157: Competing With Leading Businesses as a Product Startup

157: How Hardware Startups Compete with Big Business

January 4, 2023

With Mike Stemple, Author of Innovating Innovation

Hosted by Kevin Mako of MAKO Design + Invent

157: How Hardware Startups Compete with Big Business
157: How Hardware Startups Compete with Big Business

Mike Stemple is the Author of Innovating Innovation, a #1 Bestseller. He has also founded multiple consumer product startups, including Skinit wraps, and since then, Original Wraps which sold to 3M. In addition to his own hardware ventures, he also consults a number of Fortune 500 product companies on how to be more entrepreneurial. Today, Mike is going to share some valuable knowledge on how inventors, startups, and small manufacturers can beat the big corporations when developing a new product by being faster, more nimble, listening to customer feedback, and much more.

Today you will hear us talk about:

  • The tools and techniques for product development have become more accessible and widespread, enabling greater democratization of the industry.
  • In recent years, there has been a surge in product design firms that specialize in supporting and guiding physical product startups, thereby mitigating risks and improving their chances of success.
  • Instead of seeking novel ideas, many companies are doubling down on existing, proven strategies to drive innovation.
  • To achieve success in hardware product development, it is essential to invest time, talent, and resources into the venture.
  • The process of developing and bringing a product to market has become faster and more streamlined than ever before.
  • Some of the most successful ideas in history have been born during times of economic downturn, highlighting the potential for innovation in challenging times.
  • Talented individuals from large corporations are increasingly leaving to start their own entrepreneurial ventures.
  • During an acquisition, it is crucial to stay focused on the primary objective.
  • To achieve success in business, it is essential to adopt an opportunity-based mindset rather than one rooted in fear.
  • Scarcity and recession can fuel innovation, leading to the creation of groundbreaking products.
  • It is crucial to develop big ideas professionally and to ensure that they are built to a high standard.
  • Once a product is in production and has attracted some customers, licensing or white-labeling can be an effective means of scaling the venture.
  • Do not be deterred from pitching your product to larger corporations, as this can be a valuable means of growing your business.
  • The minimum viable product (MVP) is a crucial aspect of product development and an effective way to ensure quality in the first production run.
  • Products should evolve over time based on feedback, ensuring that they continue to meet customers’ needs and expectations.
  • Building a relationship with customers over time is essential for maintaining their loyalty and engagement with your brand and products.
  • The creation of intellectual property is a proven investment strategy for entrepreneurs, and now is an excellent time to start investing in this area.


  1. 5:30: It has never been a better time to be a hardware entrepreneur launching a physical product company, period.
  2. 5:45: Companies like Mako Design are making it much easier to get to market, less risky to develop a new product, and increasing the success ratios of a new hardware product.
  3. 6:00: Big corporate is becoming more risky, more difficult to innovate new hardware products.
  4. 7:00: Big companies can’t compete with the effectiveness or compete at the same pace as a hardware startup.
  5. 8:24: Big corporate is more interested in acquiring hardware startups (but you have to prove the product, at least a little bit, in the market).  KM explains after how specifically that works meaning that startups need to get to market, just a little bit.
  6. 9:58: Historically, more billion-dollar startups are built (in the creation stage) during a recession.
  7. 11:45: Prove out the idea early.  The more you prove actual manufacturing / viability of the product, the higher the probability of substantial venture funding.
  8. 12:05: Weak developed ideas that are put together with popsicle sticks and duct tape will not be getting funding, instead you need good ideas that are invested in by the entrepreneur and proven to be viable.
  9. 12:30: Licencing after you are in manufacturing to grow your sales.  KM then explains the correct process for licensing, and that you can’t license until your product is at least selling a little bit in the market.
  10. 15:50: One of the fallacies in startups is thinking that you have to build a known brand right out of the gate.
  11. 16:35: Don’t be paralyzed by thinking a big corporation is going to steal your product, their innovation team won’t be able to pull off what you’ve done in getting to production.
  12. 17:00: Kevin Mako: You don’t have to go big, in fact, your sole primary goal as a hardware startup is getting a quality-made product to market, even in just a small volume – That is the greatest milestone of a hardware startup.
  13. 18:13: Kevin Mako: The second advantage of getting a few units out to market is key feedback from customers to help you scale.
  14. 19:00: Mike Stemple: Entrepreneurs too often focus on too many features instead of just getting to market.
  15. 19:29: Kevin Mako: A startup preventing Feature Creep is the easiest way to keep your product development budget reasonable while also ensuring the features you do have are of great quality.
  16. 20:47: Customers want to buy not just your product, but into the journey of how your product evolves over time.
  17. 21:23: Startup products have a soul or a heart to them, big corporate rarely does.
  18. 23:47: The most financially lucrative investment you can make is the investment into new intellectual property that you ideate and develop, more than almost all other personal investment opportunities, especially in a recession.
  19. 24:50: The people who are going to make big money over the next 5 years are those who are investing into developing their own ideas through their own intellectual property.
  20. 25:50: Individuals via startups are going to be the innovators solving society’s biggest problems.
  21. 26:00:  You need to tell yourself that you are going to invest in creating intellectual property that is going to change the world, and your own life.
  22. 26:45: Look at an invention as an investment, not as a cost.
  23. 27:25: Kevin Mako: In the middle of a recession is when you want to build your product so that you’re ready to take advantage of explosive growth when the next economic booms hits.
  24. 28:50: 10 years ago it was very hard to manufacture a new idea, now companies like Mako Design exist to make it very easy for an entrepreneur to compete with big product companies.
  25. 29:05: Mako Design allows a product innovation to be designed right, built with quality, manufacturable, and with much of the risk taken out.
  26. 29:45: Hardware Startups are being acquired much earlier in the sales growth process by big corporations.


Mike Stemple Links:
LinkedIn | Book

The Product Startup Podcast Links:
Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook Page | Facebook Group | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

PTC Links:
OnShape | Creo

Mako Design Links:
YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Kevin Mako Links:
Instagram | LinkedIn | Quora | Facebook | Twitter

Partner: PTC’s best-in-class software solutions Onshape: The only cloud-native product development platform that delivers full-featured computer-aided design (CAD), integrated product data management (PDM) and enterprise analytics in a single system, and Creo: 3D CAD solution that provides designers with the most innovative tools to build better products faster, such as generative design, additive manufacturing, real-time simulation, IIoT, and augmented reality.