Cross-Border Innovation Groups Establish Manufacturing Accelerator

3/18/14Follow @bvbigelow

An effort to strengthen San Diego’s tech startup community by working more closely with the innovation ecosystem in Tijuana has led to the formation of HardTech Labs, a cross-border accelerator program intended to give startup founders access to low-cost manufacturing.

HardTech Labs would initially operate as a kind of virtual umbrella group to help entrepreneurs shape their early stage startup ideas and business models, create prototype products, and move to full-scale manufacturing.

The participants on the U.S. side of the border include the Ansir Innovation Center, a San Diego tech startup incubator; FabLab San Diego; the Co-Merge Workplace in downtown San Diego; and Origo Ventures, a venture fund established in the San Diego region just over two years ago. Participants in Baja California include the Ignitus innovation program developed by the Tijuana Economic Development Corp. and MINK Global, a legal and technical consulting firm in Tijuana.

“I’ve been propounding this idea for awhile,” said Ping Wang, founder and managing partner of the Ansir Innovation Center. “I’m glad it’s finally getting traction.”

As an example of what could be accomplished with a hardware incubator, Wang cited AirDroids, a San Diego startup that raised $929,212 from a Kickstarter campaign that ended March 8. Most of the 1,946 contributions were pre-orders for the Pocket Drone, a tri-copter powerful enough to carry a small, GoPro-type camera aloft—yet small enough to fold into a 7-inch long neoprene carrying case.

FabLab San Diego

FabLab San Diego

“The development of rapid prototyping and software development are needed in San Diego in a big way,” says Robert Reyes, who has supported the effort as founding CEO of San Diego’s StartupCircle and a partner with the Plug and Play startup accelerator program in the city.

The Ansir Innovation Center has the kind of equipment that startups like AirDroids need to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • pingthink

    Thanks, Bruce, for the article shedding light on the program. To just add a few remarks, there have been a *lot* of community members who have been not just propounding this but building it from the ground up, including Katie Rast and the Fab team (Allen, Lucy, Nigel) who have been building a prototyping incubator from the ground up within FablabSD, and to which I am proud to support.

  • Sean OSullivan

    Good luck in getting the program off the ground, HardTech! Sounds like you guys have a chance…

    At Haxlr8r, we *do* encourage our startups to make the most of the assembly and low-cost supply of goods in China. A bigger part of it, though, are all the supply chain issues, and the rapid turnaround and prototyping facilities which startups benefit from by being in “hardware central”, the manufacturing center of the world for electronics — Shenzhen, China.

    In ten or twenty years, we hope to see more of this available in other places… not just Mexico, but also in the mainland United States itself. It can happen.

    Good luck.

    • pingthink

      Hi Sean, although the focus of this article was primarily on the possibilities that our close connections in Mexico can add:

      1) We also have connections and capabilities in Greater China / Taiwan,etc, so Mexico is additive, and not necessarily “in place of” those capabilities, depending on the project needs.

      2) Our basic thesis is that there are advantages to the binational border such as time to market, R&D flow, IP protection, assembly efficiencies, tax advantages, market co-location, cultural synergies, and much much more that have not been fully explored or appreciated before in the entrepreneurial hardware innovation world. (although there is a buzz about it, such as via Chris Anderson’s 3D Robotics, etc..)

      BTW – Haxl8r is great, I really enjoyed demo day in SF and I hope that we serve as able compliments to each other and perhaps find synergies. It is an inspirational model. Keep up the good work!