LONDON - In this Cocoon Community Series blogpost we are pleased to introduce the company Hardware Pioneers. In this series we speak to innovative and expanding businesses as they reveal their highlights and challenges, in addition to providing some top tips for success. This series features the stories of of bright thinkers who leveraged their creativity to revolutionise the world as we know it.
Last week we chatted with Fabiano Bellisario, Co-founder of Hardware Pioneers. Hardware Pioneers is a community of startup founders, executives, engineers and developers that meet every month at insightful and enriching events.
How have you come up with this business idea?
We did not want to start a business at the beginning. Everything started 4 years ago when my brother was building an IoT product as a final project for his master degree here in London. He wanted to meet founders of companies in the same sector, so he decided to start a meetup. We began with a simple monthly meetup where we invited founders from other startups to come share their experiences and to connect with each other. From there, the community grew more and more. We thus saw the opportunity to bring more value to the network by offering services to both the startups and the big clients. We don’t charge startups when we organise events or workshops, they’re all free for them. We instead charge the large corporations. The idea to establish a business came about as a natural evolution of the initial development of the meetups and of the community.
Fabiano Bellisario, Co-founder of Hardware Pioneers and Hardware Academy, and David Bellisario, Founder & CEO of Hardware Pioneers and Hardware Academy.
What does Hardware Pioneers do?
We manage a big community of startups, engineers and developers in the IoT and the connected hardware sectors. We offer a range of costless services to our community while providing big clients and corporates with the opportunity to engage with the community during our events. These include conferences, workshops and competitions, amongst others. The corporates see this as an opportunity to generate new leads. Large companies may want to work with startups because they may help bring their products to market, offering them all sorts of services. They may be software companies like IoT cloud platforms that want to engage with the community because this might allow them find new clients. We are basically in the middle and our aim is to connect the small companies to the big ones, and vice versa.
How hard was it to get your idea off the ground? What have you found most challenging?
It was hard to get our idea off the ground because we did not start with the idea of creating a business. Initially it was hard to find a business model that could work and could generate revenue. Now we have a business model that can be replicated even in other cities in the world. We are now working on how to practically scale up our business and our events.
There’s also another challenge. Our background is in Multimedia Production and Product design. We did not study business or marketing. In our case it was challenging to quickly acquire this knowledge and to understand how to start a business from scratch. We built our business strategy over time and along the way, through a continuous process of trial and error and learn-by-doing. We are still learning today. As the team is small, one has to follow many different tasks and projects at the same time. This is challenging but ta the same time very fulfilling.
What have you learned from the process?
When you start a company you really need to think about the foundations. If the foundations of the company are solid and steady, then whatever you are going to build up is going to be stable. Think thoroughly about the software you will use to manage business operations and carefully plan your marketing strategy, for example. If you choose your tools appropriately, you’ll speed up internal processes and you’ll be able to manage the company more effectively. However, if you keep using inadequate tools, problems will arise.
What are the highlights of your expansion?
Recently a big publishing company in our sector approached us with an offer to acquire part of our business. We are now negotiating this deal. We are very happy because this company will help us grow our business faster.
What advice would you give to other startup founders?
Be very humble, always. You should always be in ‘learning mode’. Buddhists call it “beginner mind”: always try to feel like you’re always at the beginning and you’re always learning. If you do that, I believe you’ll gain a lot of value from the people around you. More generally, you need to work very hard and be resilient, even when things won't go well. You need to stick to what you believe in and you need to keep going.
Why are you here at Cocoon? How has this environment contributed to the growth of Hardware Pioneers?
We are here at Cocoon Networks because we believe this environment to be exciting and motivating. There are many other startups working here and we have the possibility to connect with them even if they’re not working in our sector. We have the opportunity to meet other founders and inspiring people who want to make a change and have a positive impact on the world we live in. In addition, this is a fantastic facility strategically located in the heart of London. Cocoon Networks is close to the Silicon Roundabout and next to big names of the global tech scene. Google, for example, is just around the corner. If you hang around this area you have the possibility to meet and connect with both startups and large companies.
What are your plans for the future?
Our mission is to become the leading global community in the IoT and connected hardware sector. Our plan is to expand and nurture our community by attracting all those founders who focussed their business around IoT and hardware technologies. London is a test to see whether our model works. We definitely hope to open more offices around the world. There are many opportunities in the US and in Asia, for example. If you look within Europe, the city of Munich in Germany would be a great destination. If we were to start in Europe, we’d probably start from Munich. Our first country outside of Europe would most likely be the US.