Building products from scratch is hard. Building a business is at least as difficult. A lot of young founders and entrepreneurs lose their minds trying to grapple with the interwoven complexities of these disciplines.
Chris Michaud has figured them both out.
Chris is a rising phenom in the world of industrial design and manufacturing. In 2015 he left a full-time gig and started First Summit Design, a product consulting group with a focus on industrial design for cool products. He’s since become involved with a number of other design-focused companies that we discuss in some depth.
We had a great conversation about hardware design and manufacturing, serial entrepreneurship and work/life balance.
I hope you enjoy this episode of Hacker Practice with Chris Michaud
[01:30] Justus and Chris met when they came together to work on an IoT project for a somewhat obscure sport.
[04:30] What is industrial design?
[06:15] Why Chris focuses on the ideas behind design rather than influential design figures.
[07:30] How Chris designed his fiancee’s engagement ring.
- Research first: materials then user
[09:15] Is design easier for one person or for a group?
[11:00] How did Chris develop the skill of sketching products
- Education helped
[12:30] Chris’s first big product and how he went about designing it
[14:00] Good barbells vs GREAT barbells
[16:40] Why kettlebells might be an easier place to start designing for fitness equipment than a barbell
[17:45] Where is materials research important?
[18:45] Discussion on steel quality and impacting variables
- Tensile strength
- Yield strength
- The weight at which steel will permanently
- Percent elongation
[23:12] Why it’s important to think about manufacturing and assembly concerns during the design phase of a product
- Design for Manufacturing
- Design for Assembly
[27:30] Domestic vs international manufacturing
- It depends on the thing you’re manufacturing
- Chris likes to design where he manufactures
[31:10] Chris goes to a wedding in China
[33:00] Different regions in China do different kinds of manufacturing
[35:00] How does Chris vet new manufacturing relationships
- Start with ten vendors
- Rate each vendor on various aspects (price, social responsibility, etc)
[36:00] How Chris got a local Chinese government to shut down a chrome plating facility for unsafe labor practices
[38:45] Chris is a partner in four businesses
- First Summit Design
- Blue Sky design
- Cove Manufacturing
- Interior Design for Retail
- Working on the NBA Store on 5th Ave in New York
- Hash Product Development
- Medical marijuana product development
[46:00] How does Chris get big clients
- Know your stuff
- Always be meeting people.
- “Word of mouth should be good enough, if you’re good enough.”
[50:00] Chris describes his sales process
- Get to know them, ask invasive questions
- Never tell them what you’re gonna do for them, tell them what you’re about
[52:00] Chris tells a horror story from a pitch that went wrong
[57:30] The future of the cannabis industry in Massachusetts
- Focus on auxilary market
[1:00:00] Chris reveals a cannabis product idea
[1:01:00] What does serial entrepreneurship mean to Chris
- Chris has a financial interest in 14 companies
- Diversity is fun and freeing
- Learn something new every day
[1:02:00] How does Chris prioritize?
- Stay organized
- Have a strong support team.
- What does that team look like?
[1:03:50] What does Chris’s next hire look like?
- A controller
- With culture fit
[1:07:30] What’s the biggest challenge Chris deals with on a daily basis
- Working too long
- How the fiancee deals with Chris working late
[1:09:00] Chris’s biggest lesson learned in the last two years building several companies
- What he does in his free time
[1:11:00] Last requests and contact information
- “Don’t be afraid to do exactly what you want”