Founders, investors, and hardware enthusiasts alike are buzzing over the upcoming Toolbox LA event. With a focus on developing innovative hardware, Toolbox LA will bring members of the Los Angeles hardware community together for an afternoon of networking, fireside chats, and start-up pitches. The free event is part of a series designed to “showcase the wide breadth of technologies being developed across Los Angeles, and the resources that exist to support them.”
According to the team behind Toolbox LA, “We had thought about hosting a competition, but the spirit of the event is much too celebratory to have winners and losers.” The premier Toolbox gathering will take place on Friday, Feb. 3rd, at ROC’s Santa Monica office.
The Toolbox events are put on by Make in LA, an investing company with the self-described mission of “making hardware not hard”—they provide experienced counsel and mentorship, professional manufacturing tools, logistics, connections with business partners, and first year checks of up to $150,000 for hardware startups based in LA.
Make in LA took some time to chat with ROC about the upcoming Toolbox event, exciting hardware startup trends, founders, and flying cars.
Can you tell us a little more about Make in LA? Where do you come from? What are you looking for?
Our founding team came together with a mission to serve and develop good people and leaders. We come from a background in mentoring and hardware. We are extremely hands on and passionate in our pursuit of innovation in hardware. And we are grateful to have found partners and mentors who are aligned with long-term goals over short-term compensation.
We look for what we call technology enabled hardware. This includes robotics, rockets, medical devices, wearables, and much more. Typically, that hardware would have an internet connection (IoT) but occasionally it doesn’t require an electronic board. Founders come to us because we are addicted to the thrill of bringing a physical product to market, and we are empathetic to the pains of manufacturing … and of fundraising for a “hardware startup.”
Do you look for anything specific when funding startups? What would your fantasy hardware startup make?
Many products get us excited, but we are more excited by incredible founders. We have funded entrepreneurs both domestically and internationally, from age 20 to 60, male and female, gay and straight, minority and majority. We look for founders who have an edge over their competition, who are unusually gritty, resourceful, comfortable with chaos, and ambitious.
Having a prototype and attacking a venture scalable problem is becoming table stakes these days, and in early stage investing we assume the business will be pivoting because no one has all the answers.
That said, we do have fantasy hardware. This is hardware that does not exist but should, and to say any of this aloud makes us sound a bit crazy. Gadgets like the device that potty trains your pet. Flying cars. More practical devices that have scale such as a tricorder, or a device that syncs people’s dreams to each other to create an immersive and interactive experience far beyond the resolution of the best VR technologies.
How did your collaboration with ROC come about?
We were first exposed to ROC shortly after Google moved out. ROC was hosting numerous events for LAVA and angel groups, and we enjoyed the vibe there. We are happy to be partnering with them on the first ToolBox LA event.
You can also learn about the hardware investing company Make in LA, and apply for funding by visiting their website.