Unique incubator developed for hardware

PCH International’s programme will be open to entrepreneurs all over the world


Cork-headquartered PCH International has unveiled the details of its new incubation programme aimed at hardware makers.

Highway1 is a four-month programme that will give early start-ups the chance to access everything from mentorship and expertise in manufacturing to seed capital through PCH’s network.

The accelerator programme, which is based mainly in the US, will be open to entrepreneurs all over the world, and aims to take in about 10 start-ups at a time.

“We’re a global company and we take a global perspective on these things,” said Brady Forrest, PCH’s vice president of Highway1. “The incubator itself is based in the US but we’re not going to be blind to the rest of the world.”

Intensive education
The initiative includes a four-month intensive education programme, which will take place in San Francisco, at PCH’s new US headquarters in the Potero Hill district, and will concentrate on manufacturing, supply chain, inventory and pitching.

Forrest says the company is currently working with engineers on the course curriculum to distill what it takes to bring a new start-up to the point where it is ready to manufacture.

A two-week stint in China will teach participants how the consumer electronics supply chain works.

Also on offer is up to $20,000 in seed capital, which PCH will invest for a three to six per cent equity stake in the firm.

An invaluable part of the programme is access to the product prototyping facilities.

“If they’re quality teams, if they’re really good, they can get the cash anywhere,” says Forrest.

“However we’re offering the opportunity to work with engineers that can guide them through the process of making products. That’s not something you can find just anywhere.”

Forrest says the programme also plans to make some of its talks by experts with product experience publically available, in a bid to help build up the ecosystem of hardware engineers.

Long-term investment
Applications are now open for Highway1’s first intake at highwayone.io.

It is expected the programme will be a long-term investment for PCH, and will run again within a few months of the initial intake “graduating”.

“Our number one challenge is going to be finding the best people. That is going to be what we have to strive for,” says Forrest.

PCH already has an accelerator programme in place that allows early-stage companies to tap into its supply chain, but Highway1, says Forrest, would bring it back a step and reach the firms earlier.

Speaking to The Irish Times earlier this month, PCH chief executive Liam Casey said the initiative would be “the greatest enabler of hardware on the planet.”