Hardware startup incubator Bolt welcomes first class

So, you’ve got a brilliant idea for the next must-have gadget. You can picture it in your mind. There’s just one problem: You don’t have the skills to build it, and you lack the knowledge and the cashflow to order prototypes from a manufacturer.

Where do you turn?

The answer could be Bolt, a new startup incubator in downtown Boston that welcomes its first class of entrepreneurs this week. Like many accelerator programs, Bolt offers money, workspace and mentoring to promising businesses (between eight and a dozen, in this case).

But Bolt’s distinguishing perk is the geeked-out Home Depot that is its 9,000-square-foot Chauncey Street office. For six months, program participants will have access to $1 million worth of equipment — including a three-dimensional printer — and to Bolt’s seven-person staff, ready to turn concepts into real, testable products.


To give you an idea of just how desirable all that hardware help is, Bolt received 850 applications for 10 spots in the first class.

“Most companies that apply and have gotten into Bolt for this first class don’t have any revenue,’’ said managing director Ben Einstein. “They typically have a good proof-of-concept prototype, and an interesting concept, and a great team. And those three things are a great foundation to build a great business.’’

Bolt is structured like a venture capital fund, with entrepreneurs trading stakes in their companies for seed money ($50,000, in most cases) and other assistance. Investors — including Logitech, Autodesk, Grishin Robotics and 17 angels — have pledged $3.5 million to pay for two years of innovation.

With Bolt sharing risk with its incoming tenants, Einstein is optimistic but also aware of the stakes.

“The model that we use is several of our companies have to become very significantly large for us to do be able to do this again,’’ he said. “And I really like doing this, so I want to do it again.’’

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