One of the biggest stressors of putting together a protoype (in my eyes) is finding all the parts you need, getting the datasheets, etc, etc, and building that first draft of the BOM. If it's at least easy to find the parts you're looking for, with information on multiple distributors, it makes the job a bit easier.
To that end, I want to share a new tool I have caught wind of, as part of my work at Arena Solutions. It's called Octopart,and essentially it's a search engine for electronic parts. It has a Google-like interface, and is really easy to use.
Andres and Sam, who studied physics together at Brown, then pursued PhDs in astroparticle physics and plasma physics respectively, are the founders of Octopart—and I was lucky enough to talk to them about how they came up with the idea. I also got some great advice about scaling, the startup mentality, and - - if you're looking for work - - some ideas for getting a job at Octopart.
I think the success of Octopart shows that electronic component distributors are realizing that distribution is no longer the problem - - it's finding the parts that you want, and being able to compare parts across a variety of distributors. In some ways, it seems like the market is demanding consolidation, and the ability to find/get what they want in one place, and with less hassle. I think Octopart is actually on the right track to solving this problem. What do you think? Will we ever have one-stop-shopping for electrical components?