Highway1 Incubator

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.

7 comments

  1. Jon Christensen says:

    Karl,

    I am looking for a patent attorney in the HUD navigation space and wonder if you could refer me to such counsel or firm.

    Thanks,

    • admin says:

      I don’t know of a specifically good patent attorney for the “HUD navigation space.” Particularly for a small company, I would recommend a “boutique” patent firm that specializes in filing patents. You will generally get lost and get a young associate to do much of the work at a large firm where you can get a very good and experience attorney at a firm that specializing in filing patents.

  2. Joshua says:

    What do you think of Sonys new 720p pico laser projector built on Microvisions laser tech?

    Seems like thats the tech that many companies want to use for they’re applications & products headed forwards.
    I would assume because of the superior colors and image quality.
    Scan lines vs color wheel artifacts…

    I’ll take the scan lines personally…

    • admin says:

      I think the Sony device is more about what it does to Microvision’s stock price than being something that will result in a significant product. If you look at the announcement it was rather strange in that it really was more of an R&D group announcement of a module development than of a product. This announcement looks more aimed to help out Microvision than Sony, a bit strange that Sony is did it.

      Have you seen any of Microvision or other laser beam scanning projectors? The image quality is plain awful due to the speckle (in spite of what Microvision claims as to having solved speckle) and the scanning process, it you look on this blog (see link below) you will get information as to why. You have to discount the claimed resolution due to the dual direction scanning process and speckle (see link below).

      Also if you look at the Sony design it is HUGE for what is probably a 20 lumen or less projector (LBS goes Class 3 much above 20 lumens). Then you have to consider the cost of the system including the lasers, electronics, and optics which are much higher than other solutions. Additionally LBS has so far proven to requires about 2X the lumens per Watt of other technologies. I don’t think the market is looking for a large, expensive, low brightness, power hungry, pico projector with poor image quality.

      The Sony design is pretty much not that much different from the ShowWX which was a failure and the Pioneer HUD which was a failure (and they switched to DLP). It has a bit more resolution but that is about it.

      For more on the size see: http://www.kguttag.com/2012/02/26/soothsayer-questions-for-microvisions-conference-call/

      For more on the LBS scanning process see:
      http://www.kguttag.com/2012/01/09/cynics-guild-to-ces-measuring-resolution/
      http://www.kguttag.com/2012/02/01/answering-questions-on-laser-with-lcos-and-lbs/

      With LED, DLP can go to very high color field rates to avoid the “color wheel” artifacts. So I don’t see how this announcement really changes things.

  3. Pete Lude says:

    Hi Karl:

    I’m glad to hear that you had an “awesome” experience here in San Francisco. Please note that we generally reserve that term for our friends in Southern California, particularly those in Santa Monica and “the Valley”. But nevertheless, the talent and innovation here in SF is awe-inspiring!

    Please blog more.

  4. Joshua says:

    Yes I own 6 Show wx+ projectors.
    The excessive speckle is a result of the lasers being more suited for holography than laser projection. (Long coherence lasers are used.) Why they did this I am not sure.

    The new 720p Sony/Microvision laser module has improved the speckle effect from what I hear.

    I am a huge fan of the tech, but I also see it’s limitations. But from all of my testing nothing beats the colors or uniform screen brightness of the LBS. Not LED and certainly not DLP.

    You have a lot of good info on this site. But its obvious to many of us pico enthusiasts that there is a clear bias on this site.

    Those of us that have used the tech side by side see the advantages of Microvisions product over other laser based methods. And certainly over DLP, LCOS and LED methods. Even Sony has chosen LBS as the best method.

    Why would Sony prop up Microvision stock?
    What would they gain from that?
    Isn’t that reaching a bit?

    • admin says:

      All the the green lasers available at the time of the ShowWx+ were highly coherent and thus had a lot of speckle. There are very limited ways to reduce speckle with LBS it goes with the technology. The Pioneer HUD used direct green lasers but still had a lot of speckle and used a diffuser/pupil-expander that added even more noise to the image. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill with LBS and you get to hear about rumors and claims but nothing is verifiable.

      I have done lots of side by side comparison with LBS, LCOS, and DLP and the LBS always looks worst by a wide margin. The uniformity of LBS is horrible and did you notice the scan lines and the flicker from the interlaced display of the ShowWX+? LCOS and DLP and also have very saturated colors if they want them, but the commercial products make economic decisions. And besides which content is not designed for the spectrum you can get even with LEDs. You in essence have to tune down the saturation or else the grass looks plastic with normal content.

      I don’t know any details of the deal, but the Sony announcement looks like another R&D group is playing with the technology. Sony did not say that they had “chosen LBS as the best method” as you wrote. What they showed a picture of was not that different from the Pioneer LBS HUD engine. Likely as not, the Sony R&D will play around with it for a while and and find that the technology is not competitive and quietly drop the development. This is the pattern of other companies that have tried LBS over the nearly 20 years that Microvision has been a “startup”

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