Business Idea: Building the Switch Port

The Switch Port

The Switch Port

This post was written by Nick Bain, a 16-year-old who has been an entrepreneur his entire life.  Nick just launched a Kickstarter campaign for his newest invention.  Read on to learn about his idea generation and the process of building his product.


The Switch Port was first made for an invention competition I applied to when I was 12 years old. I was thinking about how you pass by light switches and use them all the time, so they could probably be more useful than just to switch the lights. After experimenting with building light switches with hooks, clips, baskets, etc., I made a curious finding: your light switch is perfect as a small whiteboard.

I could put reminders to myself on my light and never miss them. Or my mom or dad could write a message to me instead of having to find a scrap of paper and I’d see it when flipped the lights. People are still finding new uses for it – it’s great for writing down fleeting ideas or drawing or “turn off the lights”.

Out of about 70 applicants at the invention competition, the Switch Port won 1st place. People kept asking me if I could build them one, so I decided I would try to make it into a real product. I spent the next four years trying to make that happen.

The first thing I did was go to Home Depot and buy myself massive pieces of whiteboard and a Dremel tool with $500 of the invention competition’s prize money. I made more than 20 more prototypes of the invention in the next year.

Nick Bain, creator of the Switch Port

Nick Bain, creator of the Switch Port

When I went to high-school, I literally choose a school because it happened to have some advanced machinery often used by its maintenance department, but available to students. I convinced the school to let me use the machines and asked people to teach me to run them. Using these tools (a laser-cutter and a CNC mill), I spent the next two and a half years making more than 80 more prototypes.

Last year, I applied to a startup incubator at Harvard and was one of six startups to get in. I spent six months in the incubator program and flew to Harvard three times to talk with other entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, and branding agencies. Most notably, the startup was given a team of six advisers from Google, Harvard, and Facebook.

What matters most, though, is that the product itself deserves to exist. One of my favorite designers, Michael Wolff, said that the Switch Port was “imaginative, friendly, and useful”.

Finally, the product has all its suppliers coordinated and a facility that can build more than 1,000 units/ month.

If successful, it will be Kickstarter’s first physical product created by a minor. In the next 30 days, we can make the Switch Port make crowd funding history – and light switches a little bit better!

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