Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code

The new hardware startups

A lot of focus lately on the failures of the latest swatch of hardware startups jamming AI into their tiny wearable nothings (why these need to be hardware appears to be a simple question of margins. Very hard to charge for API requests to OpenAI, but if you wrap it in a “wearable” you can charge $500 or more).

Anyway, a lot of them have an Apple vibe. But they don’t actually do anything. And, as Benjamin Sandofsky has now pointed out, they don’t have the Apple ethos either.

I blame the team’s nostalgia. They clearly want to recreate the Apple from 2007, but that’s impossible under venture capital constraints and without the momentum of Apple. Contrary to what Imran, Ken, and I’m sure many others at Humane believe, the iPhone didn’t begin with their work in the 2000’s on Project Purple. It began in 1976 with the Apple computer, and the decades of goodwill it built up in consumers. The project was spearheaded by a guy ready to waste billions in iPod revenue if it helped achieve his vision, and he answered to nobody. It came together at the perfect point in time, when everyone knew the power of the Internet, but there wasn’t a way to carry the whole experience in your pocket. You can’t replicate all these factors in a few years, no matter how much money a VC throws at you.