Hardware Business Models
Selling to Consumers and Businesses
Selling to Local Governments
Working with Regulators
Your Extended Team
Urban Us Investment Memos
– Bowery Farming
– One Wheel (Future Motion)
Even when you aren’t selling to city government, it’s necessary to be mindful of regulations. Much like other aspects of “schlep blindness” (that is, the tediousness of certain tasks that prevents people from recognizing startup opportunities), the thought of having to get multiple legal opinions isn’t very appealing to most founders. It’s much more interesting to build something and work with customers. But avoiding this for too long, or assuming you can “ask for forgiveness” later, is not a good long-term strategy.
At a minimum, it’s necessary to understand regulations so that you can design your business to avoid regulatory risk. Things get more interesting when you are part of completely new ecosystems. We’ve worked with teams that have helped define how drones operate on construction sites and others who’ve helped lobby for changes in what types of personal electric vehicles are allowed on streets in California.
Time and money are resources that most early-stage startups just don’t have in abundance. Working with regulators can be like adding another complex sales or business development process, so it’s important to figure out when you should invest the time. We urge teams to get products into the world and ensure they have very happy customers. Why? Happy customers are a reason for regulators to begin dialog because they show that some part of the public is getting value from what you do. This makes it less likely that regulators will simply ask you to stop doing what you’re doing.
This is also where public benefits can be helpful. Being able to go beyond customers and show broader benefits to other stakeholders will provide further incentive for regulators to work with you and to adjust regulations that will ensure that you can operate within the law.