Meet the Team
7 Questions: Marcus Gosling
We thought it was time you all got to know a little about the people who work here at Highway1, the staff without whom this program would literally not be possible.
This week, we’re talking to Highway1 Design Lead Marcus Gosling.
Tell us a little about yourself: who are you and what are you doing here?
I’m the Design Lead here at Highway1; I have a background in interaction design and UX, but also entrepreneurship from a series of software startups I’ve been a founding member of. I’m not your typical designer with a big library of design books — I’m fascinated with new business creation and see design as just a part of the puzzle.
What excites you about what you do here?
Highway1 is democratizing mass production by educating really smart, motivated people about design and engineering for scale. The startups that are accepted to Highway1 work on incredibly diverse projects, from racing drones to breast pumps! Also, in every Highway1 batch, there’s always a couple of companies doing something with potential for social impact. We’re excited about working with social entrepreneurs, who have products that will genuinely help and empower people.
In my own area as Design Lead I am excited by how much can be accomplished with product design in just 16 weeks. Our teams are typically at a perfect stage to engage with Industrial design. We have a fantastic bench of local, world-class ID firms that work with our startups including Ammunition, IDEO, Herbst Produkt and Design Partners. It’s great to see the magic that this level of design talent can work on the products in development here and it gets better with each cohort. Highway1 Demo Day is starting to feel like a design award show!
What about once they get here?
There’s so much diversity in hardware, in the materials and mechanisms, that our model isn’t a one-size-fits-all; it’s incredibly tailored. Each company that comes in is in a different stage; their cycle is a different length with different risks and challenges.
Most of the conversation centers around “Where do you want to be by Demo Day, and what are the best goals we can set to help you?” We check in week by week to make sure they’ve got momentum, and that there’s nothing blocking them from reaching those goals. Before teams begin I try to give them an understanding of what they can do pre-Highway1 in order to make the best use of the program.
Field trials, for instance: do as much as you can on your own steam so you can iron out all the kinks using cheap, quick methods, so that when you show up at Highway1, you’ve done many iterations.
What’s the toughest thing about creating new products?
Building things is difficult but getting human beings to change their behavior is really, really hard; we’re creatures of habit. Only a tiny percentage of all the products that are manufactured are adopted by people and become successful.
- A small percentage of products developed get onto shelves.
- A small percentage of those are sold in significant quantity.
- A small percentage of all the stuff we have in our houses is actually used by us every day.
So the products that get developed and made and stocked and sold are basically people theorizing “this is a valuable thing that people will use,” but only a tiny, tiny percentage of all the stuff we have is really genuinely adopted by us as users, and that’s a bar I want to hold all the Highway1 companies to: they’re not just coming here to fill a shelf or a storage container, but to create something that people use every day, get value from, and tell their friends about.
What’s the most interesting team that’s passed through these doors and why?
Transformair is one of our more recent teams. They are developing a technology that removes pathogens, chemicals and allergens from the air. This has huge potential across all sorts of human activity: home, air travel, hospital environments. That’s the “holy crap, that’s gonna change the world” kind of interesting.
Sereneti, another team from this cohort are automating the art of cooking. It’s a fascinating intellectual challenge: how do you make a robot that’s great at cooking? And how do you identify the first customer for something like that?
Some products are interesting because they solve a clear pain point, and others are interesting because of the journey the founders are on, the particular risks they have to deal with, the market they have to figure out — that’s all fascinating.
Drop were one of our first teams from the Fall of 2014. They are interesting because of how much the founders actually developed and changed in the time they were with us: the transformative experience of coming to the Bay Area and China, becoming better able to tell their story and make the argument for investment.
“Ben Harris, CEO of Drop, really impressed me: a young guy who came over from Ireland, and within months he was raising money and building a successful hardware company. Their first product, a connected kitchen scale is now shipping in Apple stores. ”
Marcus Gosling, Design lead - Highway1
Working at Highway1 is intensely gratifying for the entire team here. We select ten to twelve startups from hundreds, so we’re placing a bet that each startup will get real value out of the program.
We don’t take in hundreds of companies, we hothouse a dozen companies and give them a ton of support. It’s not a numbers game; we’re being highly selective and highly supportive. We want them all to be successful; that’s why we spend so much time on our application process and narrow it down so much.