Counseling Startups From Design Through NPI


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Andy Shaughnessy and Happy Holden sat down for an interview with Richard Marshall, CEO of Xitex Limited, a company based in the U.K. that provides consultancy to startups launching wired and wirelessly connected products. Richard explains some of the most common factors companies overlook when introducing a new product. He also discusses one startup’s new product—a Fitbit-type device worn by horses—and why he advises startups to “Make your mistakes close to home.”

Andy Shaughnessy: How did you get involved in electronics?

Richard Marshall: As a kid, I grew up having various bits of electronics around. You don’t realize until later in life how much you learn from your own father. I grew up with that stuff, soldering and knowing resistor color codes, long before I studied physics.

Shaughnessy: As CEO, give us some background on Xitex.

Marshall: Xitex has been going for about 25 years. It’s my consulting company that I’ve been in and out of for a chunk of time. My last major startup was Ubiquisys, which was bought by Cisco in 2013. They were a small cell company, taking a 3G base station and miniaturizing it into a consumer product. We did one of the world’s first femtocells, which we started working on back in 2006. Then, it went for the usual acquisition phase with Cisco. I came out of Cisco in the backend of 2014, and since then, I’ve been running my design consultancy.

Partly, I’ve always enjoyed startups because you have to be able to turn your hand to do a lot of things. You have to get things done. As I often say to founders, execution is king. If you want to convince investors to fund you and back you, then execution is king. The moment you don’t start fulfilling your promises, then your business is likely to stop. There’s also a feeling of wanting to give something back in life, mentoring and helping other startups.

A couple of years ago, I was involved in a startup event in the U.K. and was talking to a couple of the founders, who were at Hive, which was bought by British Gas. One of the founders mentioned how hard it was to find people who had been through NPI in OEM manufacturing. And of course, for those of us who have worked for OEMs with our own production facilities, we tend to forget the fact that the world has changed so dramatically since 2000–2005, when so much manufacturing was first outsourced. Obviously, the majority of electronics have tended to be outsourced to Southeast Asia.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the April 2020 issue of Design007, click here.

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