Encouraging Our Future Engineers & Innovators

February 10, 2016
3D Innovations

engineersweek2016National Engineers Week is just around the corner—February 21st to 27th—this is a time to celebrate engineers and encourage our future generations of engineers and innovators. By now we all have heard that STEM careers are in high demand however, the current flow of talent into the STEM pipeline is limited—time for change.

Engineering is a fantastic disciple that opens doors to a variety of career paths. Exploration and efficiency are reinforced mindsets in engineering classes and these principals help shape many of the top CEOs and inventors of today. In 2014, Harvard Business Review came out with a list of the 100 best-performing CEOs on the planet and a quarter of them held an engineering degree. “Studying engineering gives someone a practical, pragmatic orientation.”

Below are a few ideas on how we can work together, as a community, to encourage engineering and educate students about our profession.

  1. Help change the perception of engineering. Many students still view engineering as a viable career option only if you are “good ” at math and science. Engineering is more about solving real-world problems. Creativity is also a large part of our job that does not get enough attention.
  2. Become a mentor. Get out of the office and become a mentor for a local STEM focused organization. Students cannot dream about becoming an engineer if they have never met an engineer. Mentorship gives students a hands-on look and allows them to ask career questions in an informal setting. Our President and Chief 3D Officer, Collin Kobayashi, recently mentored a very talented team of students in Startup Weekend Honolulu 2015 and they ended up coming in first runner-up in the Global Startup Battle. These young innovators were merely 10 and 12 years old, yet had the determination, desire and support system in place to succeed.
  3. Organize a visit to your workplace. Work with a local school and organize a time for students to come to your office and check out what it means to be an engineer. Not only do most kids not know an engineer, they haven’t seen engineering in action. Give them a tour, introduce them to the engineers and technicians who work there, show them a project you or your colleagues are working on, feed them lunch, answer their questions, and take their picture and give them copies to remind them of how cool engineering is.
  4. Introduce a fun engineering activity. With a quick Google search you can find a million ideas on age appropriate engineering activitieseverything from building a tower with marshmallows and toothpicks to designing a CAD file for 3D printing. These activities show that engineering is more than math equations and calculators. Engineering is hands-on and should be introduced and taught that way!

You never know, you might just might be encouraging the next great inventor…

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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When It Comes To Your Startup’s IP—Timing Is Everything

February 4, 2016
3D Innovations

It is always best to set up rigorous intellectual property (IP) practices from Day One, but more often than not it gets pushed to the side for ‘later’. If you take a step back though and put this into perspective, ask yourself one question, What is my startup’s most valuable asset? It is not the workspace or funding, but the intellectual property—the disruptive idea, brilliant invention or genius breakthrough. The IP is the heart and soul of the business. This integral piece of your startup needs to be protected by patents, copyrights and/or trademarks as well as through a few internal measures. Without a proper IP strategy, you are leaving the door open for major complications down the road.

lightbulb1To best protect your startup’s most precious asset, it’s critical to have all founders, employees and anyone involved in creating the idea sign over their intellectual property rights to the startup itself. The best time to do this is in the early-stages of business, but if that has already come and gone, we suggest doing it ‘now’ instead of ‘later’. Here are a few other instances where locking in a firm IP process is beneficial.

  • When The Founders Get Serious. Your startup has just been incorporated and the team is ecstatic. Everyone is ready to get to work and propel the business forward. Press the pause button right here for a minute, and have everyone assign IP rights to the company and document who’s come up with which business concepts. While everything is moving smoothly now, it may not be in a few months or years, and it is best to get this information locked in from the get-go.
  • When There Is A New Hire. Hiring your first employee? This is an exciting time! However, it is also a time that your startup begins to become more vulnerable and your IP needs to be protected. “Have new hires ink an agreement with a ‘present assignment’ clause that assigns everything they invent or create, whether it’s patentable or not, to the company, effective on their date of hire. Make sure the agreement includes a ‘further assurances’ clause, in which the employee agrees to cooperate in the future, if needed, to assist with showing that the startup owns the IP. To top it off, the agreement should include confidentiality obligations, permitting them to use or reveal confidential information only for the startup’s benefit.” (Tech Crunch)
  • When Seeking A Patent. Filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office can be quite a process. Before you submit your application have every inventor assign all rights for the invention to the company. This then becomes public record, so it’s easy to see whether the company owns all the rights to its IP.
  • Before Searching For Funding. If you get all founders to sign over IP rights at the beginning, finding funding gets much less complicated. If a VC gets the slightest hint of trouble between founders, they tend to walk. Having your team all on the same page is vital.

We highly suggest that you take the time early-on to consult with a licensed IP attorney to assist in the development of a strong IP strategy for your startup.

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Business Accelerators, Incubators & Co-Working Spaces—Which is Best?

January 29, 2016
3D Innovations

Launching a startup? Scaling your current business? There are tons of resources available to entrepreneurs out there. However, finding the exact resources to fit your precise needs can be slightly more challenging. Business accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces all offer similar services with slight ‘tweaks’, the lines between them get blurry. We have defined each below to help you make an informed decision on what is best for your business.

Accelerators

StartupConnectorlogoTime is of the essence with accelerators. With experts by your side, accelerators aim to launch your startup in a matter of weeks or months, instead of years. Traditionally there is an application process that an entrepreneur is required to complete before being accepted into an accelerator program. However once you are accepted, you are thrown onto the fast track of scaling your business. The product development timeline is drastically reduced, which makes the incubation period very short and intense. Accelerators aim to turn business ideas into prototypes or products that are ready to go to market quickly—mere months. Sponsors provide initial funding and expertise to small groups that can demonstrate a great product idea. In return, the sponsors take a small equity stake in the new business, on average less then 10%.

With business accelerators the emphasis is on rapid growth and a successful product launch. At the end of the period, the entrepreneurs have the opportunity to make a pitch to venture capitalists to obtain further funding. A business accelerator is therefore more suitable for startups that want to reduce time to market, rather than grow gradually.

Incubators

Business incubators provide businesses with office space and shared facilities, such as telecommunications systems and internet connections, in a dedicated building. Entrepreneurs can access advice and guidance from professionals such as accountants, marketing consultants and business advisers who are associated with the incubation center and act as mentors. Entrepreneurs typically stay in an incubation center for three to five years, although there is no minimum or maximum period.

New businesses find that rents are lower in incubation centers—typically 25 to 50 percent less than commercial rents, depending on the region you are in. They benefit from networking opportunities, the mentoring and professional advice available and the contacts with other entrepreneurs that provide a stimulating environment for growth.

Co-Working Space

Technology advances mean that you no longer need to be tethered to a single office to get work done. Co-working spaces offer cheap office space and business facilities for entrepreneurs, but more than that, they provide the opportunity to ‘rub elbows’ with other entrepreneurs and freelancers. The networking opportunities are vast. Similar to accelerators and incubators, there is access to basic shared office facilities and mentors in various fields.  Many of the people in co-working spaces find it inspiring to work around other like-minded entrepreneurs.

Co-working spaces offer flexibility and the least amount of structure out of the three options. These spaces can accommodate a growing team and don’t require a firm lease commitment like traditional office space. Many co-working spaces are funded through memberships, however, there are a few out there that are free (i.e.Gangplank).

Please feel free to send any additional questions you may have to info@3d-innovations.com. We look forward to chatting!

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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Startup Connector: Cohort #2 Application Available

January 27, 2016
3D Innovations

StartupConnectorlogoIf you missed the Startup Connector application for our first cohort, don’t fret! The application for our second cohort is available. We are currently in the process of evaluating applications and conducting interviews for our first group, but welcome you to apply for the second cohort that will be kicking off later this year. Getting your application in early will let us connect with you and keep you informed of the upcoming start dates.

What is Startup Connector? Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator (located in Honolulu, Hawaii) that supports hardware startups. Accelerator programs are time-specific, mentorship-driven programs designed to connect startups with critical early-stage product development resources.

What startup programs are available? The entire Startup Connector manufacturing and commercialization program focuses on providing an in-depth and highly technical 10 week program to support companies who are ready to commercialize their products. There are two 10 week tracks in which inventors and entrepreneurs can apply. Track 1 is the “Business Startup Program” and covers all of the basics (and more) in relation to launching a product. Track 2  is the “Design/Manufacturing Program” and delves into the world of product development and manufacturing. View the specifics of each track on the Startup Connector website.

Have additional questions about Startup Connector? Please email them to info@startup-connector.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

Startup Connector is a Manufacturing Accelerator helping companies commercialize—turning ideas into products.

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The Single Most Important Piece Of Advice A Startup Needs To Hear

January 21, 2016
3D Innovations

Starting a business is hard and each business comes with its own unique set of challenges; however, there are universal pieces of advice that span industry, geography, and demographics. We recently sat down with 3D Innovations Founder, Collin Kobayashi, to discuss startups and the best piece of advice entrepreneurs need to hear. While Collin has vast experience starting and managing 3D Innovations, he has recently embarked on another venture, co-founding Startup Connector, a manufacturing accelerator here in Honolulu, Hawaii. With both companies he has had the privilege of working with visionary entrepreneurs and assisting them in the launch of their startups. Through his many meetings and time around entrepreneurs, like himself, he has found one piece of advice to be crucial for success, “Never underestimate the power of persistence”.

goalThis piece of advice reaches into every single aspect of starting a business, from market research to funding. In terms of market research, whether you are developing software or hardware, understanding the market you are creating a product for is critical. Be persistent in your research of the market and take the time to meet with various experts in the field. Validating your product is critical, and validation is best when it comes from both your target market and other technical experts. Have meetingslots of meetingswith potential mentors, experienced entrepreneurs and development experts in your industry.

Funding is another hurdle almost every startup faces, and here persistence will also serve you well. Whether it is gaining the attention of VCs or applying for funding, you need to be steadfast, determined and persistent. It might take some time to get meetings with the right people in place, but keep pushing forward until you get a response. Always remember, that if one door closes, seek to open others.

What is the single best piece of business advice you have been given?

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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3D Printing Trends to Track in the New Year

January 14, 2016
3D Innovations

From the looks of things, 2016 is going to be a breakout year for additive manufacturing (3D printing)in terms of industrial applications and global supply-chain disruptions. New materials and 3D printer advancements have accelerated the industrial applications for 3D printing (think GE and Ford). Simultaneously, these advancements have shifted the business landscape—supply chains are quickly transforming to meet new demands. In 2016 executives will be compelled to pay very close attention to 3D printing technology and emerging opportunities to inject it into their business to speed up product development cycles.

In relation to the consumer market, personal 3D printers will most likely see a decline, the short-term consumer market is inundated with inexpensive consumer models. However, the CAD technology that enables 3D printing will continue to become more user friendly. With advancements in 3D scanning and 3D modeling, the design technology behind 3D printing is poised to become more accessible.

Forbes recently published 8 Hot 3D Printing Trends to Watch In 2016 and while we agree with all eight points outlined, we feel that there are three, in particular, on the verge of major breakthroughs with significant business implications.

  1. Pushing the limits of technology. While 3D printing technology is decades old, notable recent advancements have propelled the technology into the mainstream. In the coming year, expect to see advancements in 3D printing materialsglass, recycled materials and metal, just to name a few. In addition, 3D printers are getting bigger (much bigger), as engineers as developers envision themselves ‘printing’ homes and large industrial parts in a single print.
  2. Outsourced 3D printing gains share. This is something we have seen in our line of business. More and more businesses are finding it beneficial to use a external providers to design and print prototypes. With 3D printer advances, external providers are able to quickly validate designs and print high-quality prototypes in hours, thus eliminating the headaches and hassles of printing internally.
  3. Virtual inventory becomes real. Producing parts on-demand is a game changer for businesses. Storing large quantities of a product is costly, and with technology today, it’s becoming obsolete. The cost savings associated with virtual inventory is sure to grab the attention of executives. Cloud-based virtual inventory is one way the supply-chain is shifting and moving more towards a supply-network.

3D printing technology is fundamentally changing the business landscape and 2016 is sure to be another exciting year.

Cheers to 2016!

Have questions about 3D printing technology? Send them our way, info@3d-innovations.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Startup Connector: Tickets Now Available for ‘Hackers Affinity’ Dinner

January 8, 2016
3D Innovations

EMWIn December we were thrilled to announce that Startup Connector, Hawaii’s only Hardware Manufacturing accelerator, would be hosting the East Meets West ‘Hackers Affinity’ dinner on January 14th following the first day of the conference. Today we are letting you know that tickets are now available for the dinner!

The Hackers Affinity dinner is a chance to sit down and connect with Gang Lu – #1 tech blogger in China, Paul Ford – Hacker and entrepreneur/community builder extraordinaire, and Cyril Ebersweiler – Founder of HAX, the #1 hardware accelerator in the world.

*Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite. There are only 15 seats available, reserve yours today!

Collin Kobayashi, the Founder of 3D Innovations and Co-Founder of Startup Connector, will be at the East Meets West conference and would love to connect and chat about Hawaii’s new manufacturing accelerator. If you would like to schedule a time to talk with him, please send him an email, collin@startup-connector.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Turn Your Idea Into A Startup In 2016

January 6, 2016
3D Innovations

1lightbulbA new year, means a new beginning. January is the time to recharge, set goals and leap into the year ahead with renewed determination. If in 2015 you had a ‘light bulb’ moment for a fantastic new product, but weren’t exactly ready to tackle it, make 2016 your year for action. All great startups begin with a single idea, but it has to be put into practice.

Below are a few important steps to take as you begin your startup journey…

  1. Do your market research. Conducting thorough market research is the first step to determine if you do, in fact, really have an idea worth pursuing. First, you need to make sure that a product similar to your idea isn’t already out there. After it has been determined that your idea is still viable, your research then focuses on test groups. What need does your product fulfill? How many people have the issue you are solving? Survey these potential “customers” to gain further insight and hone in on your product idea.
  2. Secure intellectual property. This is a big step that has a tendency to be overlooked at the onset. Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all ways to secure your rights to an idea/invention.  It is vital to the success of your product and startup that you secure your IP before taking a product to market. Navigating IP on the path to commercialization can be a challenge, and we highly recommend that you consult with a licensed patent attorney to review your IP options and decide what will be the most beneficial for your specific invention.
  3. Build a functional prototype. Having a prototype lets you test the idea, work out any design challenges and research manufacturing partners. Building a prototype will help you validate your product early-on and gain credibility. Completing all of this before seeking fundingif that is your intended goalbrings a new level of credibility to you and your startup. (Not to mention, this preparation also shortens your entire product development timeline.)
  4. Write a business plan. Getting your idea down in writing helps solidify it for yourself and any potential co-founder you invite on board. A business plan will help you focus on a strategy, set clear business objectives, prioritize, track milestones, manage cash flows and secure funding. Many investors want to see a solid business plan before they consider backing a startup.
  5. Apply for an accelerator program. An accelerator program connects you with additional business resources and professional expertise. Consider applying for an accelerator program if you want to scale your startup quickly and get connected with both mentors and investors.

This list is does not cover every single aspect of turning an idea into a startup, but it will certainly get you going in the right direction. As Ron Conway, noted Startup Investor, once said, “Any time is a good time to start a company.”

Interested in an accelerator program? Our Startup Connector manufacturing and commercialization program is now accepting applications. Apply today: www.startup-connector.com

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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Happy Holidays & Best Wishes

December 22, 2015
3D Innovations

From our 3D Innovations family to yours…

happyholidays

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Startup Connector: Hosting ‘East Meets West 2016’ Conference Event

December 18, 2015
3D Innovations

East Meets West 2016 is the startup event of the year in Hawaii (January 14 & 15) – bringing together investors and entrepreneurs 
from Asia, 
Hawaii and North America. EMW’16 features amazing international speakers, deep-dive learning opportunities, and ample networking in a tropical Startup Paradise.”

StartupConnectorlogoStartup Connector, Hawaii’s only Hardware Manufacturing accelerator, will be hosting the Hackers Affinity dinner on January 14th following the first day of the East Meets West conference. Get a chance to sit down and talk with Gang Lu – #1 tech blogger in China, Paul Ford – Hacker and entrepreneur / community builder extraordinaire, and Cyril Ebersweiler – Founder #1 hardware accelerator in the world. Stay tuned for more details!

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3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.

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