Brady Forrest

VP at Highway1, hardware accelerator in San Francisco; Founder of Ignite Talks

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 29, 2015

Discussion

brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
I run Highway1, PCH's hardware accelerator, where I help teams become companies and prototypes become products. Highway1 has accelerated 58 hardware startups, which have raised $65 million in venture funding. I recently coauthored The Hardware Startup. I also cofounded Ignite, a talk series which has been held thousands of times around the world. I help arts organizations stay in SF via CAST. Previously I was a Venture Advisor at 500 Startups, spent time at Khosla Ventures and wrote for the O'Reilly Radar blog while chairing O’Reilly tech conference around the world. Most years you can find me on the playa.
Raleigh Murch@raleighsf · Start-up Founder
Hey Brady, thanks for making time today! What would you tell those of us who are very interested in submitting to HWY 1's program but want to understand where the bar REALLY is for a compelling submission? I expect you would invite most entrepreneurs to submit, but what is it that really stands out?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@raleighsf Hi! First and foremost we want to see a prototype that's being built by a dedicated team that's going after a big market. We want you to have a plan towards recurring revenue - generally involving services & content. Never be afraid to put your product in the hands of customers. -PCB - Product, Company, Business -Strong team. long history -compelling market, larger vision -disruptive tech, new IP, creative take, etc
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@brady What was the most surprising pitch you've gotten while at Highway1?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@russfrushtick Invisibility cloak, matter transporter - We haven't figured out how to change the laws of physics (just yet)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What has been the most exciting startup you've seen at Highway1? The one that perhaps surprised you the most?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@ems_hodge Too many! But here are some: I'm just a huge fan of the work being done by cue.me to lower the cost and speed up medical testing. Navdy.com's creation of a new platform for cars is exciting. Modbot.com's modular approach to industrial robotics. Shade.io's plan to help Lupus patients. Finally I love salmon cooked on https://cindercooks.com/
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
What do you think the biggest opportunity in hardware is over the next 5-10 years?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@alexcartaz I am very bullish on consumer health, but not just measurement devices. Devices + data can give people superpowers. For example, we have a stealth company in our current batch that improves recovery time for athletes. Who wouldn't want that?
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Thingfully thing = physical + digital
I have a product idea (with a provisional patent) and am applying at Highway1. Do you think I should launch a Kickstarter campaign before I know whether or not I am accepted at Highway1?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@mcgrawbridget Hey Bridget! In general, we are not a fan of big crowdfunding campaigns *before* entering our program. However, we do like to see customers. My suggestion would be do a small run and share it with customers. Either through your website or by do a "Kickstarter Beta" where you are limiting the number to something under 100. Our applications just opened though so I would apply first and then decide if you want to do a crowdfunding campaign after you talk with us. highway1.io/apply
John Pritchard@johnpritch11 · Lead Hardware Engineer
@brady Would you be able to comment on the value of having a presence in the community [of interest] and how it affects the success of a product? Would be great to get your perspective on this. Thanks!
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@johnpritch11 Tech is very personal. People are trusting you with their data. One of the big learnings from Kickstarter is that letting the community get to know you is powerful. They can be your biggest advocates. Get to know them and let them know you. Or put in bullet points: - stay close to customers - build up network of advocates for product - make user experiences better through feedback
Jorge Selva@jorge_selva · Minium
@brady Hi Brady, what are some creative ways that companies have managed to acquire validated learning pre-prototype?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@jorge_selva A lot of this is redefining what a "prototype" is as a quick learning tool, not necessarily a shiny representation of your final manufactured good. Showing potential users an arduino inside a foamcore box, user interface renderings, or even just talking them through a storyboard of the experience can help validate which features are delivering the value you expected.
Jorge Selva@jorge_selva · Minium
@brady @jorge_selva Thanks for the response!
Claire Burke@clairebearburke · Goby, Co-Founder
We're developing our first hardware product (have protos in hand). We are hoping that Highway1 can take our product(s) to the next level and make us think differently about product development going forward. We don't have engineering / technical backgrounds, however. Does this make us more or less attractive to Highway1? How does lack of relevant aptitude impact the Highway1 experience?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@clairebearburke Our engineering model is to educate and coach technical members of the startup team to teach them best practices on engineering development, working with outside partners (e.g. Industrial Design), and preparing for manufacturing. Therefore, we need at least one technical member on each team to participate in Highway1 so that they can learn these skills and apply them not only to developing the current product, but also future revisions.
Claire Burke@clairebearburke · Goby, Co-Founder
@brady @clairebearburke Thanks very much for your reply!
Ashley Adewuyi@ash_adew · Founder, LiLoE Co
@brady, Thanks for your time! What do you think is the most impressive demonstration of traction for a hardware startup with a functional (but not pretty) prototype?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@ash_adew Customers who don't want to return the device. This is happening to one of our companies right now.
WeightUp@weightupmadison · WeightUp Solutions
@brady what is most important part of the highway1 application? What should we focus on most as we begin to apply?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@weightupmadison Showing the customers love your prototype. Also... Having a concise, complete application showing us that you are at an appropriate stage of product and business development to make the most of the Highway1 program. We also want a strong, compelling team that is the best team to solve the problem.
Pénélope Romand-Monnier@penelope_rm · Associate @Hardware Club
Hello Brady! Nice to have you here! As you're an hardware expert I have 2 questions for you :) 1/ How do you think an hardware startup can be lean? This is a very tricky question I've been looking through for almost a year now and I've barely found clear & concrete advice or methods (even in Eric Ries' book). 2/ For an hardware startup that launches through a Kickstarter campaign, would it not be smart to produce a first batch only for the backers in order to deliver kind of a MVP, get the feedbacks from the backers (mostly early adopters so happy to participate and ok with a product which isn't 100% functional I guess) and then design the v2 destined to the mass market based on these feedbacks? Most of the time the product produced in the 1st batch isn't really ready to be delivered to the consumer market...!
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@penelope_rm 1) Rapid prototyping's evolution has enabled a lean approach to hardware - 3D Printing's proliferation, access to machinery at places like TechShop, and the accessibility of electronics and code through Arduino. 2) We are a big advocate of getting early MVP products into users hands. A small run pilot or Kickstarter Beta could be one way to do that, but you must be carful to message it as so, so that your backers understand what they are signing up for
Pavel@pavel_melnyk · PawSnap
Me and my team we create a concept it is very cool action camera for pets. At this stage, we have prepared a complete product design, appearance and material design. We also have a list of items we'd like to see in our device. The question is: Can we work with you from the receipt of the certificate to the further production device? Also, we are interested in working with you in case to help us with hard developers if it is possible to get ones in your accelerator? Thank you very much in advance
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@pavel_melnyk You're more than welcome to apply to our program at highway1.io/apply. We do not help in hiring hardware developers for you.
Pavel@pavel_melnyk · PawSnap
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@brady Hey what are some of the biggest challenges in running an accelerator? How do you think these are similar/differ to non-hardware focused accelerators?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@bentossell The hardware space is changing constantly and so are a startup's needs. We are always thinking about how we should change the program to provide new & different kinds of support.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What's something you've changed your mind about in the last year?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@jakecrump I no longer think that email is evil; it's just something that needs to be managed. ;-)
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
If you weren't doing this, what would you want to be doing? Any dream jobs?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@jakecrump I pretty much have my dream job. I run a 10K sq foot building and get to develop *crazy* new products. In the evenings I help people around the world do public speaking. And I still have time to cook some nights. :-)
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Can you tell us a bit more about the talks you do with Ignite? How does this help arts organizations stay in SF? Is this a passion of your?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@ems_hodge Ignite is a global talk series that I started in 2006. It spread around the world to all 6 continents. Anyone can give a 5 minute talk with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds; it's a great proving ground for new & experienced speakers. There are thousands of Ignite talks online - some found here http://ignitetalks.io. My work with arts organizations is different. I'm a Director for Cast-sf.org. We buy older buildings in SF, renovate them and then make them available to arts organizations. We have two projects underway right now. For one, we are turning a former porn studio into the new home for Counter Pulse Media (http://counterpulse.org/), a dance space.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@brady What was the craziest thing you've seen as an advisor?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@bentossell I had been working with a team for 9 months during their product development and as they tried to raise funding. Shortly before they were about to sign papers with an angel investor the founders had a falling out. They delayed the signing and spent the next week on the phone with myself and other advisors. The team had been under stress for a long time and I think that the money was going to make the company "real" - at that point they realized that they shouldn't be working together. They have since parted ways.
Gilbert@gilberttamrobot
@brady I'm working hard on a prototype device , with supporting cloud platform. I'm prototyping with the raspberry pi. I'd love to pitch it to you, how can I go about it? P.s. it is a disruptive idea, heavy on computer vision usage. I'm aiming at a big market - vehicles, I have a business plan.
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@gilberttamrobot Apply to Highway1's next program via http://highway1.io/apply - that's the best way to get on our radar and continue the conversation. :-)
Rachel Masters@masters212
What is most important to Hardware Angel investors? What must be in the pitch?
brady forrest@brady · Ignite Talks & Highway1
@masters212 Every Angel is different, but they often invest early have to make a decision based on faith in the team or the product idea. They can do this because it's their money. VCs are a different beast. They are investing other people's money and must see a path to large return.