Ieee aicn national workshop nov 4 2000 waltham ma selling hardware not vaporware
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IEEE AICN National Workshop Nov. 4, 2000, Waltham, MA Selling Hardware, Not “Vaporware”. Or “How I got here from there” Tom Freehill www.ectmicro.com. Background. Back to school at 30 Navy Lab Original plan was 5 years and then off on my own. $3M hybrid lab all to myself made me forget

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Ieee aicn national workshop nov 4 2000 waltham ma selling hardware not vaporware

IEEE AICN National WorkshopNov. 4, 2000, Waltham, MASelling Hardware, Not “Vaporware”

Or “How I got here from there”

Tom Freehill

www.ectmicro.com


Background
Background

  • Back to school at 30

  • Navy Lab

    • Original plan was 5 years and then off on my own.

    • $3M hybrid lab all to myself made me forget

    • Saw the writing on the wall in early ’90’s and started making plans.

    • 1997 lab closed


First year
First Year

  • 6 months severance pay

  • 3-4 months finishing up Navy projects (via a contractor).

  • Original plan – circuit design for hybrid and MCM technologies.

  • The reality factor – there was no market

    • Only work was for captive manufacturers.


Re inventing the company
Re-inventing the Company

  • Background included a lot of novel packaging schemes needed to meet R&D project requirements, including “hands on”.

  • Concurrent engineering was a big “buzz” word.

  • ECM was to become a 1 man concurrent engineering company.


Rationale
Rationale

  • Biggest complaint heard was that consultants didn’t deliver hardware.

  • There are people out there with good ideas and $$, but they don’t have the expertise or manpower to develop them.

  • I didn’t want to go back to work for somebody else.


Business charter
Business Charter

  • Ideal client has an idea, but no expertise to implement it (or overloaded).

    • They don’t want paper, they want working hardware.

  • I do not market to government (kind of).

    • The work I do get, comes looking for me.

    • SBIR’s – too much paperwork. Partner with someone who has the “knack”


Milestones
Milestones

  • Joined CCN/ got listing in National Database (IEEE-USA).

  • Established ties with my board fab and assembly houses (valuable).

  • Built up credit history for company.

  • Discovered what marketing strategies don’t work.

  • Re-learned microcontroller programming.


Marketing
Marketing

  • Registration on various websites only thing that has worked.

  • Booths at trade shows, brochures, mailings, etc. – useless to date.

  • Government “marketing” – if I will be in the area, I send an email to a select group that I’m buying lunch.

    • Reminder that I’m alive and well


Proposals
Proposals

  • Short and Sweet.

  • Define the requirements in your words.

    • Make sure we’re all on the same page.

  • Brief description of proposed design.

    • Enough to convince them you know what you’re doing, not enough for them to go elsewhere.

  • Cost and schedule.


Cost and schedule
Cost and Schedule

  • Prices are firm, fixed and non-negotiable.

    • If client knows what they want, you should know how much $$ to do work.

    • On firm/ fixed, the supplier is assuming all of the risk; only the supplier can determine what that risk is worth.

  • Schedules are firm/ fixed.

    • Everybody wants it yesterday, if you promise what you can’t deliver, you’re mud.


Resources
Resources

  • First name basis with fab and assembly houses.

    • Has come in handy on more than 1 occasion.

  • Retired ET is my “VP Mechanical Eng.”

    • Minimal direction and the price is right

  • Outsource for other expertise as needed.

  • I work cheap ($100/wk – take home).


Networks
Networks

  • Originally joined CCN hoping to get work.

  • Now, it is to decide who to farm work out to.

    • Nothing worse than having to turn down work, whether overloaded, or some portions are outside my expertise.

    • Have begun “partnering” with some members of CCN.


Latest scheme
Latest Scheme

  • Engineering enrollments are down and not likely to improve.

  • “Start-ups” are usually looking to put together a multi-disciplinary engineering department, but no one to fill it and big $$.

  • Enter the “Virtual Engineering Dept.”

    • You are “VP Engineering”


Virtual vp
Virtual VP

  • Charge an annual “retainer” to be on call.

    • First “x” # of hours are free for fire drills and proposals.

    • New projects are firm/fixed.

  • As VP, you “hire” and “fire” as needed.

    • Call on Network expertise, as needed.

  • 3-4 companies maximum.



The future
The Future

  • “Virtual Engineering Department” for 3 or 4 small start-ups.

    - will require partnering or out-sourcing.

  • Become a supplier of my hardware designs.

    • “recursive” income

  • Continue broadening areas of expertise or change direction of company.


The moral s
The Moral(s)

  • Think hardware

    • Ideas are nice, working hardware sells.

  • Think “Virtual Engineering Department”.

    • Network, partner, plan.

  • Think networking

    • Potential employees, employers, partners.


Addenda
Addenda

  • Pay your bills early

    • “on-time” isn’t good enough.

  • Your market is a moving target

    • Look where things are headed.

    • Don’t be shy about re-inventing the company.

  • Hire a competent accountant

    • Unless your expertise is accounting software development – forget it!


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