Written by Martina Popadakova November 18, 2022 / 7 min. read GRILLED by TechBBQ #02 Exclusive interview with Natalie Monbiot, Head
Spotlight on Hardware Startups
Hardware startups can be difficult to both establish and gain momentum. There are several reasons for how difficult it is to be a hardware-focused startup, stretching from the lack of general hardware support to access to testing equipment and funding.
To support this critical aspect of the hardware industry, we partnered up with SOLIDWORKS and Dassault Systèmes to bring the hardware pitch competition onto the stage at TechBBQ 2022.
What is it and what are some of the key takeaways from the “Playground for Hardware Startups”?
What's the context?
What is the “Playground for Hardware Startups” all about?
“Hardware founders in the softer age do not have it inherently harder. What makes establishing and running a hardware startup difficult, is that there are a whole lot more stakeholders and processes involved.
When considering these complexities, lack of funding is not an exception. As every year, TechBBQ’s main focus is on providing founders with a platform where they can gain visibility and build relevant connections.
At TechBBQ 2022, we hosted a “Playground for Hardware Startups” pitch competition to provide early-stage entrepreneurs with an opportunity to gain exposure on the stage in front of an audience including VC's, press, and partners.
This year, we partnered with SOLIDWORKS and Dassault Dassault Systèmes and opened up to startup applicants from Nordics, Baltics, Benelux, UK, and Ireland. We had six startups who pitched their innovative products in front of six judges and competed for prize money worth 10.000 Euros."
The Winner of the Hardware Pitch Competition 2022
This year’s winner was Aris Robotics from Denmark. They are tackling one of the biggest challenges within sustainability: how we handle our waste and resources.
Aris Robotics is developing a solution that utilizes deep learning and image-based classification to sort consumer waste.
We sat down with Ann-Mia Ambjerg, the CBO and co-founder of Aris Robotics, to do a short interview.
Meet the "Playground for Hardware Startups" winner.
"TechBBQ was a really great event and worthwhile coming because it allowed us to unlock a network that we are not normally exposed to. For a startup, not only the money prize helps, but so does that recognition and appreciation for what we are working on."
Q&A with Ann-Mia Ambjerg
1. How has it been to win the “Playground for Hardware Startups” pitch competition?
“TechBBQ was a really great event and worthwhile coming because it allowed us to unlock a network that we are not normally exposed to. Having been on a stage and then winning the pitch competition on top was a wonderful experience and intensified the networking afterward. It was a nice boost and mental encouragement for me personally. For a startup, not only the money prize helps, but so does that recognition and appreciation for what we are working on.”
2. What are you and Aris Robotics trying to solve?
“Aris Robotics is working to solve one of the biggest challenges within sustainability which is how we handle our waste and resources. We see that a big problem in recycling is sorting because it depends on consumers who find it difficult or confusing. Therefore we develop AI and robot technology to be able to sort waste, so we can remove this responsibility from people and move it over to machines.“
3. What are some of the most common challenges you face as a hardware company?
“We have a software and hardware solution, and of course, the hardware part is more challenging because there are many variables in hardware that you need to take into account. Generally, it always takes a long process and bears a much higher cost than expected.”
4. From a founder's perspective, what are some of the disadvantages of being a hardware company?
“There are plenty of disadvantages but two that stand out are the suppliers and procurement of materials. Often it costs more, especially when you don’t find the right suppliers that are willing to undertake small runs at an acceptable price and sufficient quality. Secondly, it is time and financial management, because every error costs you more money and takes longer production time than you expect. Ultimately, as a founder, you really take on a massive challenge where you find a balance between managing on many levels, while also trying to conserve your own time.”
5. What would be your top 3 pieces of advice to a newly started hardware company?
1. Get the right team. Do not ever underestimate the importance of a good team. From my experience, get someone who knows you, who supports you, and who can work around your ways. Seriously, I couldn’t do it without my team.
2. Do not forget to balance your life and preserve your mental health. Oftentimes, it is very difficult and overwhelming and you need to make sure that you separate yourself from your company. To perform your best, you need to take care of yourself first.
3. Finally, my hardware development-specific advice, put a multiplier on your timeframe and financial estimates. Be prepared, that it is always going to bear bigger costs and take more time and try to schedule that in. This way, planning in time allows your team to work with material and relax with it.”
6. Which accelerators, incubators, programs, funds, etc. have you gone through and received soft grants from?
“We have been part of the SDU Entrepreneurship Labs Accelerator Program. We also participated and received funds from the Innofounder Graduate fund from Innovation Fund Denmark.
Other than that, we have received grants from:
CBS Startup Award
SDU Best Pitch Award
Odin Tech Award
Møllerens Fond SDG Award
Women in Tech Award
Fonden for Entreprenørskab
And the recent money prize from TechBBQ Hardware Startups.
Thanks, TechBBQ, we really enjoyed it! 🙂 ”
ARIS Robotics is a robot company based in Odense. They are dedicated tackling one of the key issues within sustainability, which is how we handle our waste and our resources.
ARIS Robotics uses artificial intelligence to sort consumer waste and enables them to shift the responsibility of sorting waste from people to machines.
Nothing is more painful than having to notify your investors, team, or CEO that your revenue target will not be met.