How to Use Effectuation to Bootstrap Hardware Startup

hardware startup

Launching a tech startup follows common patterns, especially when looking at product development and funding. This makes a lot of sense for mobile and web startups, where no major resources are required initially. For hardware startups like Playbrush, it is slightly different, as developing the first prototype is time-consuming and requires initial capital.

Three rules of being investable

Typically before seed-stage capital is funding initial traction, a product has to work, it was to be used regularly and first customers have to pay for it. With Playbrush we have been using effectual principles to solve this chicken-egg problem.

Effectual Principles

Effectuation supports entrepreneurs with decision-making by starting with what they have, whom they know and what they can afford to lose. While our founding team’s skill set is diverse and we were even able to put together a first working prototype ourselves, none of us is an electrical or industrial engineer by training.


Thanks to 3D printing, the rise of sensor technologies and great developer tools, hardware development have become more affordable and quicker than ever. Tools like the Arduino, the Raspberry Pi or the TI Sensortag are perfect for testing initial hypotheses.

At Playbrush, the TI Sensortag got us coding immediately, without spending time on finding reliable hardware engineers. We were able to do that while building our first game.

Partnerships & Network

Effectuation is not only about what you have, but also about finding the right partners. After testing the most crucial hypotheses, we partnered with some engineers from my former University, UCL, and some brilliant industrial designers from my home country, Austria.

Our initial development, using the Sensortag, not only determined the requirements for our new prototype but also earned us credibility and saved us money. So far, we have not only tested with over 250 kids who love what we do, but we also have our own proprietary gadget working and ready for production.

Crowdfunding as a marketing tool

With our prototype ready we were able to get supplier quotes and have started building manufacturing partnerships. The certainty that we can build and deliver our product combined with the great feedback from our testers has made it possible to consider a crowdfunding campaign. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are great ways to launch a hardware product, get real market feedback and sell the first batch.

Looking at the principles of effectuation minimizing losses is crucial, so such a campaign has to be well prepared. For us at Playbrush this was the next logical step on our journey – so check out our current Kickstarter Campaign.

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