Hardware accelerator Highway1 has opened up applications for its sixth batch, but this time there’s a twist: the organization is increasing its investment from $50,000 to $100,000 for each participating startup.
From now until November 16, startups can apply for a spot in this program, which is run by Highway1’s Brady Forrest (cofounder of the Ignite talk series and formerly a technical evangelist for O’Reilly Media). The organization will give startups between $50,000 in funding from the program in exchange for 5 percent equity and $100,000 for 8 percent.
Forrest said that the increase was meant to help alleviate the financial burdens on startups based in San Francisco. Additionally, the investment is intended to help teams move faster by allowing startups to hire contractors instead of wasting time trying to build prototypes themselves. “We want teams to come in and move fast. We don’t want them held up,” Forrest told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “It costs more to do a hardware startup and get a prototype up and running.”
Forrest has already seen companies begin to ship their devices during their time at Highway1, thanks to contractors’ help. Although they’re only shipping early beta units (in the hundreds), founders are able to learn about their customer needs and get a good head start on the process.
While the program will be selecting startups based on their team, market fit, product, and stage, Forrest said he’ll be looking for companies within at least two particular areas: consumer medical technology (products that demonstrably improve health) and home automation (devices that will move the space forward by focusing on new parts of the home).
A subsidiary of PCH International, Highway1 is specifically geared toward entrepreneurs who are trying to build physical products to help change the world. The first batch began the program in October 2013 and in the past two years, 58 startups have graduated, raising at least $65 million in venture funding.
Forrest told us that there has been a focus on design since the program’s founding, and added that Highway1 has brought on board Marcus Gosling to help in this area. Startup founders, Forrest said, imagine that products will come fully formed out of their heads, but “the reality is that manufacturing has to inform design,” as do customer needs. Highway1 will be working with teams to help make sure that prototypes have the right aesthetic and customer experience built into the design.
Highway1 recently took part in the now-cancelled SyFy show “Bazillion Dollar Club”.