Why We Exploded Hardware and Put it on Our Walls

An inspiring place to work is more important than you think

Space is important. One of my favorite things about startup culture is that tech companies understand the power of space. Everything from the office layout, the number of private rooms, the color temperature of the light, and the kinds of materials used affects employee happiness and performance. Most startups go to great lengths to build office spaces that incorporate many of these psychological factors. Some well-known startups spend millions of dollars furnishing hip office spaces that allow them to attract the best employees in the world. When we built the Bolt space in Downtown Boston, we decided to prioritize spending on employees and equipment rather than space, so we had to watch every penny when it came to making a great place to work. We came up with a neat way to pretty-up our space without breaking the bank.

One aspect of startup office culture that often gets ignored is artwork. Monet paintings and inspirational posters about teamwork aren’t really my cup of tea, so like many things at Bolt, we made our own art:

The back wall of our large conference room. Decked out with exploded versions of Dyson Air Multiplier, Apple MacBook Pro, OLPC XO-1, Apple iPad 1, Sony Flip Clock, and 3COM Palm V.

We’re all about hardware. So we made a list of our favorite hardware products ever designed (that were small enough to fit on a wall, sorry Italian cars) and scoured eBay for less-than-loved versions that we could afford. Each product was meticulously disassembled (sometimes carefully disinfected, yuck Roomba) and mounted to sheets of semi-opaque white PETG. At the end of the day, we wound up spending under $500 and decked our walls with:

  • Polaroid SX-70
  • Braun 5567U Razor (original Dieter Rams version)
  • Microsoft ArcTouch Mouse
  • Microsoft XBox Controller
  • 3COM Palm V
  • Dyson Air Multiplier
  • GoPro Hero2
  • iRobot Roomba 780
  • OLPC XO-1
  • Apple iMac (“lamp” version from 2002)
  • Apple iPad 1
  • Apple MacBook Pro (unibody, late 2009)
  • Sony Flip Clock

Closeup of Dyson Air Multiplier

Our ‘art’ was initially intended to decorate the walls, but the longer it’s been up the more often we actually USE it. Companies find it helpful to reference specific parts during design reviews. Molded parts showcase the difference between different plastic textures. Looking up PCB components used by the established giants can guide component selection early on in the design phase. Correct motor selection and efficient gearbox design can make all the difference to BOM cost and can sometimes be tricky to design without a great reference.

One of my favorite mechanical linkages in a consumer product, the 2002 “lamp” iMac display arm

More importantly, great products inspire us. We spend our days carefully crafting user experience and product feel. The internal workings of these famous products reminds us everyday how important exquisite design and meticulous engineering are to the success of a business.

Building a great hardware product is brutally hard work and our walls remind us of that everyday.


Bolt is a venture capital firm investing at the intersection of software and physical goods. Often writing founders their first check, Bolt focuses on concept-stage companies: pre-seed, pre-product. Portfolio companies build a foundation for success by leveraging Bolt’s engineering team, prototyping environment, and experience building multi-billion dollar companies. Bolt has offices in San Francisco and Boston.

Bolt invests at the intersection of the digital and physical world.