On March 24th we start with our first panel discussion of our event series Talking Hardtech with the topic: Early stage support for hardtech startups through programs – What is required to provide the best support? Tayla Sheldrake will be among those on stage. She is the project lead of the MakeUp Hardtech Innovation program and has already been able to give us a first insight into the new program and the topic in general.
You want to join our event? A registration link for the event can be found here.
All information about our MakeUp Hardtech Innovation accelerator can be found here.
Hi Tayla, today we will talk about early stage support for hardtech startups through programs and what is required to provide the best support. We chose you because you were the project lead for the previous Imagine 2030 Accelerator program and you will be instrumental in designing and leading this one too.
First of all, do you want to tell us a bit more about the program itself? What is it about?
TAYLA: Thanks for the opportunity. It is indeed a very exciting time. MotionLab.Berlin is really diving into various avenues on how to best support hardtech startups – one of which is the MakeUp Hardtech Innovation accelerator program. This 6-month program – which is made possible by the European Social Fund – is a program in which young innovative hardtech teams are given a platform to not only work on their business strategy as most accelerators do, but also build and develop their physical prototypes.
So, they will have the tools to actually build a physical product?
TAYLA: That is right, with us they will have access to various machinery like 3d printers, lasercutters, CNC milling machines etc. to actually learn how to and build physical prototypes!
So basically in this all inclusive program teams will be able to benefit from up 96 300 Euro invested equity free. Broken down into the details this means that each founder will receive a monthly stipend of 1500 Euro equity free as well as in-kind support valued at up to 69 300 Euro.
What does the in-kind support entail?
TAYLA: The in-kind support includes:
- Regular coaching and mentoring sessions with industry hardtech experts
- Machine and prototyping workshops
- Prototyping support from our partner Voxdale
- Exclusive office space
- Access to high-end prototyping machines & work space at MotionLab.Berlin
- A MotionLab.Berlin team membership which includes 24/7 access to the hardtech innovation hub
- Networking and pitch events
- Access to various types of corporate services from our partner B.I.G.
- Demo Day
- A MotionLab.Berlin alumni membership after the program
And who can apply? Who is your target group?
This program is designed to support early stage hardtech startups and teams that are daring to wake up industries and develop solutions that will have a positive impact on our environment and society as a whole. In essence this means that you can apply even if you and your team just have an idea. The main thing is, you need to be willing to move to Berlin and register your company here. Furthermore, you cannot have already generated any sort of revenue from the product/business you are building.
Why are you so passionate about this topic?
TAYLA: I see huge value in supporting the underdog. For so long everyone has been focused on the next software startup thinking that that will be the next big thing. But, this is not the time to think about the next big app that will generate revenue for selected individuals. We need daring innovations that challenge the status quo. We need physical products that will help enable their software counterparts and ultimately create more sustainable solutions and future.
At which point will the program be successful for you?
TAYLA: I would deem the program successful when the participating startups have a.) developed functioning prototypes and b.) received a follow up investment.
Who do you think will be successful faster - a team of engineers only or a team full of business (wo)men?
TAYLA: Definitely a heterogeneous team. What so many tend to forget is that one has to develop the business idea at the same pace as the prototype. You cannot build a perfectly functioning product and then only stop to think who the customer could be. Simultaneously you cannot have strategized a viable business model without even understanding if your product is viable to build in the manner you envision.
The hardware and tech industries are not exactly known for having a high quota of women. Why do you think that is and how do you prevent this problem?
TAYLA: That is unfortunately still true. I believe this to be due to lacking role-models and education particularly within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Thus the best way to address this problem is to support initiatives such as Women in Engineering groups such as the WIE, or accelerator programs that are dedicated to fostering female hardtech entrepreneurs such as MakeUp Hardtech Innovation. In so doing I believe we can help foster role-models for future generations. Additionally we also need to focus on STEM education and make that openly accessible to all individuals.
How did the program come about? And what was particularly important in the conception?
TAYLA: As part of the Operational Program of the State of Berlin for the European Social Fund (ESF-OP) funding was put forward to supporting innovative, technical and sustainable solutions for central, societal tasks, e.g. from the areas of smart city, construction, housing, work, transport, energy transition, electromobility, health, circular economy and social economy.
When this funding announcement was put forward, my colleague Nadine and saw it as a fantastic opportunity to further our MakeUp series and create an opportunity that is dedicated to supporting young sustainable hardtech innovation.
What do you think is the recipe for success for a sustainably effective program?
TAYLA: That is a tough question, but in terms of hardtech it will definitely come down to the following four components/ingredients:
- There must be a balance between business and hardware coaching within the curriculum
- Access to a profound hardtech ecosystem which is filled with industry experts, hardware focused investors, corporate partners, like-minded startups and most importantly the space to actually build and prototype physical products
- A flexible curriculum or approach to supporting hardtech development
- The startup team must be passionate about their idea and be aligned with impact driven values
Why is a flexible approach important?
TAYLA: Because, there are far more risks and uncertainties involved in developing hardtech. For one, you have massive resource requirements from materials, machinery and personal. And this requires a lot of logistical planning that is often subject to external factors (delivery times, availability of materials (i.e. wood, electronics) etc). And this is not even calculating the intense capital cost and regulations (i.e. certifications) that one has to comply with. Based on these facts alone one generally deals with high uncertainty and thus needs to consider plenty buffer time.
What does the team that will supervise the accelerator look like?
TAYLA: We have a fantastic team composed of hardtech experts and business experts. Joining you and guiding you along your process is the highly qualified manufacturing engineer Thibault as well as the hardtech curriculum expert Manuel Fonseca. Additionally, you will be supported by Mariann Egressy who can navigate any crisis and is an organisational expert. Finally you can learn from me – a startup hardtech cycle coach – as well as the rest of the highly capable MotionLab.Berlin team.
What else do you want to tell us?
TAYLA: This is a fantastic opportunity to dive into your startup development. It will most certainly provide you with a springboard into the future. I just know that after this program you and your team will have gathered valuable knowledge, insights, expanded your network and most likely already won first investments and corporate partnerships.
So what are you waiting for, join the MakeUp Hardtech Innovation Accelerator and apply by the application deadline (31.03.2022).