Making Circuit Boards Uptempo

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This piece initially published April 2018

Almost everything these days has a circuit board inside. Tempo combines machine learning and robotics to crank them out faster and error-free.

Whether you’re building cell phones, drones, security cameras, rockets or driverless cars, you’re gonna’ need a circuit board to make it run. Traditionally, you would send out your design to a mom-and-pop shop to get the boards made. You’d call them up on the phone, wait 48 hours for a quote, then exchange an average of 35 emails and calls to sort out the process. After all that, you need to wait three weeks for them to hand-assemble your board and deliver it to you. After unpacking, you’d find a problem. Your engineering team would need to figure out what went wrong, then fix the design, call the circuit board maker and start the process all over again.

Tempo is changing that month-long nightmare into a three-day breeze. The ordering process takes place online. You upload your CAD file and Tempo’s machine learning system lets you know if there’s an error in your design and how to fix it. Tempo will also offer recommendations on improvements. You get a quote instantly. As soon as you click the buy button, robots begin assembling your board. In three days, a tested and fully functional board is on your doorstep.

Not surprisingly, Tempo spreads like wildfire inside companies: Once an engineer uses Tempo, her peers quickly follow suit. Who wants to waste time waiting for a broken circuit board? No, with today’s rapid product iteration cycles, engineers want every edge they can find.

Today the company is announcing a $20 million series B funding round, led by Sri Chandrasekar and Dan Gwak of Point 72 (both are former investors at IQT). My firm, Lux Capital, led the series A and participated in the B. Sri joins me on the board and brings a wealth of technical and business leadership.

The Series B allows Tempo to built out its state-of-the-art facility and headquarters (currently in Dogpatch and moving to Potrero Hill) which will more than quadruple our manufacturing capacity and more than double the team. (Watch out for announcements on key senior hires and the unveiling of Tempo’s new HQ in coming weeks and months.)

It’s been an exciting 12 months for Tempo. We’ve grown the team to 60 brilliant engineers and inventors, and more than 5x’d our revenue while amassing nearly 200 ecstatic global paying customers. We’ve shown that we can continue to march towards software-like margins in a hardware business, and continued to build on our promise of software-like iteration cycles for our hardware and electronics customers.

At every step of the way our CEO Jeff McAlvay and management have rallied around a single point: guaranteeing Tempo ensures our customers explore their search space of ideas, and deliver market ready products with increased ease and massively accelerated velocity. This maniacal focus and intensity has manifest in a cohort of industry leading customers of all scale (literally Fortune 10s to seed backed startups, publicly traded car companies to privately held space upstarts), and increased demand.

Tempo’s new SF factory will enable an even larger number of customers to experience hardware iteration at software like speed and quality.

If you’re an engineer, PM, or business executive at a hardware company I urge you to check out Tempo’s refreshed site and experience an iteration of hardware at near software ease and speed. If you’re excited about the future of manufacturing and want to leverage robotics to increase efficiency and velocity in how products are designed and built, we’re hiring fast.


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