an accelerator in mind. I’d recommend looking at their past team and reach out to a few of the founders to ask about their experience. The most important thing you will get out of being part of a great program is access to the past and future cohorts, mentors and staff. Every team progressed so much in four months. As for us, we entered the program with a sock that we put on people’s wrists to test:
And came out with a product we can wear and show:
A lot happened in four months. [Editor’s note: We agree! Thanks for sharing the journey with us, Karol.]
In Karol’s next part of the series, she’ll dive into Manufacturing 101.
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