Different is good. In a startup world where everyone seems to be drawn towards the same products and verticals, Lemnos Labs is trying something different and I hope it's hugely successful. I believe it has the potential to incubate some of Valley's most interesting products. I wrote about them in February and they're moving along, preparing to graduate the four startups from their first class.
While startups like ours were building mobile apps and Groupon clones, these guys were building an automated hamburger making machine and electric cars. The big news this week is they've opened up the application process for their second batch of hardware startups so if you have a great hardware idea, make sure to apply quickly and improve your chance of getting into the program.
Co-founder Helen Zelman was a scouting coordinator for the Arizona Diamondbacks for five seasons gathering information on potential major league players. She attended high school and college games with a radar gun and stopwatch in hand. "The evaluation process (for running an incubator) is very similar. It's an information gathering game, the more information you gather the better decision you'll make on the personnel."
She met co-founder Jeremy Conrad as mechanical engineering students at MIT. Jeremy spent four years in the Air Force doing product development and managing a government program that gave $100,000 grants to students and civilians to produce products to benefit the military.
In exchange for about 10% equity, Lemnos provides office space in San Francisco, a solid mentoring team that includes the founder of Pebble watches (Kickstarter famous), and insight and expertise into the details of physical product development. Jeremy told me, "Some people think we're crazy, but there is growing interest in it. At the end of the day it has never been easier to start a hardware company." Check out my tour of their office space below with Jeremy and conversations with Unplugged Instruments and Momentum Machines.