When we started Pressure Games in November 2018, one of the first things we did was apply to the Arrow Certification Program. Arrow has a lot of marketing around this program to entice tech startups and future crowdfunders to join and the bar of entry didn’t seem onerous, so we did. After a year of being with it, we have a lot of good to say about it. We haven’t taken advantage of all the benefits, but it's pretty much a no brainer to apply for as there are only benefits and no drawbacks.
But first, of course, it's important to explain what the Arrow Certification Program is.
Arrow is an electronics distributor. They are like Amazon for the small (and large) electronics bits and widgets required for any tech product. Started in 2016, the Arrow Certification Program is a way for electronics startups to tap into the resources of a $30B company. As a startup, any association and help you can get from someone bigger than you should always be investigated, you can see all the benefits they list in the graphic below, straight from their website:
Arrow Certification Benefits
I've been designing electronics for 20 years now and brought multiple products through the full production life cycle. So, while they offer a lot of benefits, there was only so much that we were actually interested in, and it’s those items I’ll speak to in the order of our benefit. Every company's strengths and weaknesses differ though, so this specifically applies to our experience.
Exclusive Rebates - The offer of $1k in rebates is real, and it’s amazing. To date, we’ve spent about $1,700 in parts from Arrow and we fully received rebates on $1,000 of that. That’s savings that directly created our early prototype units to help us win toy awards, demo to investors and get valuable feedback from early testers.
When we submitted our rebate requests, they were processed quickly and without question. Every penny we can save helps us get closer to launch and this was basically $1,000 in seed money for us.
Instant Savings - Similar to above, savings are savings. Compared to Digikey, Mouser and other sites, Arrow’s prices are usually competitive. Free overnight shipping is the deal-maker though. While we try to order in big batches (both for planning and for environmental reasons), there have been times when we’ve had to order $3 worth of parts. Getting them the next day is invaluable. I can’t express how many times I’ve chosen not to order non-critical, but nice to have, parts from other vendors due to a $9+ shipping charge and simply waiting until we had more to purchase.
Free shipping has helped us iterate quicker and try parts that we may not have otherwise to make Countdown incrementally better.
My only nit here is that standard/ground shipping is not free. I know that sounds insane that we care, but there’s plenty of data showing how much more environmentally friendly standard shipping is compared to next-day. There are plenty of times when we just don’t require overnight delivery and would gladly choose standard/ground if it were free as well.
Marketing Support - We’re small, there’s no disputing that. Any marketing, whether it’s a retweet, a badge on Arrow’s site or something more prominent is always something we’re hungry for. Having Arrow retweet or Like some of our content brings smiles to our faces.
Our “Entrepreneur Success Coordinator” (how cool a title is that, btw?) has been great to talk with and took time to meet with us at CES. It does seem like they genuinely want to help their partners and we're excited about any opportunities that may arise.
Flash Funding - This is an incredible opportunity if it presents itself at the right time. Basically, Arrow will periodically award up to $???k to members of the Arrow Certification Program who also have an active Indiegogo campaign (either crowdfunding or in OnDemand). Lately, the flash funding rounds have been specific to a certain technology - an IOT product, incorporating a cell module or some other specifics.
After a crowdfunding campaign (whether we choose Kickstarter or Indiegogo), this benefit will likely push us to make sure we run an Indiegogo OnDemand campaign at least through launch, and possibly longer. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up to not be eligible for Flash Funding, even if we have to thread the needle just right.
Indiegogo Support / Certified Badge - I’m going to lump these 2 items together as they both deal with an Indiegogo campaign. We will be running a crowdfunding campaign in early Q2, but haven’t decided on Kickstarter or Indiegogo yet. Having an extra badge of approval certainly doesn’t hurt and campaign support is always welcome. For now though, these benefits are TBD for us.
The above are the benefits we have taken advantage of in some way over the last year. We have a strong founding team with tech experience, which means there are some benefits we haven’t, and most likely won’t, take advantage of:
Design Tools / Engineer Review - We proudly say that Countdown isn’t pushing the limits of technology, it’s pushing technology down to everyday toys. We are fortunate enough to have technical expertise in-house that has produced multiple electrical boards with little/no issues or bugs allowing us to iterate quickly.
Manufacturing / Supply Chain - Somewhat re-iterating the above, we intentionally aren’t using custom or hard to find parts and have partnered with a toy design consultancy that’s been overseeing manufacturing and bringing toys to market for over 30 years. These benefits are simply not needed.
What Being Arrow Certified Is, And Isn’t
With all of the above said, I think it’s important to clear up some misconceptions about the program, primarily on the part of users seeing the logo on Indiegogo pages or other startup websites. Arrow has some very specific terminology to be used with the logo along the lines of “This product has been certified to be feasible for manufacturing”
Some startups and founders want to extend this as a ‘badge of approval’, development partnership or other more broad interpretation. That’s unfortunately untrue and likely has led some crowdfunding backers to have more confidence in projects than they should.
Being Arrow Certified does mean that Arrow has given a cursory review of your product, but that’s as far as it goes. It doesn’t guarantee a successful campaign or even a good product to the end-user. To the founder of a company though, through discounts and flexibility to try new parts, along with feedback and engineering support when needed, there’s absolutely no reason I can see not to join.
What Do You Think?
Are you in a startup that’s considered, or already a member of, the Arrow Certification Program? Are you a campaign backer that the badge has helped sway toward pledging? Let us know how it’s gone for you. We’d love to hear your experiences.
Disclaimer: This post is in no way paid for, requested or compensated by Arrow in any additional ways over the standard Arrow Certification Program benefits. This was simply part of our development series as the Arrow Certification Program, and using Arrow.com in general, has been a big part of our lives for the last year.