i3 | December 20, 2018

At the Hardware Club, Community Comes First

Jeremy Snow

Hardware companies are known as some of the riskiest investments in Silicon Valley, but a successful one has the possibility to define an industry and change consumers’ lives. Just look at companies like Apple, Fitbit and GoPro.

Alexis Houssou deals with the highs and lows of hardware startups every day as the co-founder and president of Hardware Club, a venture firm that exclusively deals with hardware. But Houssou cares about much more than signing the check, spending the past three years making Hardware Club a community where roughly 500 startups of all sizes and types network and share advice.

Before starting the company, Houssou invested in multiple hardware businesses but noticed each of his investments suffered similar challenges, like distribution or Chinese manufacturing. So, Houssou set out to create a place where companies could work together to solve these problems.

“Hardware is hard, definitely, but one of the easiest ways to make it more approachable is connecting to other people and gaining information,” Houssou says. “I would bet that everyone in Hardware Club could find at least one other company that is going through — or already overcame — the same problem as you.”

Hardware Club describes itself as “stage agnostic” instead of an accelerator or incubator, since just three percent of member companies have investments with it. Instead, the firm focuses on bringing together startups of all levels to provide mentorship and advice. Once a member is accepted, startups join for free and have access to all other members, as well as community events and unique opportunities at trade shows. Participants immediately recognized the value of flexibility and access at Hardware Club.

The VC has allowed dozens of companies to come to CES since 2015. In 2018, Hardware Club brought 18 companies, including 3D-body scanning scale Shapescale and internet-connected helmet Cosmo Connected. CES continues to be essential for many Hardware Club members, introducing them to distributors, investors and manufacturers. For 2019, Houssou plans to bring a total of 23 member companies to their “CES alley.”

“CES is the best way for our members to meet the whole system behind the industry,” Houssou says. “It’s not just about launching a company — it’s a week where you can focus on connecting to the community.

More than 1,200 entrepreneurs and startups will showcase innovation at Eureka Park. Visit CES.tech for more information.

November/December 2018 i3 Cover Issue

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