Hardware Startup Review: Spark

The Hardware Startup Review - Spark - Hackaday-01

Like it or not, a whole new wave of Hardware Startups is coming our way. Crowd Funding campaigns are making it possible for everyone with an idea to “test the waters”, tech-savvy Angel investors are eager to help successful ones cross over, and Venture Capitalists are sitting on the other side, always on the lookout for potential additions to their “hardware portfolio”. It’s these billion-dollar acquisitions that made everyone jump on the bandwagon, and there’s no going back. At least for now.

That’s all great, and we want to believe that good things will come out of this whole frenzy. But instead of staying on the sidelines, we thought Hackady should get involved and start asking some hard questions. After all, these guys didn’t think they’d be able to get away with some nicely produced videos and a couple of high-res photos, right?

For our first issue, we picked a relatively innocent target – Spark, the team behind the Spark Core development board. By embracing Open Source and Open Hardware as the core part of their strategy, Spark has so far been a positive example in the sea of otherwise dull (and potentially creepy) IoT “platforms”. So we thought we should give [Zach Supalla], CEO of Spark a call.

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[Bob's] experience with Haxlr8r

[Mike Szczys] recently got together with [Bob Baddeley] to talk about his experiences taking a hobby project to market. He’s not quite there yet, but [Bob] decided to travel a route which we find quite interesting. He has been taking part in a 111 day accelerator program called Haxlr8r. The idea is that this experience will give him the manufacturing chops he needs to meet the demand when his product actually launches. He spent a considerable amount of time in China, an experience he blogged about at length. The program also provides development cash in return for a percentage of the company.

The product he’s working on is an LED scoreboard, which explains why he calls the company Portable Scores. It started as a hobby project, and he brought one of the early prototypes along to show off in the video after the break. It’s a wooden frame, with foam board for the back and substrate, and clear acrylic on the front to protect the LEDs. All of the soldering is point-to point (there’s an image of this available after the break too). His redesigns have moved from Arduino to a PIC controller, made the entire face of the display one PCB, and added Bluetooth control. It’s great to see someone really go for it with a well-conceived project. We wish him all the best!

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