How to pitch investors on a connected device

Whether you are making a wearable or home automation device, these are the things to think about before pitching your idea.

Renee DiResta invests in connected hardware.

She’s a venture capitalist with O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, which has helped fund companies including LittleBits and Misfit Wearables. She is also organizing a conference called “Solid” which is all about the future of manufacturing, with a focus on the industrial Internet of things. During a recent event at Smart Design, we asked DiResta to talk about what it takes to “win” in the connected device space. Here’s what she said.

Nail the user experience

“One of the things I see frequently is Arduino-style projects that grow organically out of the maker ethos being pushed into the mainstream market before a lot of thought has gone into what the market segmentation’s going to look like, what the user is really going to need, and to what extent you can make the product intuitive out of the box,” says DiResta. “I myself have received Kickstarter projects where I’ve taken it out, plugged it in and said ‘I can’t make this connect to the Internet. I have a computer science degree, and I have no idea what I’m doing wrong.’” Keep in mind that companies like Apple have set the bar incredibly high. Consumers are now accustomed to taking a gadget out of its box, pushing one button, and having everything just work.

Understand fulfillment

“I was asked to do some advising at two of the hardware accelerators around here. One of the things we see very commonly is people will believe that they have an idea and then the Kickstarter will take off and they’ll find themselves unable to handle fulfillment or come up with an accurate timeline,” says DiResta. “A lot of the mistakes I see as a seed stage investor are the mistakes of just naivety. Not making a thing that can be made. Here’s this beautiful design, but where the rubber meets the road it’s simply not possible to have a bill of materials come in at a price you need to see.”