If innovations in 3D printing, and platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are making it easier than ever for hardware startups to conceive and prototype new gadgets, then Flextronics, the San Jose-based manufacturer that works with Apple and many others on smartphones and more, is putting its hat in the ring to tap into hardware startups another way. It is launching a new accelerator, Lab IX, based out of Milpitas (where the company also has an R&D center), which will award $500,000 to each selected company to grow their ideas.
The focus will be on finding startups that are less than three years old, have less than $5 million in funding: “early stage disruptive companies incorporating hardware and software innovation.”
The idea is to bring Flextronics closer to new business. Perhaps it is in some way also to compete against upstarts like PCH International, which has launched its own incubator called Highway1 and doing more innovative design itself. It also helps the company continue to raise its profile in the U.S., where it is increasingly doing work for companies like Apple as part of a bigger wave of U.S. domestic manufacturing.
“We are excited to offer Lab IX services to help growing technology companies take their products to market and the next level,” said Mike McNamara, CEO of Flextronics, in a statement. “We believe that engaging with game-changing companies at an early stage will not only benefit Flextronics, but will provide those companies with the ability to leverage a wealth of experience in hardware design, manufacturing and logistics from all of the Flextronics business units and specialized partners in an unprecedented scale.”
“Hardware is hard,” the company notes in its brochure detailing the new program. In addition to a capital injection, Lab IX will also provide access to Lab IX and Flextronics’ engineers and designers, including IDEO, access to manufacturing and protyping equipment — some $30 million in the R&D center alone. Those who look like they may be progressing to the next stage of their development get access to Flextronics’ network of factories for manufacturing, procurement network and marketing network — effectively hitting the jackpot by leveraging Flextronics’ scale.
We’re reaching out to the company to get more details on how many startups are going to be accepted into the program, and when the cut-off is for applications — or whether this is a rolling deadline. We’re hopefully speaking to Lior Susan, who heads up the Lab IX program later, and will update the post as we learn more.