Hardware Startups Look to Tap Overseas Markets

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By Ian Sherr

Bay Area hardware startups are accelerating plans to sell their products overseas, seeking new opportunities for growth after seeing unexpectedly strong international demand.

Thermostat maker Nest Labs Inc. and Leap Motion Inc., which makes a motion-control device for computers, are hiring staff to handle sales and administrative functions, such as overseas partnerships, regulatory compliance and customs issues. They are also tailoring their product websites and modifying their software to handle local languages and data.

These startups and others are learning that in the age of online shopping, customers outside the U.S. are eager to purchase products from American startups that they hear about from blogs and social networks like Twitter. And through partnerships with large multinational manufacturers and distribution firms, the startups can ship just about anywhere.

The efforts come as hardware startups, benefiting from faster prototyping technologies that have made it easier and less expensive to build electronic products, are hot again in Silicon Valley. Fledging companies making everything from health-monitoring devices to speakers are trying to get off the ground—and finding that overseas demand can give them a boost.

 

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(Published January 10, 2013, in The Wall Street Journal.)