Nine hardware pitches at San Francisco ‘Maker’ Startup Weekend


Startup Weekend events are now pumping out hardware devices such as a NEST for pools and just-in-time liquor delivery systems.

Startup Weekend is an entrepreneur bootcamp that takes place over the course of a single weekend. The events are hosted in various locations around the world yet they connect local communities of investors, coaches, sponsoring businesses, and of course…seasoned and wanna-be entrepreneurs.

In 54-hours the entrepreneurial participants form teams and develop ideas from concept to pitch with many of them developing prototypes with the help of 3D printing, plug-in-play website builders, and electronics kits. Team members range from students to professionals who have various talents like technical, sales, and marketing. At the end of the fast-paced weekend, three teams win in-kind services and other prizes to help advance their newly formed business.

I have frequented these Startup Weekends as an observer before, but usually these events showcase pitches for website or app ideas that offer services.  Earlier this year I attended a Startup Weekend in Chicago and heard just a few pitches that incorporated hardware or Internet-of-Things ideas. 

This June in San Francisco, I stumbled upon a Startup Weekend that was marketed with the word ‘Maker’. Finally, some hardgood product development! There was an impressive lineup of sponsors like Autodesk, Intel, and many more. And, almost all of the hardgoods had a feature that connected to the cloud or to an app with a service. (Hence, why the products are also called hardware.)

Here is an overview of the pitches with the placing winners first.


Sutro - 1st Place

Sutro is a system that reads the chemistry of a pool and then lets the owner know how to fix the pH balance. It reads the water and then signals to an app which chemicals and in what amounts are needed to fix the pH balance. The team also showed a feature to roll out in the future that would dispense the chemicals for the owner.

Their app not only showed which chemicals to use, but also gave the owner an option to order the chemicals to be shipped to your pool location.

June - 2nd Place

June is an ergonomic breast-pump design. It will satisfy the large percentage of mothers who pump. The team’s design solves problems associated with current breast pumps like the loud noise (to be fixed with a brushless motor) and the time it takes to setup the pump (current models take seven minutes to setup).

One of the startup's revenue streams touched on breast milk sharing. And, while the whole crowd cringed at the thought of a baby consuming another mother’s milk, the woman next to me said these places already exist and are needed for those who are malnourished or can't breastfeed.

Duo - 3rd Place

Like the popular crowd-funded personal vibrator, Vibease, Duo seeks to help those who are in long-distance relationships.  Unlike Vibease, Duo touted their product to work for both partners at the same time. The product will include heat sensors and a variety of other features to suit any gender and will fulfill a variety of ‘needs’.



Other pitches:


An inventory system developed initially for the restaurant and bar industry. This system connects the liqour or drink manufacturer directly to the selling establishment. It works by signalling the weight of stocked inventory pallets found in the back of bars.

The team says it normally takes 12 weeks to track inventory back to a manufacturer. Inven-Tell would help with production planning and give better insight into the ROI of local advertisements.  While POS systems are supposed to measure the consumption of liquor, the team says they are inaccurate because of human error in entering the correct drink.


The current manicure market is hot for gel manicures. LEDs are used to cure the gel, which makes the manicure last longer than typical polish. The Luxelite team wants to take an industrial method, like creating an oxygen-free environment, and apply it to this market to build new manicure machines. Oxygen-free environments in the coatings world use CO2 to deplete the oxygen, which would make for a longer lasting cure.

Provision Trail

Smart containers with an “easy button”. When the container is almost empty, the user hits a button that signals to an app that lets owners order the substance, food, or product that was stored in the container.

Call Valet

Instead of waiting on the phone for customer service reps to pick up your call, this service calls you back. This service may not seem new but the team claims it will work with most call centers.


This product is a wearable device that measures stress from sweat and other factors that can be picked up by skin conductance sensors. When stress levels are too high, a connected app then messages the owner with the appropriate calming techniques like music or words to repeat.


This security device uses iris-scanning technology. The system incorporates infrared, which scans blood flow, and a camera. To use it, a person simply holds the device up to their eye.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

on Jul 22, 2014

Lindsey... are you writing from the UK?

"And, almost all of the hardgoods had a feature that connected to the cloud or to an app with a service. (Hence, why the products are also called hardware."

What?... the term "Hardware" has never required or implied a software or "connected" aspect. (aka programmable hardware).. not in any of my electronics classes or reference books. Lots of electronic hardware without any software (audio amplifiers, etc..)

Hardgoods?.. where did this come from? Is a the term used in the UK? Since this is covering a US event in a US publication, terms should be used that are appropriate for the audience. In the US, "Hardware" stores have been around for hundreds of years. Certainly no software involved.

Beyond this bit of annoyance ..Thanks for the info..

on Oct 15, 2014

Hi Thinking_J,

Thanks for your input. I agree that it sounds confusing, but right now there seems to be a different meaning for the term hardware. The reason why I used the word hardgoods is because hardgoods (or durable goods) are traditionally an appliance or mechanical assembly like sports equipment. However, in the start-up world -- since every hardgood now connects and communicates to the internet -- these products are called hardware.

You'll see that more and more venture capital firms are investing in hardware. And, by their description, it includes wearables, smart appliances, and other devices that were once called hardgoods or durable goods.

This makes sense because computer hardware (or simply hardware as they call it) is defined as the machines, wiring, and other physical components of a computer or other electronic system. So, it makes sense that a wearable would be hardware since it is an assembly of physical components that creates a 'wearable' computer.

That's my take on it, but at this time with IoT, there might not be one answer.


Please or Register to post comments.

What's Material World?

Giving high fives and shout outs to innovative materials, processes, products, and the people who design and develop them.


Lindsey Frick

Lindsey serves a Associate Editor for Machine Design since 2012. She holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Cleveland State University. Prior to joining Penton, she has worked in...
Blog Archive
Connect With Us

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×