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Philly Makers: NextFab’s RAPID Hardware Accelerator wants you


If you’re an entrepreneur with a great hardware idea, a primitive prototype and a commitment to Philadelphia, NextFab would like to hear from you.

The organization’s RAPID Hardware Accelerator is accepting applications through March 24. Four teams will gain access to state-of-the-art equipment, software and training, and up to $25,000 to develop their product at NextFab’s South Philadelphia studio.

“Hardware is expensive,” explains NextFab CFO Ken Tomlinson. “There are real and large upfront costs to developing hardware technology. We hope to draw amazing ideas into the open that have been waiting for a little bit of help.”

RAPID – it stands for Revenue through Advanced manufacturing, Product development, Innovation and Design thinking – is a 12-week program, lasting from April through the end of June, tailored to the unique needs of hardware startups.

“Upon acceptance into the accelerator, we develop custom plans for each team based on their specific needs and goals,” says Tomlinson. “This allows us to help teams maximize the value of the resources available at NextFab, including our advanced-manufacturing equipment, our team of engineers and designers, our new venture consultants and mentors, our network of industry and market contacts, and our connections to capital.”

One of the criteria for acceptance is a commitment to stay and grow in Philadelphia. Tomlinson cites the city’s manufacturing and trading roots, its low cost of living and high quality of life. There is also a wealth of opportunity.

“Philadelphia and the surrounding area is home to more than 3,000 manufacturers that are looking for the next generation of products to produce at both low- and high-scale production,” he says. “Transportation and taxes keep manufacturing overseas in the realm of commodities, but complex medical devices and other highly specialized devices benefit from local manufacturing.”

RAPID also requires that applicants have a good estimate of market size and a physical prototype.

“Even if it’s a shoebox full of wires,” adds Tomlinson. “Because we need to know that they are committed to being involved in hardware product development. Our team of experts — including mechanical and electrical engineers, industrial designers and manufacturers — will work with them to turn a prototype into a product. From there, startups might choose to iterate further with small batch production or even push into larger-scale production. And when the time comes, we’re often able to introduce these companies to additional sources of funding.”

NextFab has a good track record helping hardware makers develop and launch products. Tomlinson cites companies such as Noria, Biomeme, BioBots,  Towerview Health and ConnectDER.

ELISE VIDER is news editor of Keystone Edge.

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