Aug 18, 2017

Crowdfunding isn't enough for consumer hardware startups

Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been successful early sources of funding and customers for consumer hardware startups.

But that's no longer enough, says Kate Whitcomb, a former Target executive who is now program director at hardware accelerator Hax.

Why it matters: Despite the boom in consumer hardware products in recent years, not all have been able to find a market beyond the enthusiasm of their early fans. So it's not surprising that experts are nudging them towards mass retail channels, especially as companies like Amazon try to become friendlier to startups (its Launchpad unit was specifically created to sell products made by startups).

"Crowdfunding is no longer a signal of product-market fit — it's very niche," she said on Wednesday at an event hosted by Amazon Launchpad. Instead, mass consumer channels like Amazon (of course) are a better indicator of whether there's truly a demand for a product.

Not so fast: With that said, Whitcomb also warns startups against going straight to the shelves of a big box retailer. Because of how it works—retailers place big orders that have to be delivered upfront—this can be risky for a nascent company. If the product flops, that could be a lot of wasted resources for a smaller company.

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Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

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Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post on Feb. 28, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

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