A hardware startup is still hard, but it is getting a little easier. The growing availability of 3-D printers and starter kits with easy-to-program circuit boards makes it simpler and cheaper to produce prototypes. Contract manufacturers stand ready to handle mass production and unravel supply-chain tangles. New fundraising techniques help entrepreneurs get started and test demand.
The result: U.S. venture capitalists completed a record 31 fundraising deals for consumer-electronics makers last year, eclipsing the previous high of 29 in 1999, according to DJX VentureSource. They pumped $848 million into hardware startups, nearly twice the prior record of $442 million set in 2012.
The flurry of deals included new funding for Jawbone, which makes wireless audio equipment and an activity-tracking wristband, set-top-box manufacturer Roku Inc. and camera startup Lytro Inc.
“It’s definitely the dawn of a golden age of hardware,” said Scott Miller, chief executive of Cambridge, Mass.-based Dragon Innovation Inc., which advises hardware startups and helps them raise money.
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