Open-source hardware startups are a relatively new thing. The traditional model of researching, designing, and developing in secrecy is being completely eschewed in favor of publishing every single bit of data at every step of the process. Since this is a fairly new approach to starting a business, many people are curious to see how it will work out.
Mathilde of Makingsociety.com delivered a talk entitled "The State of Open Hardware Entrepeneurship" at the 2013 Open Hardware Summit. In this talk she shares with us the research she found while studying the current startups out there. It is important to note that her talk only includes hardware startups. There is no software, media, or service-related startup in the list, even if they are open-source, or open-source-focused. During her research she even compiled a directory of the open hardware startups she found. As far as I can tell, this is the only list of these startups out there.
Some notable bits of information from her talk were the fact that the United States leads the world in open-source hardware startups, and within the US, they are mostly on the coasts. However, the amount that are beginning to show elsewhere would lead you to conclude that the nature of modern communication, such as the Internet, is making geographical location less of a focal point.
She goes into detail about the distribution of types of startups (fabrication, electronics, transportation), as well as the distribution of the sexes and sizes of teams in the industry. You can get all those details by browsing through her slides below.
I really enjoyed her talk. I hadn't really considered the fact that no one had been collecting this data yet. I hope she continues it as I personally like to support open hardware whenever possible. Also, I know she was a little bit nervous about delivering a talk in English in front of this crowd since her native language is French. I think she nailed it though.