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Brady Forrest of Highway1 at the GeekWire Summit.
Brady Forrest of Highway1 at the 2015 GeekWire Summit.

San Francisco-based hardware startup accelerator Highway1, part of custom hardware company PCH, announced today that Brady Forrest will be leaving his position there. Forrest has led Highway1 since co-founding it in 2013.

Forrest is a well-known figure in the Seattle technology scene, where he originally founded the popular Ignite event series with Bre Pettis, who went on to co-found 3D printer company MakerBot Industries.

“It’s time to do something new,” Forrest told GeekWire this morning. “I’ve decided to leave, though it will be hard.”

Kurt Dammermann, the co-founder of PHC’s design engineering division, will lead Highway1 after Forrest’s departure.

Forrest said he will finish advising the current cohort of startups and assist in selecting the next cohort before officially stepping back in January, although he will remain as a special advisor to Highway1 even after that point.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s been totally amazing,” Forrest said. “We’ve had a lot of great people come through Highway1 as my team, and 74 companies go through. And those are all people that are going to stay in my life far beyond my tenure at Highway1.”

Brady Forrest at a past Seattle Ignite event. (Photo by Randy Stewart)
Brady Forrest at a past Seattle Ignite event. (Photo by Randy Stewart)

Forrest has yet to decide what he’ll do next. But in addition to a new full-time gig, he said he will spend more time focusing on personal projects, including Ignite, the popular event series that Forrest co-founded in Seattle in 2006. Ignite, which features five-minute talks with auto-advancing slides, has since expanded to other cities in the US and around the world, and is celebrating its 10th anniversary later this month.

Forrest acquired Ignite from O’Reilly Media last year. He said he has been working on several new projects for Ignite, including Global Ignite Week, which will kick off next May. “I’ll have time to focus on those things and get those things moving,” he said.

He also said he will be staying in the Bay Area for the foreseeable future, although he still has strong roots in Seattle and spends a good amount of time there. “The dream is to come back to Seattle at some point in time, I just don’t know when,” he said.

Forrest has seen first-hand what makes hardware startups succeed, so we asked him for some words of wisdom as he prepares to step back. His biggest takeaways?

“One, hardware requires a much bigger team. Two, those teams take too long to get their product in the hands of customers,” he said. “When your customers don’t want to give the beta back, when they want to keep the product, that can become strong enough to get investor traction.”

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