Our Alumni - 2014


Switchmate offers the convenience of smart-lighting without the drama of rewiring the home.

Switchmate’s sleek, retro-fit design snaps onto existing light switches to enable remote control of home lighting, out of the box.

Harnessing the power of Bluetooth Low Energy or existing home WiFi networks, Switchmate gives you peace of mind no matter where you are. Smart has never been so simple.

Fresh out of Stanford, Switchmate had a great idea, a working prototype, and a lot of unknowns. “What we didn’t understand,” recalls CEO Robert Romano, “was how we were gonna scale this thing up, how the cost was gonna work, all those other things about manufacturing and distribution that are hard to figure out.”

Accordingly, their goal was simple: “To figure out what we didn’t know. We knew something was missing, we just had no idea what.”

And Highway1 delivered. “It was great,” Romano enthuses. “We got exactly what we wanted, which was learning all the roadblocks we didn’t understand, questions like: What are the different stages of manufacturing? How long is it gonna take? How much is it gonna cost to make this thing? What’s the right price based on the cost?” One of his first meetings was with a PCH staffer who “basically instilled fear in us as far as where the price could go. We realized ‘Oh, we need to really care about the price of every component.'”

Romano’s most valuable Highway1 mentor, Sean Byrnes, didn’t even come from a hardware background. “He helped us think about it from a business perspective,” Romano explains. “At some point, you have to appeal to investors; think of hardware as enabling something else — software features, or a service. How will you make money in a way that doesn’t rely on every single home in the US having your product, or around the world? Can you make money with a fraction of that percent and still be appealing? Sean is the one who taught us that; even though he wasn’t from a hardware background, it was still important.”

Since graduating, Switchmate has sold over 5000 units and made over $180,000 through their highly successful crowdfunding campaign. “We’ve gotten a lot of publicity through different channels — a lot of people know us, which feels a little weird,” Romano confesses. “The next step is to get everything delivered to our crowdfunding customers, raise the next round of investment, and be ready to scale quickly to retail channels and sell an awesome product.”

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Highway1, a division of PCH, is the premier hardware startup accelerator. We look for great hardware startups, with an exciting business idea and a compelling product. We help you develop products that deliver real value to customers, that are delightful to use and that can be manufactured at scale.
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