Hardware by the Numbers: A Narrative

Last year in July, I did some preliminary research on the hardware startup ecosystem. The goal was to examine the growth of the sector by looking at funding events, on both the venture and crowdfunding front.

This year, for my keynote at O’Reilly’s Solid conference, I wanted to put together a much more in-depth narrative looking at the trends that are shaping hardware, and leading to that growth. I’m interested in the growth of a community that encourages founders; the new support ecosystem that facilitates building hardware businesses; the manufacturing trends that govern where and how things are made; and the types of businesses that flourish as a result.

This presentation and talk summarize that research.

Here’s an updated table of Kickstarter data* :

Year 2011 2012 2013
Hardware Projects 120 239 784
Product Design Projects 649 1373 2453
Total Projects 26,124 41,440 46,100
HW as percentage of total 0.

0.58% 1.70%
PD as percentage of total 2.48% 3.31% 5.32%
Hardware project dollars raised $2,543,850 $9,768,304 $46,645,309
All project dollars raised $104,625,478 $323,555,323 $469,452,086
Hardware $$ as percentage overall 2.43% 3.02% 9.94%
Hardware project number of backers 19,019 91,996 370,189
All backers 1,409,190 4,365,213 6,369,255
HW backers as percentage of overall 1.35% 2.11% 5.81%

And an updated bubble chart showing funding events (Series A and earlier; this latest version includes medical devices):

Botsourcing stats…

My slides (though, really, view them on Presentate – speaker notes and all citations are right there next to the relevant slide, it’s a much better experience):

I’m inspired by numbers. I look forward to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends every year (and it’s coming out this week!). One of the most challenging aspects of transitioning from Wall Street to seed-stage VC was the relative absence of quantitative data for decision-making. The fact is, while I’ve made a vested effort to source and cite each and every piece of information in this presentation, the underlying data is often dirty or scattered.

If you compare this data set with my post from last year, you’ll undoubtedly find things that are included in one but not the other – this is due to changes in the classification taxonomies of the source databases. Crunchbase 2.0 has made a lot of progress and is a valuable resource, but even it is dependent on users making edits as they discover errors or incomplete information (ie, Boston Dynamics being classified solely as a software company). If you discover any glaring errors, please point them out to me (ideally, kindly!).

If you’d like to chat about other interesting facets of analysis to add going forward, get in touch!

A million thanks to the teams at Crunchbase, Octopart, and my very talented husband, Justin Hileman, for going above and beyond in helping with this project.

*with the same caveat as last year: Kickstarter campaigns are limited to one category, so some consumer electronics projects, like Pebble, are in Product Design.