Those that follow my blog are probably wondering what has happened to me these past months. I have away from home for most of the last 4 months at an “incubator” program for start-ups called Highway1. Navdy, for which I recently became CTO, was selected as one of 11 companies from over 100 applicants for the very first class of the Highway1 program sponsored by PCH International.
What makes Highway1 different from almost all other incubator programs these days is that it is totally focused on helping hardware start-ups. Highway1 recognizes that hardware start-ups have special needs, are more difficult to get started, and have have to deliver a physical product unlike software companies.
The Highway1 office is in the Mission District of San Francisco where most of the time is spent, but the program also includes spending two weeks in Shenzhen China where many of the electronic products used around the world are made. During the program companies are introduced to mentors from other companies and experts in the field as well as helped with introductions to angle and venture investment firms.
While in Shenzhen, the companies were introduced to manufacturers who could eventually be making their products. Additionally our company received some very crucial support from PCH in Shenzhen in locating a company that could manufacture a critical component of our system.
Along the way, the people at the various 11 companies became friends and helped each other out. Respecting each other was particularly important as the companies were cranking out prototypes sharing first on one and later two 3-D printers for making prototypes (as demo day neared, the those 3-D printers were pretty much running non-stop). There was some incredible talent technically, marketing, and business wise at these companies.
At the end of the program was “Demo Day” where more than 200 venture capitalists, investors, press, and technologist pack a large room at PCH’s U.S. Headquarters in San Francisco. It was a chance for investors and the press to see what the companies had developed. While Navdy presented, details of our product and plans were not released to the press because we are planning on launching our product later this year. Navdy did receive serious interest from a number of VC’s with our demo after the formal presentations.
The whole Highway1 program was the dream of Liam Casey the founder and CEO of PCH, a company with over $700M in revenue. You may not know the PCH name, but it is very likely that you have brand name products that they helped get to your home or office (be it anywhere in the world). Liam was personally there to greet us at the beginning of the program and at key points along the way, and he told some great business stories. The whole of the PCH team, be it the people from San Francisco, China, or Ireland, were always awesome to work with and incredibly nice reflecting PCH’s founder.
Comment: I don’t usually use the word “awesome” but the word was ubiquitous in San Francisco and it seemed to fit the people at PCH.