It’s been said that we’re in a sort of golden age of product design. Thanks to affordable design software like SketchUp, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and the incredible reach of social media, it’s never before easier to build a brand and launch a product.
If you have a good idea, you can make it a reality.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still some big barriers for product designers. Even as the Wall Street Journal reports that big name VC's are dumping money into companies like Jawbone, GoPro and Roku, one of the biggest obstacles is access to capital and management expertise. A good idea does not a good business make. And often those with the great ideas, aren’t suited or interested to running a growing business.
But there are a few options for product/hardware startups.
One is Imprint Venture Lab, an incubator for product designers. They’ve just announced a $3 million dollar fund, their third and one they’ll soon be holding FastPitch sessions for to finalize who they invest in. Entry to those sessions is closed but the fund is still interested in hearing from companies with compelling ideas.
I spoke with Julia Y. Huang and Tanya Raukko who lead the fund about what they look for in an entrepreneur and why they founded Imprint Venture Labs.
“What we found in the whole VC capital landscape and that theres a saturation in technology, consumer goods design, food and beverage,” says Raukko.
Imprints Venture Lab’s most high profile investment is probably Knockaround Sunglasses, a small sunglasses company launched out of a garage has grown massively. Now, it’s common to see Knockarounds all over the place and of course adorning celebrity faces as well.
Imprint is invested in six companies mostly based in NYC and LA. I asked Huang and Raukko what they look for in a company to invest in.
“The most important thing, just monumental, is the founder himself,” says Huang, adding a few needed characteristics: “Collaborative, personality, passionate, resourceful and grit and determination to make it happen.”
The also look for a brand story and concept behind what they’re inventing.
With that, founders receive mentorship on operations, management, building a sourcing network, branding, social media, etc.
“That’s how we’re different from other ventures,” says Huang. “We don’t just give money and walk away and have half a year investor meetings.”
“We support heavily on operations. A lot of founders are really creative at heart and don’t have operations and legal backgrounds,” says Huang.
Huang and Raukko stressed to me that they are always interested in hearing from designs and entrepreneurs with interesting ideas. You can find out more about them here.
*Imprint Venture Lab is one of a few fund raising options for product/ hardware startups that I’ll be highlighting over the next few weeks. If you know of more I should focus on, please do drop a line.