May 14, 2013
San Diego is getting in on the incubator action but there’s a twist--this one is for hardware only. Fab Lab SD and the Ansir Innovation Center are teaming up to create an incubator that focuses on developing physical products, with the ultimate goal of getting them to market.
The new incubator, located in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego above a quaint cafe, is the sort of eclectic collision that Makers can appreciate. In addition to amenities like a laser cutter, soldering stations, and 3D printer, the long room is also filled with the flotsam and jetsam of its previous occupant: movie theater seats, cubicle sections, a length of red velvet rope barrier. An abandoned wooden pulpit serves as a makeshift standing desk.
The space will function as a co-working location, where entrepreneurs can come to meet others who are interested in creating new hardware. Teams in need of specific services will be connected to a vetted list that include professionals in fields like law, sales, or marketing. Rast and Wang also plan to hold classes in subjects like electronics or fabrication.
Wang explained that the Maker movement is allowing small production, customized hardware to become a reality and that there is a shifting demand for "smart" goods:
“I’m fascinated by the fact that we have this national zeitgeist that’s trending towards physical products again...Originally we were only about dumb, hard products, then we were about software and intelligence, and now we’re creating a synthesis of the two.”
Rast explained that while San Diego is home to software incubators and accelerators like The Founder Institute and Tech Coast Angels, there isn't one for hardware. In addition, large scale manufacturers like Sony, Nokia, and Kyocera are also located in San Diego to take advantage of the city's proximity to the machiladora factories in Mexico. Rast and Wang plan to play on the city's strengths as both a space for innovation and a center of production.
Sustainability is also an issue, Rast emphasizes that products from China travel thousands of miles just to get to our shores while products made in Tijuana can arrive in San Diego in just 30 minutes.
The duo is looking for entrepreneurs at all levels--from those who have fully developed products and want to start production to those who simply have an idea and the drive to make it happen. Deals will be made on a case by case basis, but the incubator will offer entrepreneurs everything from classes on basic fabrication to finding investors and physical production, in exchange for a percentage of final sales. Those interested in being part of the incubator's inaugural cohort can contact Katie Rast (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ping Wang (email@example.com).