By Beth Korth
If you operate within Internet of Things (IoT) world or consider yourself a maker, you’re likely familiar with Punch Through Design.
Their site succinctly states the mantra: “We’ve helped companies build great wireless products by providing hardware and software expertise. We design boards, write firmware, build iOS and Android apps and everything in between.”
Founded 2009 here in Minnesota by Colin Karpfinger, the hardware design firm has thirteen employees between two locations — six in Minneapolis and seven in a San Francisco office opened last year. This growing team of designers and engineers are dedicated to making Punch Through Design a key player in the IoT space.
How does Punch Through Design balance growth in two very different locations?
Karpfinger considers the work culture to be one of the primary values of his company. For example, by sponsoring a yearly company trip where employees are encouraged to bring their fun projects for which they normally do not have time. They take this time for everyone to hang out and get to know one another better and to share their input. According to Karpfinger, this event is often “the highlight of the year.”
By encouraging an innovative and open work culture where “you’re not defined by your title,” he allows people to take on as much responsibility as they are comfortable with. This paired with employees being encouraged to ask questions and learn from one another, gives everyone a chance to feel invested in the company’s future.
In the marketplace, Punch Through Design’s advantage is having already done the hard work for clients seeking to sell globally. Their hardware products carry all required certifications (FCC (US), IC (Canada), CE (Europe), MIC (Japan), KCC (Korea)). Each regulatory agency has unique requirements, and Punch Through’s expertise mitigates risk for clients and also enables them bring their own product to market faster.
One of their signature releases, the LightBlue Bean, is the first Arduino-compatible micro controller board which can be programmed over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The ease of use of this product makes it popular in the Maker culture and enables a lot of creative uses. Due to the ubiquity of BLE on modern smart phones, the Bean easily connects Maker projects to mobile devices.
When asked about some of the most impressive projects he’s seen created with their technology, Colin mentioned Dorothy created by iStrategylabs. This clip on device used to escape awkward situations was featured on Good Morning America.
Proof of Punch Through Design’s dedication to the tech community in Minneapolis is demonstrated in their role in sponsoring Minnesota’s first IoT Hack Day in October 2014 (won by a team using the Bean). Karpfinger is cognizant of how events like this help both the community, and the companies that sponsor them — he knows how hack events, and the feedback received from them, can help improve what his company has to offer.
So what does the future hold for Punch Through in Minneapolis? Is the plan to ditch Minnesota for California like Spark did?
“A lot of companies that are split like that are trying to get out [to San Francisco], and they see that as an obstacle, like they have to do that to be successful. I think it’s the opposite. There’s a lot of advantages we have in Minneapolis, like really good ties which gives us the ability to get really good people. Which is something that is going to pay off year after year. That’s a big value, and we’re benefitting from that. So I think we’re actually, in some ways, beating out our competition for that reason.” — Punch Through Design Founder Colin Karpfinger.
In October, the company invested in a four year lease on 2k sq/ ft. for their expanding Northeast Minneapolis presence — further deepening their Minnesota roots and connection with burgeoning IoT community here.