Brady Forrest’s new gig: Hatching hardware startups at new Highway1 incubator

Brady Forrest. (Photo by Randy Stewart)

Brady Forrest. (Photo by Randy Stewart)

Developing an app or a website isn’t easy, by any stretch, but hardware design and manufacturing is a world unto itself — often requiring connections in Asia and an understanding of complex supply chains. Which is why many of these fledgling hardware companies need a lot of help navigating the process.

That’s the impetus for Highway1, a new incubator in San Francisco created by the product development and supply chain company PCH International.

Leading the incubator is Brady Forrest, who made his mark in the Seattle tech community as co-founder of the popular Ignite event series before heading to the Bay Area last year.

Forrest was working for Khosla Ventures when he was approached by Liam Casey, the CEO of PCH International, about creating the incubator, to “bring the art of manufacturing back to the U.S., back to Silicon Valley,” as Forrest explains. PCH is a supplier to companies including Apple, and Casey is widely known for his expertise in working with manufacturers in China.

Highway1 opened for applications today, seeking somewhere around 10 startups to participate in an intensive four-month program. It’s offering up to $20,000 in seed capital in exchange for 3 to 6 percent equity.

Startups will spend time in San Francisco and Shenzhen, China, working directly with experts as part of the program. They’ll also get access to high-end prototyping facilities and a network of experienced mentors.

The incubator is ideal for companies with “two to three people, a laptop, a prototype and a dream,” Forrest said. Removing the risk of hardware is the key to fueling new startups, he said, likening what PCH is doing for hardware startups to what Amazon Web Services has done for Internet startups.