Two dozen people over a period of three years tried to convince me that I should have coffee with Liam Casey, the 2007 Ernst & Young Irish Entrepreneur of the Year and the founder of PCH International. (PCH was named after the Pacific Coast Highway, the winding coastal highway in California.) I resisted, mostly because I was too busy doing, well, whatever I was doing. Every so often people told me that since we both love technology, design, fashion and the arcana of business, it would make sense for us to talk. Intros were made and emails were exchanged, but there wasn't any movement. And then one day I found myself at Front Cafe in San Francisco, which happens to be across from the PCH offices. While sipping on one of Front's fine espressos, I saw Liam sitting nearby with three iPhones. I went up to say hello, and we started to talk. We talked and talked. And we talked some more.
I met Liam a few more times in San Francisco and once or twice in New York. Through these conversations, I started to appreciate the depth of his knowledge of manufacturing and his journey as an entrepreneur. I took notes every time we spoke, which is perhaps why this feels more like a traditional interview than the conversations I usually include on Pi.co.
Here we explore the renaissance in hardware startups, the resurgence of tinkering by hand and the challenges that present themselves when experimenters become large companies. One of Liam's observations in particular stands out to me: Supply chains have become so streamlined that you can ship something from one part of the world to another almost instantaneously.
“There’s a convergence of trends,” he said. “These trends include crowdfunding, batch manufacturing, limited editions, live process tracking, visibility into multi-tier material production.” That means it is possible to run the supply chain in a much more controlled and sustainable manner. Software's success is measured not only by downloads but also by usage. Similarly, Liam thinks hardware’s success should be measured not by when it enters a wholesaler's warehouse but by when a consumer activates a product.
His insights has allowed him to cut some of the largest companies in the world. Apple lists the 3000-person company as a supplier. Fast growing startups like Pebble, 3DRobotics, Ringly and Drop are some of the companies who have leveraged Liam's platform.Liam's insights would be useful for a lot of founders. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed talking to him. Continue Reading