197: Taking Your Product Business From Startup to Scale Up

197: Go From Hardware Startup to Scale Up

October 12, 2023

With Roland Siebelink, CEO of Midstage Institute

Hosted by Kevin Mako, President of MAKO Design + Invent

197: Go From Hardware Startup to Scale Up

Roland Siebelink, with a background in scaling companies from 10 to over 1000 employees, started his journey in the 90s with internet hardware. With over 30 years of experience, he’s aided numerous hardware startups and tech firms in transitioning from startup to scale-up. As the CEO of Midstage Institute for almost 8 years, he specializes in helping startups grow. Today, Roland will share insights for inventors, startups, and small manufacturers on the timing of transitioning from startup to scale-up, navigating high-growth transformations, and ensuring success in scale-up hardware companies.

Here are the key takeaways from the episode:

  • Transitioning from a startup to a hardware scale-up
  • The growth journey of a new product development company
  • Identifying the right time to stop acting like a startup
  • Shifting focus from exploration to exploitation when traction is visible
  • The potency of a small proof of market for new hardware brands
  • Prioritizing growth and exploitation in scale-ups, not just exploration
  • Recognizing that gaining traction as an inventor is just the beginning of the scaling process
  • Emphasizing the building of a business, not just a product
  • Consider involving someone with a scaling mindset for technical or inventor-focused roles
  • Transition from being the smartest person in the room to hiring even smarter people
  • Acknowledging the non-binary transition from startup to full-scale corporation with a middle stage
  • Implementing processes as a means to scale efficiently
  • Utilizing the 80/20 principle to achieve optimal results
  • Maintaining the entrepreneurial spirit during mid-stage growth
  • Leveraging the competitive advantage of being a lean startup with a strong vision
  • Avoid launching a second business prematurely
  • Identifying opportunities within a small niche in a larger market
  • Initial focus on visionaries and early adopters within the market segment.

Episode Highlights

  • 3:43 – The concept of Product Market Fit and when to start taking advantage of (or exploiting) it
  • 4:18 – Exploring versus Exploiting
  • 6:23 – How does a startup typically operate? How to step away from micromanagement as you start growing revenue
  • 7:48 – Getting traction does not mean the job is done. That is when the job begins.
  • 8:33 – The focus should not be on inventing new products but, instead, how to exploit one product to be the best and cut-through the market
  • 8:58 – Understand where your strengths and weaknesses lie and build a team around that.
  • 9:33 – As you start scaling, your job switches from being the smartest person in the room to being the dumbest – because if you’re not, then you haven’t hired the right people.
  • 11:08 – There is not a binary shift from a startup to the corporation
  • 12:33 – The importance of being robust and simplifying processes
  • 14:43 – Be yourself and be a part of the brand. You are the best spokesperson for your brand.
  • 15:39 – How to keep the spirit alive in the mid-stage through spreading the word about your brand
  • 16:14 – Your competitive advantage will be your agility
  • 17:56 – How do I wedge yourself in and find that untapped piece of the market
  • 19:28 – A small niche is a market is still a gigantic opportunity
  • 20:18 – Even if a product works, it will not just sell itself. There is still a lot of effort that needs to be put in to build something successful.
  • 21:15 – Learn more about Midstage Institute here: midstage.org/thrive

Roland Siebelink Links:


Midstage Institute

The Product Startup Podcast Links:

Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook Page | Facebook Group | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

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.

Producer: MAKO Design + Invent is the original firm providing world-class consumer product development services tailored to startups, small manufacturers, and inventors. Simply put, we are the leading one-stop-shop for developing your physical product from idea to store shelves, all in a high-quality, cost-effective, and timely manner. We operate as one powerhouse 30-person product design team spread across 4 offices to serve you (Austin, Miami, San Francisco, & Toronto). We have full-stack in-house industrial design, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, patent referral, prototyping, and manufacturing services. To assist our startup and inventor clients, in addition to above, we help with business strategy, product strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories.