First crowdfunding, now startup services – hardware is eating the software world. FounderDating launched a hardware vertical on Wednesday, after seeing increasing demand from hardware entrepreneurs who were bringing a whole new set of discussions to the FounderDating website. This isn’t the first new direction for FounderDating, they recently started an education vertical as well as expanding into more cities across the world.

When Jessica Alter launched FounderDating in 2009, she simply wanted to connect local San Francisco entrepreneurs. In true startup fashion, as the site has grown more popular, she has adjusted to meet demand. As well as expanding to 24 new cities in 4 countries, and introducing more specialized verticals, like education and now hardware, the site has added a Quora-like discussion section. After all, not everyone can access an accelerator or seed funding but with the right filtering, we can all leverage the power of crowds on internet.

FounderDating works like a dating site or your own private Linked In for entrepreneurs. It’s invitation only, although you can apply or be recommended by members. There is a $50 one time fee, which basically covers an introductory face-to-face network event. Most of the networking happens online and founding teams can form long distance.

Half the network’s membership is engineers, a proportion FounderDating says it intentionally maintains to ensure balance. So far the ideal balance seems to be 50% engineers and 50% business development, design and other skills. Priority is given to entrepreneurs ready to get started immediately, not those with a full time day job. But having your own idea is by no means a prerequisite, it’s about forming a team. Unsurprisingly, the Bay Area has many engineers, second only to Israel, whereas New York has many more business development types.  It will be interesting seeing how adding hardware to the mix affects the balance.

What’s often overlooked [amid the hardware revolution] is how many pieces have to come together for a hardware company’s founding team – industrial design, mechanical, electrical and often software engineering plus a hustler who can make manufacturing and distribution a reality. It’s tremendously difficult and rarely do these people just happen upon each other day-to-day. We give them a platform to connect with right people together to get hardware companies started the right way. [Alter quoted in PandoDaily]

There are other players in the startup connection space, from Collabfinder carving out a niche in universities, and CoFoundersLab buying up competitors like FounderMatchup and Techcofounder. Where CoFoundersLab has partnerships with organizations like The Founder Institute, Startup America and TechStars, FounderDating has partners like TechShop, and Highway1, PCH International’s new hardware accelerator. FounderDating raised its first outside capital in January of this year from investors including Crosslink Capital, 500 Startups,  Greylock Discovery Fund, and SoftTech VC.

Interested? Upcoming Deadline: 9/27/13 Apply Now ->

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