It’s a cliche conversation in the Dallas startup community (perhaps doubly so with hardware-focused entrepreneurs) — per capita, Dallas sometimes lags in innovation. We’re Texans, we love blazing our own path, but often the safe plays are king.
There has never been a question of skill set in Dallas.
Southern Methodist University is ranked as the second best university in Texas (and the 14th most entrepreneurial university in the nation), while The University of Texas at Dallas is pulling in a small nation’s GNP in research awards. And across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it’s no coincidence that UT Arlington is producing some of the most skilled engineers in the workforce.
In terms of professional development, DFW is home to a murderers’ row of Fortune 500 companies and a major technical hub of engineering and research and development for some of the largest tech companies in the world.
Yet, that hesitancy for entrepreneurial innovation has long struck Gossamer founder, Chris Hsiao, as an understandable market inefficiency.
As an aerospace engineer for more than a decade, Hsiao found himself doing work that was financially rewarding, but often at the expense of innovation and connection to his work.
“I spent a decade working on products that were either so large in scope that my impact was seemingly nominal, or the product itself was so far out of reach financially that I never had any real connection to it,” Hsiao said.
When an Irving-based aerospace firm he was consulting for collapsed in the summer of 2015, Hsiao found himself at a crossroads.
“I was actually in the hospital celebrating the birth of my daughter when I got the call that the firm was going under,” Hsiao said. “I knew for a while that I wanted to pivot my career into consumer product design. I realized there was never going to be a safe time to do it, so I might as well take the plunge as soon as possible.”
It was then that Hsiao created Gossamer, a product design firm that specializes in hardware startups. Knowing that many startups were bootstrapped, Gossamer acts as a venture firm as well, providing engineering expertise at cost or lower in return for royalties or equity.
Gossamer has formally existed for 16 months now, and in that time, it has helped multiple venture-backed hardware startups as well as Fortune 500 companies design and engineer products.
“It took a while to figure out how the model would optimally work, and I’m not so presumptuous to say we’ve figured it all out, but we’re certainly getting there — we’re definitely on the right path,” Hsiao said
That path has lead them to another stage of growth. Effective Jan. 2, Gossamer formally joined Irving-based Tekzenit, a design, software development, and IT firm that counts heavyweights such as AT&T and Airtel as clients.
“We’ve been location-agnostic out of necessity, but we believe Dallas has all the ingredients to be a major hub of hardware innovation and activity.”
“Our strength was our mechanical engineering, but having worked with Tekzenit before, we knew that their world-class expertise in design, UX, and software would give Gossamer an enormous turnkey palate of services to offer hardware startups,” Hsiao said.
“We’ve been location-agnostic out of necessity, but we believe Dallas has all the ingredients to be a major hub of hardware innovation and activity. Dallas has had a few hardware success stories, but the number still seems far too low. We want to do everything in our ability to reach out and help raise these numbers, and we now have the collected resources to do just that.”
Whether or not 2017 proves to be the year that the hardware startup scene in Dallas really takes root, it won’t be for a lack of trying by Gossamer and Hsiao.
“The amount of talent in DFW is staggering,” Hsiao said. “And with our expanded capabilities at Gossamer, we are trying our best to become the go-to resource for every single hardware startup in this community. Even if we don’t formally work with every Dallas hardware startup, we want to be the leader in hardware community — to do whatever it takes to help mitigate risks of our city’s entrepreneurs.”
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