Tech startups bring fun and excitement back to hardware

By Dennis Clemente

Hardware is having a renaissance.

Imagine this. Imagine being able to control everyday things like your lights, fans, heaters and disco balls from your mobile device. It’s here, thanks to smartthings.com.

Imagine growing your own veggies in your cramped New York apartment. No need, it’s here, thanks to windowfarms.com.

Imagine using the world’s largest 3D printer, one that can create entire Flintstone-like structures. It’s big enough to notice, so yes, it’s here too, thanks to d-shape.com.

Everything, it seems, can be imagined and made, physically made as we witnessed in the lively presentation of these startups on January 15. Welcome back, hardware.

“It’s a cycle,” sys Roman Fichman, general counsel to tech start-ups, referring to how the industrial revolution started with hardware, shifted to software, and back again to hardware.

What is driving its resurgence? Aditya Bansal, one of the attendees at the fifth Hardware Startup meetup last January 15, says open source and cheaper (technology) make all the difference.

“It was one of the best meetups I’ve been to in a long time,” says attendee Maurice Bey. Add the free pizza, beer and a convivial atmosphere and you have a hit meetup.

Nothing gets people excited more than a demo and SmartThings founder Alex Hawkinson showed us a thing or two about how you don’t need telekinetic powers to move objects with his hardware.


Britta Riley, CEO of WindowFarms, received an enthusiastic applause when she mentioned that her hydroponic system, the system where her greens sprout, is on exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.

Growing interest in the business simply answers what studies also point out: A large percentage of grocery shoppers, reportedly 78%, wonders where the heck their food comes from. With WindowFarms, you’ll know for sure where it’s coming from–your apartment.

But guess where these two companies got their initial funding? Kickstarter. However, Hawkinson is quick to caution people about trying to source funds only from that site, only because of the possible delays you may incur, especially when everybody else is going there now.


The last presenter went for scale and it showed in his animated presentation. Sameer Ajmera, business development manager of DShape, showed furniture, sculptures, even houses printed on its 20 x 20 ft 3D printer, claiming the company is “turning science fiction into reality.” It plans to set up shop in New York.

But for those of us who want to come back to earth and print 3D on a much smaller scale, Hack Manhattan at 14th St between 6th and 7th Avenues has an open house next Tuesday.

Indeed the physical world is merging with the technology world. Here’s an opportunity to make this happen for you: New York’s Next Top Makers Challenge http://nexttopmakers.com. Earn a chance to win $48,000+ in cash and prizes (including studio space, mentorship) when you join and create the best commercial product.

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