Platforms like Kickstarter have become the first nowadays hardware makers would turn to for crowdfunding and early adopters. But in the past year or so backers on those platforms would find themselves always waiting to receive the real thing. Delays were largely due to hardware design and manufacturing issues.
That’s where some Asian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) see the new business opportunities. The key problem, from their perspective, is some software developer-turned makers have little knowledge in hardware design and have no idea how much time is needed for producing certain parts.
Taiwan-based HWTrek looks like every another crowdfunding site. But the big difference is it offers to help makers around the world, with resources in OEM sector across Asia, understand which ideas associated to hardware manufacturing won’t work before they build a prototype or reach out to manufacturers.
Taiwan is famous for consumer electronics OEM. We heard that Nest, the smart thermostats whose maker was acquired by Google for $3.2 billion earlier this year, are made in Taiwan. HWTrek has partnered with some 130 OEMs in Taiwan and other places in Asia to help make projects from the platform.
There are experts, with years of experience in consumer electronics manufacturing, sitting behind the screen to review projects submitted to the site and point out problems in hardware designs. HWTrek is also developing standardized tools for makers to make feasible prototypes online; for instance, HWTrek will provide types of materials for smart devices for makers to choose from.
For prototypes to HWTrek experts’ appeal, the platform will help find the right manufacturers out of the 130 partners. It’s not that it’ll be open to all of them for bid but that HWTrek will choose manufacturers they feel suitable; for instance, recommending a manufacturer who has produced watch-shaped devices to a smart watch project.
If a project is good and special, HWTrek will consider taking a stake in it. So far the company has invested in three projects. The first projects on HWTrek will ship in the third quarter at the earliest.
HWTrek isn’t alone that has seen the problems makers have been through and wants to take advantage of manufacturing capabilities in Asia especially in Greater China. I heard that some brand smartphone makers in Guangdong area, a major manufacturing center in China, plan to establish similar platforms. Taiwanese government is working on helping local OEMs take orders from makers too. The edge HWTrek has over them must be that it started with projects from the more mature markets like the US and Europe.
Other Chinese players are eyeing the market too. Online retailing platform JD.com is building a channel to sell smart devices of all kinds. Chinese search giant Baidu wants to have all smart devices use its Cloud storage services and future data analytics services.