3 things this Penn hardware startup learned about working in China in Technically Philly

By Jon Broome

In January 2017, we founded IQ Motion Control with the goal of turning a Ph.D. project from the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab into a revolutionary commercial product. We could never have predicted that our business would take us all over the country and to the other side of the world, but now that we have a year under our belt, we would love to share the lessons we’ve learned along the way as a hardware startup.

Before doing that, it may be useful to understand more about our product and background. At IQ, we make smart electric motors and controllers for drones, robotic arms, 3D printers and other robotic devices. By embedding a position sensor in our motor and reading its orientation as it spins, we have a stark advantage over standard motor technology. With this position information and our calibration and control algorithms, we’re able to optimize motor performance and give users the utmost control over their machines.

Upon starting the company, we spent the first six months refining the software, getting prototypes in the hands of users and creating features to address their needs. Progress was slow and steady, but we had paying customers.

Our big break came in August when we were accepted into HAX, a four-month hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen, China. During the program, teams were given engineering and design support, as well as mentorship on business strategy. However, the biggest advantage to HAX was its location.

It was only after arriving in Shenzhen that we realized the importance of the Chinese ecosystem for hardware companies.

Here are the top three things we learned from our time in China:

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