Itâs been about three years since PR firm VSC launched Wareness, a âstudioâ within the larger organization that provides consulting services and seed funding to hardware startups. Since then, Wareness has backed 14 companies.
The next step? Looking beyond hardware â founder and CEO Vijay Chattha told me that the studio is now looking to work with startups in automation, computer vision and artificial intelligence.
Chattha said Wareness does a lot more than a normal PR firm, which is why it was necessary to launch a separate brand.
âWeâre connecting them to investors, helping them with naming, consulting with them on pricing, talking to them about when they even want to design a [marketing] campaign based on their manufacturing cycle,â he said.
Plus, thereâs the investment. Wareness raised a $6 million fund, from which it invests $25,000 to $50,000 in early rounds of funding. Other PR firms have taken equity as payment, but Chattha said, âThe bottom line is this: I think companies respect when somebody puts a check in their company.â
Itâs not clear yet whether any of startups backed by Wareness will turn into huge hits, but some of their names should be familiar to TechCrunch readers, including Navdy, Coin (acquired by Fitbit), goTenna, Nanit, Teforia and b8ta.
Wareness has already started to invest in the sectors mentioned above (though the first deal hasnât been announced yet), with plans to split the remaining fund 50-50 between hardware and other categories. Asked why he felt the need to move into new industries, Chattha said that the hardware worldÂ is consolidating, so weâre going to see âa lot less tiny startups that are going to make it.â
Meanwhile, he suggested that as newÂ automation, computer vision and AI companies emerge, they need to wrestle with the kinds of questions that Wareness can help answer.
âI do think, for example, that if youâre going to build a business in automation, then youâve got a lot more to think about than if youâre just building a traditional business,â ChatthaÂ said. âWhat does this mean for labor? How are you goingÂ to uplevel your team? â¦ Weâre seeing companies being a lotÂ more prepared earlier, with the hopes to avoid being reactive later.â