When Start-Ups Go Into the Garage (or Sometimes the Living Room)

Pumping a supercold liquid through plastic tubes that snake around the hardware — “it looks kind of like bright blue Gatorade,” Mr. Hedges said — the chillers did what they were supposed to do. But they required extra attention, especially since Mr. Hedges and his family had just bought a new dog, and the puppy enjoyed chewing on the tubes.

“If the dog had ever bitten through the tube, there would have been pumps shooting fluid everywhere,” he said.

For his wife, the bigger problem was the never-ending whir of the chiller pumps. “That’s what drove her over the edge,” Mr. Hedges, 45, said.

In July, he moved some of the gear back into the Cerebras offices, where he now works on occasion, largely alone. Only seven other people are allowed in the 35,000-square-foot office, with most others still at home with their own gear. The arrangement works well enough, Mr. Hedges said, though he does not always have the equipment he needs because it has been scattered across so many people’s residences.

Like Cerebras, other tech start-ups are finding that they need to move their makeshift labs from one place to another — or have several jury-rigged labs going at the same time — to keep development going.

Voyage, a self-driving car start-up in Palo Alto, Calif., initially bought various self-driving car parts and shipped them to two engineers so they could work at home. The start-up sent them lidar sensors (the laser sensors that track everything around the car) and inertial measurement units (the devices that track the position and movement of the car itself) so they could keep testing changes to the car’s software.

But Voyage did not just rely on the at-home setups. In some cases, it arranged for engineers to log on to their home computers for remote access to a collection of car parts set up at the company’s offices.

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