HAX Events in SF & Shenzhen, Cartoons, and a few words from Lee Kwan Yew

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Nihao, dear friends!

I'll start with an eye candy:

A Hardware Comic Strip

From Hardware in Comic Strips
because HBO's Silicon Valley series does not cover hardware

This email too long for your smartphone? Here's a summary:

1. Book! A note on Lee Kwan Yew's 'One Man's View of the World'.
2. Events: Preview Day in Shenzhen, Demo Day in SF. Join us!
3. Success stories: millions and millions!
4. Robots swarm Kickstarter: Robo Wunderkind and Cell Robot
5. Apply to HAX: you're welcome!
6. Fancy meetings: a Prime Minister, a President, and a little red cock
7. Other notable things: hardware ecosystems, China and Xiaomization
8. More comics



Before I talk business I'd like to recommend this book by Lee Kwan Yew: One Man's View of the World. "LKY" was the "father of Singapore", boss for 30 years then still active in various capacities for another 20. He might have met as many heads of states at the Queen of England.

It's a relatively short geopolitics work looking at US, China, Europe, Japan, Middle East, etc. and of course Singapore and its SE Asian neighbors. His take on China is particularly interesting and gives a good perspective on the "one-man-one-vote" Western ideal. His take on Europe and Japan are not optimistic.

The book does not exist as an ebook so you'll hurt a tree. Give it to a friend once you're done.

Now what's new with HAX, the world's favorite startup hardware accelerator?


We have been hard at work with our latest 15 startups. Lots of robots and medical devices. It's going to blow your brain and gives you butterflies in the stomach. Literally. In a safe way, of course.

First, we have our very first VIP PREVIEW DAY coming up on October 30 in Shenzhen. It's an invite-only preview of our latest 15 startups for investors and a few select partners and friends. The response has been great so far and space is filling fast. If you haven't received an invitation, either it's not a fit or we forgot you. If you'd like to join, email me at ben@hax.co to ask which it is. You'll need a password to RSVP.

Second, we have a HAX HARDWARE EXTRAVAGANZA on November 10 in San Francisco. It's basically a demo day for our HAX Boost (10 startups) and HAX Accelerator (15 startups) programs, with some more things. This one will be somewhat more open. If you want an invite, email here: ben@hax.co

Third, a lovely LEAN HARDWARE MEETUP is open to all after the above event. Also November 10 in SF.

Also, the HAX team will be on the road in Nov+Dec in US / Canada / Europe and maybe more. Ping me if you want to meet, or have us come and talk!


We had THREE million-dollar Kickstarter campaigns this year:
- CHIP, the $9 computer. $2M from 40,000 backers. Not a bad way to build a developer community in 30 days. They're already shipping the first units to "kernel backers". There are various theories about the meaning of the C.H.I.P. acronym.
- Kokoon, the "headphones for sleep" (or "Beats for naps"). It competes with sleeping pills! I hear they're fundraising after scoring $2M on Kickstarter (#1 in UK for "Design")
- Prynt, which turns your smartphone into an instant camera. It's the #1 Kickstarter in France.

We also had two medical device companies who are already doing very well:
- FeetMe, who created a smart insole for helping diabetics keep their feet. It also helps design custom insoles! Looking for distributors in USA, China and a few other places. Sports applications are also possible. Let's talk.
- BBB, who does a smart blood diagnostic device. Already over $2M in contracts, BBB raising, pretty much straight to series B (BB).

Last, if you're looking for something really groundbreaking, head over to see the Electroloom fabric printer - it's a Macintosh moment for the garment and fashion industry. Raising a seed round now.


Two HAX projects are currently on Kickstarter! And both are robots! What's going on?!

Robo Wunderkind is an educational robot kit that already almost tripled its funding goal and reached $200,000. It has another 2 weeks to go. This is what your kid needs!

Robo Wunderkind

Cell Robot is quite a different animal: it is one of the very first modular robots out there. It can walk like a creature on four legs, or crawl like a worm. It's not cheap but it's amazing. It just went live on Kickstarter a few hours ago. Be a backer!

Cell Robot

There will be more projects shortly as HAX 7 teams graduate in a few weeks.


The cycle never ends: 15 graduate, we look for the new batch. And it's HAX 8, such an auspicious number!
You can apply here to HAX Accelerator (if you have a prototype) and HAX Boost (if you have a product).
The next programs start in early 2016. Apply early and you'll have more attention and less competition in the first selection round. You can update later your application if you make progress.

Why HAX?
1- Most active in hardware. 90 startups so far (60% US/CAN, 20% EU, 20% ASIA). Planning 50+ next year.
2- "In the kitchen", Shenzhen. How can you hope to cook a new dish from outside?
3- Bridge between the two Silicon Valleys: Shenzhen & SF
4- Consistently strong track record with crowdfunding for B2C projects
5- Independent (not a corporate accelerator), no hidden fees, no funny business
6- High tech: robotics? medical? We love it, and it works!
7- Backed by SOSV, the "Accelerator VC", a global fund invested in hundreds of startups with an amazing network. Follow-ons by Sequoia, Xiaomi, GGV, etc.
8- Empowerment-focused: don't give a man a supply chain, teach him how to build it. That and DFM, PR, fundraising and more!


I was recently in Taiwan for the MOSA startup conference to talk about leveraging ecosystems (Silicon Valley and Shenzhen), showing they are opportunities rather than threats. There I shook hands with Prime Minister Mao Chi-kuo and mentioned that "Shenzhen was made in Taiwan" ^^ (many Contract Manufacturers and OEMs such as Foxconn, Quanta and Pegatron were founded by Taiwanese). He might have liked it :)

I also gave talks at three events in Japan (at TechinAsia, Wearable Tech Expo and the G1 Global Conference). The hardware startup scene is emerging there, but still lacks entrepreneurs- many potential creators are still working for the likes of Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic and more. Apparently several of those giants are now downsizing - it might lead to more startup creation!

Event across Asia

At events across Asia

Cyril, founder of HAX, was in Paris and took a selfie with President Hollande, sporting the little red cock pin of "La French Tech" (it's like Daft Punk for startups).




- Hardware startups are popping up everywhere, some countries are more active than others. I am still waiting for Japan and Taiwan to wake up. My view is that at the "macro" level, people jump into entrepreneurship when either (1) the economy is booming or (2) the economy is very bad. Sadly, the economy in many "developed" countries is either stagnant or mildly declining / growing. Overall people are not optimistic and try to stick to safe (?) jobs. At the "micro" (individual) level, at TechInAsia Ben Horowitz from the renowned VC firm Andreesen Horowitz shared this view: "Don’t start a company because you want to be an entrepreneur. Start it because you feel you would be letting yourself and the world down if you didn’t launch your idea”. While this is true in many cases, I think entrepreneurship also offers - aside from the "idea" - a freedom that many seek, however stressful or uncomfortable it might be.

- China's hardware startups are quite different from the ones found overseas. Many do not attempt to build groundbreaking technology and rather focus on something incremental and affordable. This resonates well with China's consumers. The downside is the frequent lack of defensibility of products, and the major role played by the online retailers Taobao/Tmall, JD and Xiaomi. It's very tactical. Chinese hardware startups tend to excel at production and the quality of their product is quite high. Breakthrough innovation simply has a lower risk/reward ratio in China.

- Could innovative hardware companies that are not Apple succeed in China? Not without (1) clear demand and (2) strong barriers of entry. When an activity tracker costs less than $15 in China, it's hard to succeed with one that costs $100 for more or less the same functions. The "Xiaomization" phenomenon makes China a very tough market (even for Chinese startups).


Most recent blog posts, and comics:

- China vs. Silicon Valley: I was asked about key differences. Here are some.
- Hardware and Games: an attempt at comparing product cycles and industries.
- Hardware in Comic Strips: maybe it will convey some ideas better :)

It almost happened

Last, I have a few posts for TechCrunch in the making I hope to finalize this month. Fun times!

Ben @ HAX | ben@hax.co