Tag Archives: experience

Exploratorium: hooray for tacticle science

I visited Exploratorium with the idea that this is yet another science museum with a bit more hands on approach. I was very positively surprised to discovered that it’s far from that. Instead of being classical museum it’s a giant ‘playground’ where each exhibit offers you an interactive experience around some concept, mostly from physics.

Image by AGrinberg via Flickr

Exhibits are designed to be interacted by and you soon find yourself touching everything around you and just trying to learn by feeling and doing things. There were lots of super-excited kids running around which further hyped up the whole experience.

Two interesting things to note about the whole experience:

  • Some exhibits were video taped in order to be able to optimize the exhibits. I find this very refereshing as it shows that the staff here really cares about the experience and that they’re willing to go that extra mile to make it really enjoyable for the visitors. They also nicely solved the problem of privacy as they’ve clearly marked the times when the exhibit will be under video survailance so you could come later.
  • They build the exhibits themselves. Their workshop is part of the scenery and while they don’t actively work on the weekend, I imagine it has to be very interesting if you’re there during the week.

Example view:

Legalize Happiness
Image by AGrinberg via Flickr

There are also a few elements that are a nice touch, like this piano with an X underneath:

Image by Gandalfar via Flickr


Overall, a very fun thing to do in San Francisco and you should check it out next time you’re around.

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How hard it is to run a hardware startup?

Luka Birsa is founder of Visionect d.o.o, Slovenian hardware startup that’s working with e-paper and e-ink technologies and here are my notes from his talk with title – How hard it is to run a hardware startup? at Kiberpipa’s Open Lectures.

Who or what is Visionect

hardware startup
Image by rok xxx via Flickr
  • Three founder, with 5 employees
  • Members of TP-LJ and LUI
  • Founded 18 months ago
  • They’re working in hardware and software business

So what’s a product

  • Wireless screen display + application eMenu


  • eInk – e-paper
  • low power wireless technology (2.4Ghz proprietary)
  • touch screen (projected capacitive)
  • low power software concepts (thin client)

Very robust devices with long autonomy.

Why hardware startup?

Image by rok xxx via Flickr
  • Hardware is cool because you can show it to your mother
  • You can add LED’s to it and things blink then
  • Hardware is cool because you actually take it into your hands


  • Luka + Matej – consulting to hotels with IT decisions
  • Rok has an idea – lets make electronic price tags for stores (ESL)
  • Sounds like a good idea and they try to do it!

1st romantic point of view – doing hardware is simple

  1. You Google it, draw the integrate curcuit
  2. You write a software
  3. You buy components, you start producing
  4. You can do this really fast


Image by bootload via Flickr

1. There’s too much choice on the market. Too much choice and data sheets are terrible. You can easily get samples but are useless.

Drawing circuit for yourself is not drawn it for CE certification.

2. You need additional software to do this as well as prototype boards or prototypes of your own product.

3. It’s not worth buying under 1000 pieces and delivery times are around 12-13 weeks. All the distributors are not the sames.

Quality certification ISO 9001 and similar does not equal product quality.

4. The profits are low because of bad partners and problems. It takes about 3 times as long as projected! And you still don’t have certification.

2nd romantic point of view – Slovenia does not equal world

  1. Lets do ESL
  2. E Leclerc doesn’t have them, others do
  3. It seems like a viable niche
  4. Lets make cool technology and sell it – projected price was 30 eur for 1000 pieces using Zigbee and bistable displays
  5. The world is ours


Image by rok xxx via Flickr

1. Slovenia != Europe != World

2. ESL is already a big market with establish market players

3. Actual production cost > 30E.

4. The actual cost is 7 euros per piece

3rd romantic point of view – all that you need is a good business idea/plan

1. Good idea with a good team

2. Good business plan

3. 2 months of looking for seed money + 2 months to do things = money


Gameboy Micro Babe
Image by TrojanDan via Flickr

1. Good idea doesn’t mean Hi-Tech; Hi-Tech + Slovenia = Problems (FAIL)

2. Good business plan – easier said than done:

Software startup – Hardware startup

Expenses: Less    More

Time to market: Less    More

Dependency on others: Less    More

3. Crash course of investors:

  • The never say no
  • When they say maybe, it means “no”
  • One months is three months

Is there anything positive about it?

Sicura di se
Image by Teone! via Flickr
  • There’s already a slew of software startups, so it’s hard to make your investors enthusiastic about your startup. Hardware is as such a plus 🙂
  • Nobody does hardware anymore. Easier to bootstrap and more in sourcing offers. New partners, new experiences = better chances for future offer.
  • It takes long to invest = good thing in HW startup. More time you have, easier to bootstrap, better business plan etc.
  • Long time to enter the market means the same for your competition. Little playes will have hard time cloning your products and big ones are slow to change.

Tips for hardware startups

  • When planning, have lots of buffer space
  • Talk to other people. You can’t find everything on Internet.
  • If you can use off shelf solutions – use it! Never make things yourself! You can’t imagine how hard it is to actually make your own hardware.

Where’s Visionect at the end of this path today?

  1. Connected with one of the biggest OEM producers in the world
  2. Lots of experience with producing hardware
  3. Working prototype of eMenu and BPS system.
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