Keeping your team running during austere times

We’re living through strange and turbulent economic times, and it seems like everyone is hurting. This is especially true if you work in hardtech and service businesses, like our clients do. After years of low interest rates and the explosion of digital and connected products (especially during the pandemic), we’re facing a new reality where capital is less accessible and growth has slowed across the board. Many companies, including some of our clients, have scaled back their staff and projects, and some have stopped operations altogether. 

Global Funding by Stage Through February 2024

Global funding by stage, through February 2024. Image courtesy of Crunchbase.

Times are weird. informal can help.

Times like these are why Sam Holland and I built informal. We saw so many promising hardware teams struggling to retain talent, stay agile, and scale even in the heady days of 0% interest rates. When cash is tight up and down the market like it is today and leadership teams are forced to make hard decisions, this too often yields a vicious cycle of missed opportunities and further contraction. It doesn’t have to. The opportunities are there and more are coming fast.

Just look around: The explosion of enthusiasm for generative AI alone is already having an enormous impact on enthusiasm for hardware, from semiconductors to robots. To surf the coming wave without losing your shirt and your business in the process, you need access to the right people at the right time. At the same time, you need a way to keep your existing team engaged and available, even when you don’t have enough work or budget to keep them on. In both cases, we can help. 

Keep your team

“It was great to have a resource like informal for our business. They helped us quickly expand during high-demand cycles without dramatically increasing our bottom line. As a business owner, adapting to a rapidly changing market is tricky, and being able to minimize fixed overhead without compromising the ability to expand rapidly to support new business is a huge advantage. Building a relationship with informal provides the double benefit of being able to provide a pipeline of freelance work for internal team members when times are lean.” –Bill Carter-Gianinni, Ronin Product Development

Let’s start with the most important asset of any business: its people. You’ve cultivated relationships with your team, helped them develop and refine their skills, and seen them grow in their roles. It sucks when timing and macroeconomic factors undo all that investment, which can have lasting effects on both the business and former employees involved. 

Think of informal as a safety net for both you and your people: They can keep working with you as a contractor when you need them, and we’ll find them projects to keep them engaged when you don’t. When you’re ready to bring them back on full time, go for it. Our contracts are simple and, well, informal, and we encourage our clients to hire our members. The best possible outcome from an informal engagement is both parties (the talent and the client) forming a lasting, sustainable partnership. If they already have that going into the engagement and informal’s just helping relieve the pressure of a tough economic situation, that’s great too.

Grow your team

“When my team needs to expand beyond our capacity to hire, we turn to informal to quickly spin up senior talent to meet the growing needs of our clients. When the needs of those projects inevitably tapers off, it is super easy for informal to ramp up the resources elsewhere so they aren’t a drag on our bottomline.” –Nick Frank, Knectiv 

Of course, there will inevitably come a time when you need to expand or augment your team, either to offer clients capabilities you don’t normally offer, to grow headcount to meet demand, or to replace people who move onto other things or are no longer a fit. You may even want to bring in help for internal projects like your own marketing, PR, and creative. 

informal members are personally vetted by our team and represent the huge array of skill sets a business-building hardware requires to be successful, from design, engineering, manufacturing, and operations to brand, creative, marketing, and sales. They’re all super passionate about what they do and driven to build meaningful products and businesses. Many have worked together on informal projects or in past lives. Our favorite engagements are ones where we can supercharge a team with a total badass (or many badasses) who helps them move 10x faster. At the end of the engagement, you can hire the informal member(s) you were working with, or we can put them on other projects until you need them again. 

Extend your team

“We come across a wide variety of customers and prospects in various stages of prototyping, engineering, or scaling the manufacturing of an electronic product. SEACOMP is not always the best fit, but helping hardware innovators succeed is a core value. That’s where informal has become an incredible resource and helps provide the right technical expertise at the right time.”  –Terry Arbaugh, SEACOMP

Sometimes you just can’t meet the full scope of a client’s needs and have to pass on a project. That can be tough, especially if you click with them and what they’re building. We can help you keep those clients “in the family” and ensure they come back to you when the time is right to engage you and your team. 

As a network of freelancers, you can find just about any skillset a client might need to build a hardware business in the informal community. These aren’t randoms from the internet; these are professionals who are trusted, vetted, and often have worked together successfully on super impressive projects. informal membership is by invitation only after a referral from a member, client, or partner, along with a portfolio review, an interview, and test project. So your clients, whether you are able to work directly with them at the moment or not, are in good hands. And we’ll ensure the work comes back to you when the time is right. 

Times have changed and we’re living through a period of uncertainty and contraction that’s being felt throughout the industry. But at the same time, the pace of innovation and technological development is only continuing to accelerate, so the challenge is how to harness that and ride the wave without spending yourself into oblivion. informal can help. We want to help. Because the more of us working on hardware and helping budding hardwareprenuers, the stronger this ecosystem will be. And that’s a wave we can all ride together 🏄 

Reach out if you or your team need help or if you just want to chat about these very weird times we’re in.


informal is a freelance collective for the most talented independent professionals in hardware and hardtech. Whether you’re looking for a single contractor, a full-time employee, or an entire team of professionals to work on everything from product development to go-to-market, informal has the perfect collection of people for the job.


Client Stories
Nate Padgett

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