How do I find a hardware / electrical engineer to build my device?

I don’t have much experience in hardware engineering. Do you have any tips on how to find an EE to design my electronics or be my co-founder?

Many startups look to outsource the hardware design to a contractor or HW design services firm. Avoid doing this if at all possible so that you can keep the knowledge in-house. I don’t mean “in-house” from a secrecy perspective but rather from a learning perspective. Knowing the ins and outs of your own hardware design will serve you very well down the road when problems arise or modifications/enhancements are needed.

Find forums and communities (like this one) to help you. Go ahead and post your product idea. As most people say, your idea is worthless so don’t be afraid to share it. Success is much more about execution usually.


Much in line with @mwoodworth33’s answer: the answer to this is similar to advice given to non-software folk trying to start software startups, and non-biotech folk trying to start biotech startups… it’s difficult, and you should definitely be evaluating your reasons for wanting to do so.

There’s a common misconception that engineers in all these disciplines don’t have ideas and require “idea people” to make a company successful; that’s rarely true. Some of the value non-technical people can bring to a technical startup include in-depth market knowledge, as well as access to serious capital. Things of lesser or questionable value include communication skill and networking ability.

Genuine in-depth market knowledge can be invaluable, and is probably both a good reason for wanting to start a company as well as a convincing reason for a technical co-founder to join you. This would mean you have worked in an industry for a long time, know the competitive landscape, the customer and their painpoints inside out, and have actually validated that the customer would buy your solution at a profitable level.

The difficulty @mwoodworth33 points out is that if you don’t have serious technical chops in the space, you’ll be very hard-pressed to evaluate your prospective co-founder or contractor. When your contractor tells you they’ll be three months late because of [x], you’ll have no basis to understand whether this was outside of their control or whether it was due to gross incompetence. When broken prototypes begin to pile up, you’ll have no way to know whether you’re working with a goofball, or whether you’re just trying to beat the odds against a substantial engineering challenge.

Agreeing wholeheartedly with both of what @adamgravitis and @mwoodworth33 is saying.

However despite the fact that you don’t have much hardware engineering experience yourself I wouldn’t give up if its an idea that you are strongly passionate about.

I have similar experience before on the software side, where I wanted to build an app but had to rely on my software engineering friends to build it for me because I was the “business guy”. Let me tell you there is nothing worse than being in a position where you feel powerless to create your own product having to rely on others to build it for you. I had to hire outside help on Odesk to write the app and it turned out to be a disaster even though we had very specific specifications and even drew wireframes and detailing out which http protocols to use.

I recommend taking your idea as motivation to learn about hardware engineering yourself. You don’t have to go out and get a degree from a top notch institution, there are lots of great online resources these days so you can pick up things on your own time (more so for software but there are still lots out there for hardware as well). A great example can be just the tutorials we have here on Upverter in some respect and also sites like Lynda and Udacity offer courses at afforable prices.

You don’t have to be an expert but learn just enough to be able to build something cool to show off an idea and leverage that to gain hardware engineering partners. This is a much better method than to approach engineers with “I have an idea” pitch. A little patience in terms of self-learning can go a long way, and you be surprised how quickly you can pick up the easy stuff.

Good luck!

Go on websites like Odesk and find somebody suitable.
But trust me it is hard to find someone whos is decently. The hourly rate you should expect is ~35 usd.

Look for young guys (around 20 years old) who are studying something like EE or embedded systems
Do not get the “old” guy, as he might be good at his job he will not be as well balanced and as fast as an young allrounder. Look for USA/EU people not india or whatever

I’m still an Uni student but I do freelance work for multiple customers everywhere in the world.
Things that I don’t like or might not have time for I just outsource myself. I.E. I have an russian guy with 10+ years professional pcb development and he costs less an hour than you might earn washing cars. He delivers excellent quality work.

Find someone that can do hardware + firmware + cad + prototyping + little bit of app/pc software development experience.

Why ?
Because he is good at hard + software, average at CAD and prototyping and understands the basics of app/pc software development. The app/pc software development will ultimately done by someone else who is more experienced in this kind of stuff. But the EE guy will know if stuff will work or are just fucked from the beginning.

If you want feedback on design or want to know how much some development might cost and the time-frame than just contact me via pb or whatever. I can help steer you in the right direction.

For all the people saying do it yourself:
While I agree up to a certain point, you just can’t do it all.

Time to market is essential in this day of age. While you might finally finish an prototype in a few months time, those months time also have an price tag. My advice is get a clear idea of what you want. Determine the hardware specs as good as you can, make a text document with a clear description of what the firmware has to do and sketch to the best of your abilities the case outline.

The freelancer that you will hire will take much less hours to develop your end product and it will be done right the first time.

It takes money to make money.
Expect around 1000-2000$ for an prototype (hardware, firmware, cad (case)).

@Spikee I have tired Odesk and it has been hit and miss. I really think when working with others, communication skills are important.

I also agree that you should learn yourself. maybe not to build it all, but it is really hard to hire someone or manage them if you have no understanding of the work.

[quote=“Spikee, post:5, topic:31”]
Look for young guys (around 20 years old) who are studying something like EE or embedded systems Do not get the “old” guy, as he might be good at his job he will not be as well balanced and as fast as an young allrounder. [/quote]

This is enormously frustrating and actually quite wrong. Anyone that gets into tech and stays with it is in it because they’re fascinated with it. We love gadgets, new ideas, tinkering and the “Oh Wow!” effect–and we never outgrow it. Age actually isn’t how people get behind, it’s actually from working full-time. While focused on the area you’re hired into, other areas are moving on rapidly. Today, any area of tech you look into has a multitude of languages, protocols, development platforms, compilers, you name it, and nobody can know it all. Give me the one that’s always tinkering, at home or at work, and curious about everything. The ability to learn on the fly is the most important factor, because that’s what engineers do. And frankly, older engineers are good at that. They know how their own minds work and how to get to where they need to be quickly.

Tech has developed a very silly and self-destructive age bias in recent years, and I’m seeing it bite startups hard on a regular basis. You need people with experience. No one is born knowing everything, and the more years of experience you can cram into an office alongside your high-energy, youthful idea-factories, the better-balanced your whole enterprise will be–and the more likely to succeed. They’ve been there before, they’ve seen what brings success, and even more importantly, they know what fails. There’s a big difference between the common perception of “fuddy-duddy-old-stick-in-the-mud” and “Hey, I’ve seen that plan of action kill three other companies already–here’s how you can avoid disaster.” It’s impatience, arrogance and cluelessness that lead to business disaster, not the ages of your engineers.


There’s a solid debate happening on Reddit about this subject.


Screw that. Go for who looks like the best fit for the job, and if it’s a toss up go for the best fit with the company second. Don’t bias based on age, race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Do what’s best for the job and the company.


20 lines of the right code delivered in a week is better than 200 lines of the wrong code in a day.
Assuming both can deliver the same product, the younger one is likely cheaper assuming it takes the same time, but if the older engineer’s experience allows them to get the answer quicker ( even at a higher hourly rate) they might be cheaper in the long fun.
Overall the younger is better generalization is usually a poor assumption to make and depends on many factors including budget, level of complexity, etc

I’d like to weigh in here. I agree with what others have said: it’s risky to launch a HW startup if you’re not from the field. However it might work, you never know. Assuming you have the right idea, the HW guy will absolutely have to be a co-founder.

It will be f**** hard to find someone to “build your device”: chances are the people you can afford are the ones lacking the competences and/or experience. And once your device is built, you need to test it, manufacture it, make sure it complies with standards, etc. These are all things for which you need experience, which you will not find in a freshly-out-of-school engineer or a random dude from ODesk.

So go hang out at your local hackerspace, maker faire, startup weekend or whatnot and pitch your idea, and you might (I say might, chances are still low) find someone with the required talent who finds your idea sufficiently interesting to be your associate.


Try Inoventive ( It’s a new on-demand service for hardware startups, where we connect them to experienced engineers who have worked at least 2 years for world-class companies, the likes of Fortune 500, for project-based work. The quality is much much higher than those you get from ODesk/Elance/Upwork, Freelancer, or similar and the cost is 20-50% lower than a normal freelancer.

Hardware prototyping requires a broad skillset, from understanding electrical circuit design, knowledge of components, PCB design, soldering, embedded software programming, to 3D design for the casing. It is time consuming and the learning curve is steep to say the least. You can initially use breadboards and hardware modules from sites like adafruit or sparkfun – this approach is good for feasibility testing but is still time consuming. You will most likely end up with something like this:

Product Prototype Company

Maybe we can help you in this matter.
Turn to
Embedded Systems: PLVision’s expertise

Happy to cooperation

I understand your logic, but on the other hand I think outsourcing things you are not an expert in is in general good advice.

I think there has to be a balance where you understand how your product works, while perhaps leaving minute details to the engineering team.

Although I’m still a student, I do freelance work for customers around the world.
Things that I don’t like or might not have time to do I just outsource myself. Hence, an experienced russian with over ten years in PCB development costs less an hour than you might earn washing cars. Quality work is delivered.

You need someone with hardware + firmware + CAD + prototyping + some app/pc software development experience.
post [quote=“HWStartupOfficeHours, post:1, topic:31, full:true”]
I don’t have much experience in hardware engineering. Do you have any tips on how to find an EE to design my electronics or be my co-founder?
post query in different facebook and fiver and upwork plateform easily find the multiple engineer.

The kind of EE hardware engineer you need depends a lot on what you intend to do with your design. If you just need a working prototype to impress investors then you can get by with a student or experienced “maker”. If you need a design that will work over manufacturing and environmental variations, if you need a supply chain you can rely on to scale up production, if you need integration with firmware or software, if you need to comply with regulations like FCC Part 15, If you need someone with experience in transferring a design to production, then you need a professional engineer. That will not come cheap and it will not be fast.