Written by: Masoud Kalantari at The Rubic
How we utilized Alberta’s innovation centers to boost our success.
Hardware is Hard. Starting a hardware technology startup is more challenging than pure software play in this day and age. The main reasons are apparent. A working prototype in software and scaling the business takes much less upfront investment than hardware. Raising funds for software is much easier compared to hardware companies due to the upfront investment needed.
But why do entrepreneurs still launch hardware startups?
Fundamental differences exist in hard-tech compared to pure Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. Having a tangible product, a higher wall of competition, a more protected business after scale, and a stronger IP position are only some of the advantages of hard-tech companies. However, one main reason is the most important, and more needs to be discussed - motivation. How often have you been excited by seeing hardware that does things in a certain way compared to software? It is more tangible, and people can connect to it easier resulting in a more impressionable customer. Indeed, software plays a significant role in hardware, and many hardware companies now benefit from selling both hardware and the unique SaaS model that comes with the hardware. But after all, motivation is the big key to pushing entrepreneurs through difficulties and hard times to find a solution to their problems.
At The Rubic, we developed an advanced supply chain and warehouse automation robotics. Our robotic system is unique in its value proposition; it picks boxes in warehouses. It is a hard-tech business with a SaaS business model embedded inside. Like any startup, we had numerous difficulties in the early days of our business, including financial, technological, roadmap, and market problems. Our motivation has helped us and pushed us to improve our problem-solving skillsets in different areas.
How we used innovation centers to boost success:
In our experience, four major supports in Alberta helped us navigate through some of our challenges. IRAP, TECTERRA, and Alberta Innovates significantly helped us on the funding side. We also participated in the NextAI accelerator program in Canada. We spent a few months in this program and actively participated in the courses they offered startups to help them deal with entrepreneurial and business problems. Active participation in these programs allowed us to gain the most value from the program than some our peers. The Next AI program opened our eyes to our business problems and helped us better understand investor startup relations and expectations.
As first-time entrepreneurs, we had numerous business-related questions from market evaluation, value proposition, preparing pitch decks, and different types of deals and investments; the list continues. The NextAI program and the one-on-one mentorship significantly helped us to navigate through those issues while being financially supported by Governmental and Federal funding programs in Alberta. Indeed, startups must rely on more than governmental funding and absorb other types of funding, like personal or investor funding. However, the four programs mentioned above are an excellent source for getting traction and pushing the ball downhill.