By Angel Huang (COO)
This is the second time I visited Silicon Valley with the Alchema team. Alchema is the smart home-brewing device for making hard cider at home with basic ingredients. We are thrilled to be part of the HAX Boost program in San Francisco, a 42-day program that helps hardware startups prepare for and launch into retail. I’m writing to share with you what we have learned in the first 30 days.
Most people know HAX because it has a world-famous manufacturing/protoyping accelerator in Shenzhen. Entrepreneurs who have a brilliant idea (but no experience manufacturing) can join the program in Shenzhen and leave with manufacturing relationships and a final prototype. However, as all hardware founders know, there’s still a long way to go from prototype to product. That’s why HAX started the “Boost” program in 2015; to help startups with a working sample make their way to retail. Boost works with partners including Target, Best Buy and Amazon, as well as major retailers in Asia and Europe. So here we are, chosen to be one of eleven awesome teams in the third batch of HAX Boost! Yay!
The first two weeks was called “Boost Camp”- and it was named accurately. During Boost Camp we covered everything from communicating with buyers to logistics, packaging and displays... we also had a number of workshops on paid/content/social/e-mail marketing, because we all know a good product cannot fly off the shelves without a brand behind it. Everything we had no clue about before, we feel like we now know. But of course, knowing is not enough. Startups by nature are doing something new and different, which means nobody can tell you the correct answer to every decision. So, we have to use our best instincts as well as what we're learning here at HAX from our mentors and fellow startups. We are starting small, working hard and A/B testing as much as possible. I like how our mentor Mark Williams put it: bringing a product to retail is like driving a sports car. If you know how to drive it, you can travel fast and far; but if you don’t know how to drive, you can crash.
One of the best parts of HAX has been spending time with our peers. Every Friday evening, our Program Director Kate asks us to sit in a circle for our weekly “group therapy” session over drinks and snacks. That's a great chance for all of us to be together and talk about what's working in our businesses and what's not. We also have “founder visits” where HAX alumni- like the founder of Prynt or Particle- share their experiences and challenges. We are thankful for how much they’re willing to share. The lessons we learn from experienced founders help teams like us, who still have many challenges ahead. HAX has brought us into a family where help and advice will always be a phone call or email away.
Here at Alchema, we're part of something bigger than our startup now, and that's a great feeling. Also… we've been lucky to have 25 great product testers to help us work through new recipes! This week, we brought two kinds of our homemade cider to the office to see which one is the favorite. One is strawberry-grape, the other is pomegranate. Check our video and find out who’s the winner!