I'm really excited about hardware startups. Not just because I'm a bit of a cheerleader for them: (SF Hardware Startup Meetup, TheMakerMap, etc.), but because I've met the kinds of people that are starting them and seen what kinds of things we can solve.
Why Hardware Startups?
Nearly none of the major problems with our world are fully made of data. Sure, social media, email, accounting, etc. basically are, but these are meaningless without the physical world. Humanity's biggest problems: water, food, health, energy, etc. - these are not data problems.
Yes, with massive computers we could simulate reactors for energy, optimize farming, etc. All of this is true, but at the end of the day existing hardware doesn't cut it. It's not just adding software to existing hardware for any of those problems. It's the creation of new things that will ultimately solve those problems.
Will big R&D companies, university researchers, etc. solve this problem? I'm betting they won't. Those will generate science we can use and apt minds, but in the end we need tons of small teams working on big problems to even have a chance at solving them. Those teams are called hardware startups.
I gave this talk at Pivotal Labs in 2011 - people were excited though skeptical about this back then:
Here's a talk I gave for Sketching in Hardware 2012 about the hardware startup community:
The HardTech Manifesto - I like manifestos, what can I say...