File - A designer works on a restaurant sign at TechShop in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 24, 2014. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)
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In the shadow of Internet monoliths such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, it's easy to forget that Silicon Valley got its start from hardscrabble tinkerers building radios, microchips and other devices.Google in January acquired 4-year-old smart thermostat maker Nest Labs for $3.2 billion.3-D printer maker MakerBot Industries was sold for $400 million in 2013 to Stratasys Inc – just three years after it was co-founded by a former art teacher.All of them embody the growing focus on hardware and the so-called "maker movement" sweeping northern California and, in a smaller way, Europe and other countries. It may take years for hardware to excite investors the way it once did.According to the National Venture Capital Association, investments in various categories of computer- and electronics-related startups grew 24 percent last year to $843 million after falling 26 percent in 2012 . The group does not track a specific "hardware" category.Since the crowdsourcing platform's 2009 launch, more than $116 million has been raised for more than 1,400 technology-related projects, of which the majority have been hardware gadgets.
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