Startup Lessons From The Industrial Wearables Leader

RealWear: A great case of an augmented reality headset designed for industry with the right approach and business model

In the past few months we have seen several industrial wearables startups going through financial difficulties and even shutting down. Some believe that unless you are Google, Facebook or Microsoft, or have raised billions of dollars in capital, it is very difficult for a technology startup to stay in business.  However, there are exceptions. Chief among these is RealWear, a Vancouver, WA startup that has built a solid business case for an augmented reality headset in the enterprise space. Here is what I have learned from RealWear.

1. You don’t need $50-$60M in capital from day one to build a solid enterprise-ready business

RealWear has raised $17M and has built a solid business with great customers and partners. While other startups have raised more, they weren’t able to remain in business because they grew too fast. My point here is that you can do it with less capital by being more focused and keeping it lean. That’s exactly what RealWear has done.

2. Focus on building an augmented reality headset that meet the strict standards of industrial use cases

RealWear understood very early that if they wanted to succeed in industries like Oil and Gas, they needed to develop an augmented reality headset with an “intrinsically safe” option. Specifically, they would need to pursue ATEX Zone 1 for any industrial wearables destined for hazardous environments. Without ATEX Zone 1, IECEx Zone 1, and CSA C1-D1 certifications, it’s impossible to sell to companies whose workers routinely encounter dangerous conditions.

3. Build augmented reality headsets that are lightweight and compatible with PPE

The easiest way to sell augmented reality tech to industrial enterprise companies is to build a product that can be easily integrated into an existing PPE such as a hard hat. That’s exactly what RealWear has done with the technology that underpins HMT-1® and the intrinsically safe HMT-1Z1™. Both solutions easily clip into hard helmets and bump caps. Also, it’s essential that any industrial wearable designed to work throughout a full shift be lightweight. This can be the crucial factor between a pilot that stalls and global deployment.

4. Keep it simple and focus on a limited number of key use cases

Lack of focus can derail any startup. Many enterprise customers require custom features and apps, and if you don’t define your ideal use cases early on, you’ll never succeed. Even worse, if you try to accommodate every enterprise customer with custom features, that can make sustainable growth impossible.

RealWear has done a good job staying away from custom solutions and has instead focused on 5 major use cases:

With rugged hardware backed by an ecosystem of purpose-built software, RealWear’s technology gives industrial workers all the resources they need. All five use cases empower frontline workers while improving safety. That’s a simple value proposition that any enterprise can appreciate.

5. Team up with strategic partners to scale faster and improve your offering

Most startups have limited resources and reach. That’s why it’s important to join forces with the right strategic and valuable-added partners. This will help you scale faster than if you tried to grow your business through 100% direct sales. This is exactly what RealWear has done with their rugged augmented reality headsets, and this approach has allowed them to scale quickly.

6. Understand your customers’ needs, KPIs, environment and workflow

Last but not least, startup founders who want to sell to enterprise accounts need to understand their needs, goals and key performance indicators (KPI). RealWear identified a gap in the market (rugged augmented reality headsets), and designed technology that could exceed the high standards of industrial enterprise companies. When using technology is as easy as “Say What You See,” it’s no wonder RealWear has grown so quickly.

Bottom line

RealWear is the perfect example of a startup that has used the right approach and business model to get traction with enterprise companies. They are also proof that a startup doesn’t have to raise hundreds of millions in capital to start building a successful business. Sometimes it is better to be a bit more conservative, instead of growing too fast and trying to do too many things at once. RealWear understands that, and they’re poised for even greater success.

About the Author

Julien Blin has brought AR, VR, and wearable technologies to leading enterprise companies in Oil & Gas, Construction, and Mining for over 10 years. Prior to that, he worked on flagship products at Google and Samsung. Julien is also the founder of Gizworld, a leading series of conferences focused on tech and IoT that has attracted 2000 attendees and 180 speakers in Tel Aviv, Paris, Toronto, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. A noted industry expert, Julien has also been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, and BusinessWeek.

Editor’s note: RealWear encourages guest posts! Guest posts may or may not reflect the views of RealWear. If you would like to submit a guest post please send a proposed topic, outline or abstract to Andrew dot Rhodes at realwear dot com.