Interview with Serge Didenko and Alireza Tahmasebzedah, Co-Founders of BLOCKS Wearables

We reached out to a participant in our first tour HWTrek Asia Innovation Tour (Spring 2014), Serge Didenko, and his fellow co-founder, Alireza  Tahmasebzedah, of BLOCKS Wearables, to learn more about their project and insights.

Over the course of the past two years, HWTrek hosted 80 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2016 (April), Asia Innovation Tour 2015 (August), and also on the first tour in April 2014. We’re organizing the next tour in November 2016 to Shenzhen, Osaka, and Kyoto. You can register on the HWTrek platform and create a project to apply to join the Asia Innovation Tour Winter 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines in China and Japan, and gain insights about their consumer markets for smart, connected devices.

Serge participated in the first Tour, April 2014. Here’s what he had to say about it:

I’ve learnt a lot from this trip, not just from the manufacturers, but [also] from [fellow participants], so I think it’s great to connect to those people here [on] this trip…Looking forward to working again with HWTrek.

And furthermore,

HWTrek has been instrumental in connecting Blocks to leading manufacturing companies in Asia, superior to any other organizations that offer similar services. Not only that, they were also incredibly helpful in developing a detailed manufacturing plan with our team. Altogether it has undoubtedly accelerated our delivery time by at least 4 to 6 months.

Blocks successfully raised $1.6 Million on Kickstarter in November 2015.


HWTrek: We’d love to catch up with what you’ve been doing since you attended HWTrek’s Asia Innovation Tour in April 2014. What are you working on?

Blocks is the world’s first fully customizable smartwatch – an open platform for wearable technology.

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HWTrek: Since your successful crowdfunding campaign, you’ve opened to general pre-orders for Blocks, how is that going?

Ali: Very well. We are getting a good level of pre-orders with minimal marketing efforts and we are happy that our community is growing.

HWTrek: What solutions did you use for hardware design?

Ali: It took us a long time and many different iterations to arrive at the current connectors, protocols, screen type, and module selection, etc. At times we were actually building the prototypes and testing it, and at other times we used simulation solutions.

HWTrek: What solutions did you use for prototyping? What chipsets/MCUs/development kits did you use?

Ali: A range of different platforms like ARM mbed, Intel’s Edison, and BeagleBone, etc.

HWTrek: What wearable chipset/MCU solutions did you choose for going to mass production?

Ali: We are using Qualcomm’s Wear 2100 platform.

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HWTrek: What are some of the major lessons you learned along your entrepreneurship journey?

A dedicated team that is ready to keep going no matter what (getting investment and building prototype on time do not always go to plan).

HWTrek: What advice would you give someone who might have an idea, but has yet to launch a hardware startup?

Love what you do because you will have to work very hard for it and give up most of your free time for that dream. But the journey will be also fun as long as you have the right team.

What resources have you used for sourcing and supply chain management?

Ali: It was mostly done by our ODM but at points, we used help from HWTrek.

What were the most difficult things to source for your project and how did you source them?

Ali: The sourcing was mostly done by the ODM. We did make some higher level connections with the management of the supplier companies for some.  

HWTrek: Looking back, what are your takeaways from participating in HWTrek’s Asia Innovation Tour during April 2014?

The power of network – try to befriend a couple of hardware startups ASAP. Spend some money on actually going to Taiwan and staying there – there is nothing like doing development and talking to manufacturers on the ground.

HWTrek: What trend do you see that is changing your sector or what shift would you like to see happen?

Consolidation of the first wave of smartwatch makers – the big players are coming in. There is still a lack of a true killer application out there. We hope to bring the variety of much-needed sensors with Blocks.

HWTrek: Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen to article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?

kevinrandom.com/startup-ceos-101/

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Written By

Director of Digital Engagement @ HWTrek