Y Combinator founder Paul Graham has written an interesting post pointing out that 7 of 84 projects this year have come from hardware companies.
From Quora, those companies are:
Double Robotics (doublerobotics.com)
Coco Controller (milkshakelabs.com)
Boosted Boards (boostedboards.com) [This thing looks impossible to me]
It’s notable that Paul Graham isn’t making the Internet of Things type claim: that the Internet is leaking into the real world, that the physical objects in our everyday lives would benefit from having an IP address. Of the projects funded by Y Combinator, only TagStand has the IoT ethos about it.
Instead his logic is that physical products are popular with startups at the moment because the manufacturing technology is getting more accessible – CNC milling, 3D printing, arduinos etc.
For me, this only pushes the question back a level. The reason that 3D printing and arduinos are being developed so quickly is because there is demand for them, or at least people think there will be demand in the future. I think the infrastructure for low scale manufacture is falling into place because startups are demanding it, not the other way round.
So, why are startups looking to manufacture? It’s because the number of truly exciting things on the software horizon is limited. There’s plenty of streamlining social experiences to happen, niche social networks to form and apps to be built – but I think there’s a feeling that for the moment it’s a case of filling in the details around Facebook and Google, that their is a hiatus in world-changing opportunities on the web.