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Summary:

Highway1 is looking for 15 startups that want to build great hardware.

Folks who think software is eating the world don’t have the whole story, said Brady Forrest, president of Highway1, an accelerator that wants to help startups learn the “dark art” of building cooler, better hardware.

But folks are eager to learn. Highway1 is about to graduate its first class of 11 entrepreneurs and is now accepting applications for its spring class which has been expanded to 15 companies, Forrest announced Tuesday at Roadmap 2013.

So what will they learn? That there’s a big difference between firing up a 3D printer and running the type of big CNC (computer-numerically-controlled) machines that make the stuff we use every day, Forrest said.

Teaching would-be hardware makers the niceties of actual production is something Highway1 can help with — it sends its class to Shenzhen, China to learn up close and personal how manufacturing at scale works.

The key takeaway for prospects? Hardware takes a lot longer than software. Websites can be updated in a day or less, but hardware has to be designed, protoyped, then fabbed, usually somewhere far away. That usually means a seven-week turnaround, he noted.

Again there’s a lesson in scale. “It’s easy to make one of something and possible to make 10, and with enough friends, pizza and beer maybe 100, but to make thousands takes skill and rigor and work.”

To accommodate the bigger class, Highway1 is expanding its space in San Francisco’s Mission and will bring in more engineers to work with the startups which work on hardware from wearable devices, connected home gadgets and medical devices.

Check out the rest of our Roadmap 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:


A transcription of the video follows on the next page
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  1. Gary Dare (@GaryDare) Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    Hardware startups have evolved to the point of board-level electronic or mechanical device design. The next step (that a few have taken, such as Adapteva) is to move into creating higher performance and more complex systems, even defining their own silicon as FPGA or even small ASIC’s. Hardware startups that will be the next generation of established companies can take advantage of new C-based electronics design methodologies that have recently emerged (most people with technical background now know C/C++ while in the recent past, electronics engineers had to learn specialized hardware description languages such as VHDL and Verilog to design circuits).

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