Marketing and investment firm Wareness expands beyond hardware

It’s been about three years since PR firm VSC launched Wareness, a “studio” within the larger organization that provides consulting services and seed funding to hardware startups. Since then, Wareness has backed 14 companies.

The next step? Looking beyond hardware — founder and CEO Vijay Chattha told me that the studio is now looking to work with startups in automation, computer vision and artificial intelligence.

Chattha said Wareness does a lot more than a normal PR firm, which is why it was necessary to launch a separate brand.

“We’re connecting them to investors, helping them with naming, consulting with them on pricing, talking to them about when they even want to design a [marketing] campaign based on their manufacturing cycle,” he said.

Plus, there’s the investment. Wareness raised a $6 million fund, from which it invests $25,000 to $50,000 in early rounds of funding. Some other PR firms have taken equity as payment for their services, but Chattha said, “The bottom line is this: I think companies respect when somebody puts a check in their company.”

It’s not clear yet whether any of startups backed by Wareness will turn into huge hits, but some of their names should be familiar to TechCrunch readers, including Navdy, Coin (acquired by Fitbit), goTenna, Nanit, Teforia and b8ta.

Wareness has already started to invest in the sectors mentioned above (though the first deal hasn’t been announced yet), with plans to split the remaining fund 50-50 between hardware and other categories. Asked why he felt the need to move into new industries, Chattha said that the hardware world is consolidating, so we’re going to see “a lot less tiny startups that are going to make it.”

Meanwhile, he suggested that as new automation, computer vision and AI companies emerge, they need to wrestle with the kinds of questions that Wareness can help answer.

“I do think, for example, that if you’re going to build a business in automation, then you’ve got a lot more to think about than if you’re just building a traditional business,” Chattha said. “What does this mean for labor? How are you going to uplevel your team? … We’re seeing companies being a lot more prepared earlier, with the hopes to avoid being reactive later.”