Recently I started the DC Hardware Startup meetup as a complement to the many Web 2.0-ish entrepreneur meetups in the DC area and elsewhere, and then reached out to the organizers of similar meetups around North America. Two are about a year old- the SF Hardware Startup meetup and Solid State Startups, both near Silicon Valley. Two others, one based in New York City and one based in Toronto, are also at most about a month old. The common themes are as you'd expect- rapid prototyping / 3D printing, lean methods/manufacturing, open source HW, etc., and of course entrepreneurship.
I've been in contact with most of the above groups, and we agree there is something larger than anyone one regional meetup group. We would like to find a way to bring these communities together, and I'd be happy to take your input there. If any new similar groups form, please do let us know. In the mean time, Nick Pinkston of the SF group put together a few initial resources as a seedling:
Twitter ('bot feed from Reddit): @HWStartups
Hardware Overflow prototype site: http://area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/42563
Below is the opening description of the DC Hardware Startup group:
We are DC-area technology entrepreneurs and innovators who want to build viable and vibrant business based on hardware, whether electronic, mechanical, or other.
Atoms are the new bits: We believe that the time is ripe for a new wave of entrepreneurship in hardware in the United States and worldwide.
Lean startup / pretotype methodologies: Thanks to inexpensive contract manufacturing, domestic and overseas, 3D printing, programmable hardware, and an Internet to propagate ideas, the principles of "lean startup" methodologies are as applicable to hardware startups as to software startups. Hardware "minimal viable products (MVPs)" can be build in weeks or days, and "pretotypes" can often be formulated in just hours or even minutes.
Identify the right product to build before you mass produce: This classic rule still holds. How can we identify the right hardware product to build without expending too many resources?
Unique challenges for hardware: Hardware startups have their own unique logistic challenges- inventory management, component sourcing, and manufacturing to name a few. We will discuss and learn how to handle these issues as well.
Inventor to entrepreneur: We hardware folks love to tinker and invent. This is pure fun! Can we apply this tinkering mindset to build business, not just gizmos?
If your product moves, flies, makes a sound, has blinking lights, or does something physical, come join us!