Here is good news for entrepreneurs aiming to develop hardware.
Japanese internet company DMM.com launched a hardware incubation space called DMM.make Akiba in Akihabara on Friday . The facility will open on 11 November, and has started receiving membership applications.
DMM.make Akiba offers members a facility valued at $4.5 million comprising 150 machines for hardware production, such as 3D printers, testing devices for acquiring public certification for electric appliances, and platforms for mass production. In addition to providing office and event space, members can use the address of the facility to register their company. Tokyo-based hardware startup Cerevo and hardware-focused startup incubator ABBALab will move to the lab and help DMM operate it.
The facility has three floors (see pictures above, click to enlarge); the Studio floor provides environmental testing and mass-production prototyping for hardware development, the Base floor has a shared office and event space, and the Hub floor provides consulting services on hardware development and sells electronic parts. (See this PDF file for a list of the facility’s equipment.)
The process for hardware developments needs to cover a lot of ground, from prototyping, acquiring certification, tests to improve the quality, and operational knowledge for mass production. But equipments or experts for hardware developments are fragmented, which had been preventing startups from launching their hardware products unless they are a large manufacturer. In our recent interview with ABBALab CEO Osamu Ogasahara who has produced this facility, he explained that this is the place where entrepreneurs can create something like Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper.
Cerevo supervises the project
The company invited ABBALab’s Ogasahara to their board and started preparing a $20 million investment fund. Since its launch in 2007, Cerevo has been behind up-and-coming popular “connected” hardware products, though not all of them have been introduced under their name. Regarding these OEM products developed by Cerevo, few details are available due to their non-disclosure agreements with clients. However, users can learn a lot from what Cerevo has said about the new facility.
ABBALab’s incubation initiatives
ABBALab is a hardware-focused startup incubation program launched by Movida Japan CEO Taizo Son and Ogasahara. Coinciding with the launch of DMM.make Akiba, ABBALab started receiving applications for the next batch of the incubation program. The program consists of two key initiatives; “Scholarship” to support entrepreneurs sell the products and “Fellow” that helps entrepreneurs conduct hardware R&D.
The Fellow initiative is unique in that it will ask the Scholarship participating startups to provide their engineering skills and resources to Fellow participating startups, and the former can receive funds from ABBALab in return for rendering their services. Participating supporters include Yoshihiro Kawahara (technical advisor for inkjet-printed circuit board startup AgIC), engineering company Progress Technologies, and Incubate Fund partner Masahiko Honma, and several VC firms.
To take part in the program, a team must pass a screening process. The Bridge will provide more details on the program soon.