Kickstarter announced the launch of a new program today, called Hardware Studio, that’s designed to help startups navigate the dizzying world of manufacturing. The studio is the result of a partnership with two companies: Avnet, a large electronic components distributor, and Dragon Innovation, which helps small teams develop production plans. The Hardware Studio won’t do everything for startups, but it’ll serve as a jumping off point for DIY creators who have an idea for a product but no clue where to start with manufacturing.
The program has two components: education and connection. Educating creators comes in the form of the Hardware Studio Toolkit, a new community site that’ll host tutorials, webinars, and tools from Avnet and Dragon. To participate in the second aspect — connection — creators will have to fill out an application in which they’ll likely just have to provide extra details on their projects. If Avnet or Dragon accept the application, these creators will have access to additional tools, like a product planner for helping keep track of their needed materials, as well as office hours with engineers. Accepted creators can also receive discounts for additional consultation time. In theory, Avnet and Dragon could take an idea and fully bring it to life through their manufacturing connections in China and marketing expertise. Some crowdfunding campaigns might not want to pay for that knowledge, but Kickstarter is sure they’ll at least want to check out the free offerings. Indiegogo provides a similar service through a partnership with Arrow Electronics and Riverwood Solutions.
Of course, this entire program is aimed at preventing Kickstarter meltdowns in which backers never receive a product after fronting some cash. Julio Terra, head of tech projects, told The Verge that many startups don’t realize that by just “selecting the wrong part, it can make [their] product fail or push it back six months.” Sure, the company can’t force anyone to take advantage of these resources or dish out money for consulting, but it can at least point them in the right direction. Still, Terra explained that he doesn’t see it as completely cutting out the risk of crowdfunding. Risk is fundamental to innovation, he says, but at the same time, he and Kickstarter want to maximize backers’ chance of getting a product [while] also [increasing] creators’ chance of succeeding.”
The moral here? You’ll definitely still want to think twice before backing a campaign, but at least Kickstarter recognizes backers’ gripes.