I wasn’t too sure what I was getting into when I approached this building.
Well it is called the “Brooklyn Navy Yard“, by the water, just opposite of Manhattan. My friend Architect Mitchell Joachim told me there would be a ton of good people there…
Many important people were there! Here’s the menu – I arrived late and missed most of them. Super New York VIP I guarantee.
They want to turn this abandoned shipyard into a nexus of design, manufacturing, education, community, freelance economy – coworking space, incubator etc… WOWOWOWOW! The people in charge of this transformation are Macro-Sea, check them out. I invite you read the New York Times article if you want to know more about the politics of it.
And the people already installed in the place make an impressive group :
- Terreform ONE
- Chris Woebken
- Bioworks Institute
- Patten Studios
- Within Lab
- Eric Forman
- Jason Krugman
- 10x BETA
- Rock Paper Robot
- The Living
- Jenna Spevack
- nea studio
- Columbia University – L.A.B.S
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – CASE
Yeah, I know, we are moving to Hong Kong, but I am super excited knowing that a home for Protei might be under construction in New York ;) Gabriella is from here and we dream of being allowed using a table there for now :)
I cannot help but dreaming how we could build very large “Ocean Zeppelin” in there ! Above Protei_003 I built in New Orleans in 2010, model is Hunter Daniels.
This is a view of the future NewLab from the current NewLab. Manhattan is just there.
Sometimes you might meet a master. Tom Chi is a master.
I feel lucky. But there is much more.
I was so impressed, I asked where I could buy Tom Chi’s book. And to my surprise, I did not find it anywhere.
So I proposed to write it. We decided to rapid prototype it. “Tom Chi” became a verb. It became a website. It became a twitter hashtag #tomchibook, it became a way of thinking, an attitude, perhaps a way of life.
With a handful of passionate followers and Tom Chi’s himself, we started brainstorming what the book would have as content. For several days, we met regularly. I want to continue until I have a hard copy in my hands. I wrote a 360 Pages book about my father the sculptor Tetsuo Harada in 3 languages, about 700 pictures and drawings. I feel capable and exciting to handle this.
Here from left to right: Tom Chi, Laura Edwards, Cesar Harada, Gabriella Levine in classroom 1, on board of the MV Explorer.
Same thing when it comes to business. It is not necessary to have millions to test an idea and waste all that time and that money. You can prototype it and quickly find out where it fails, and find many alternative routes.
Chi’s clearly defining R&D. Research is multiplying options, even contradictory directions, especially contradictory trajectories. Development is, after choosing one option, or combining several options, to be as efficient and focused on developing one clear thing with a list of specs, deliverables, outcomes.
How to manage time, tasks, expectations. How to wrap up compelling experiences into learning, learning into actions, into transformations of the self. I will continue working on the book as long as I am allowed.
Can the singularity be not about machine taking over humans, but a true collaboration that empowers both?
For me, this is the continuation of my research on Open Architecture. Above, my illustrated history of western philosophy. I need to continue this research. This is a work of epistemology.
Ways of thinking. To unite the world, we must admit there are many different ways of thinking. It is in diversity that we will find Peace… and Chaos.
“Everything we build in New York, fails”, heard it 3 times at the event. Rad.
If we want Protei, or any other intentionally meaningful technology to impact the life of the People, it’s got to scale, according to Erica Kochi and Christopher Fabian of UNICEF Innovation. Want to see more of them, or how these principles work? Here. Captured at Unreasonable At State, 2013 05 03 in Washington DC.
- Build for your user: Simple and cheap
- Technology is just 5% of the solution
- Things given get lost, things own stay with people
- Design for Scale
- Create sustainable system
- Build Open and Adaptable
- High-Level decisions are not made on precision of information
Some places make you feel home immediately. Istanbul is such a place for me.
Thanks Ed and Beckie for being so warm and letting me bothering up at ridiculous hours :) Thanks also for making me want to pull my camera out again. I used PhotoMechanic for this one batch, I love it !
This is a rough cut of the BBC program, keeping only what’s about Openness and Protei or Cesar Harada. Great thanks to Graham Strong, all the BBC team , Toni Nottebohm for allowing some of her material to be shared, all the Protei team in the video and Tom Higgs. Also below a related article.
Is Tomorrow’s World an Open Source one?
Last week BBC’s Horizon put out a special episode looking at the next generation of technological advances. Two of the stories they reported caught my eye as they suggest that the future of innovation lies in an open way of working.
Liz Bonnin presented the show from one of The Science Museum’s storage hangers. Photo Credit:BBC
The first story looked at the work of Professor Bob Langer at MIT. Professor Langer has received the Draper Prize and National Medal of Science for his work in biomedical engineering. Langer’s approach to research is to bring experts from a range of fields together to create an interdisciplinary team.
Previous approaches to designing medical devices were designed by doctors based on existing materials. Langer sought to design new materials to operate inside the body and be safely absorbed once their job was done. To make this possible he assembled a team including engineers, chemists, neurosurgeons, pharmacologists and a number of other disciplines.
The approach of applying one expert’s knowledge to the problem posed in another’s primary field has many parallels with open innovation, and led to advances never thought possible by those working in single fields.
The second story reported on the Protei project which we heard about recently at Open Source Junction. Protei was founded by Cesar Harada, and seeks to produce sailing drones which can be used to clean up oil spills.
Harada released his initial designs online and set out forming a community of scientists and engineers to collaborate on the project. Supported by a kickstarter campaign, over $33,000 dollars were raised allowing him to hire a work shop and invite his community to work together on the open hardware project.
The programme then focused on the contrast between the model of inventors patenting an invention which Harada characterised as “good for the manufacturer but not very good for the people”, to the “new culture of openness” shaping what we invent.
One comment that piqued my interest came from Gia Milinovich, who spoke of a “tension between the open source movement and business”, and a “battle between these two worlds”. While this paints an exciting picture for a science documentary, I think the language used here was slightly disingenuous.
While we hear of stories where one company attacks another company who backs an open source project, these bear little distinction from companies litigating against each other over issues with no relation to open source. It’s fortunately very rare that we see a “battle” between a business and an open source community, and the examples of this are greatly outstripped by the examples where the two work together in harmony, indeed furthering one another’s goals.
Designer Wayne Hemingway then described how he “loved the idea” of an environment with no patents and no copyright, which while certainly a valid goal doesn’t do well to represent the way open source works. The most common open source licences all at least require that the the original author be credited for their work, which in a copyright-free world wouldn’t be enforceable.
These criticisms aside, It’s great to see open source and open hardware getting airtime from a mainstream broadcaster like this.
After 4 months at sea. We finally landed. After travelling in 14 countries, together. After sharing a small cabin with no windows and a tiny bathroom. It is all behind us now. As everyone was saying good bye, I had to tell my Unreasonable Fellows ”You are not going back home, the ocean is your home”, they are always welcome.
You can imagine it was not easy saying good bye. A new family was formed, now scattered as a global network. Each going back to their countries.
Hard to believe that we were the lucky 10 companies chosen out of about 1000… it is now history. Allow me to list theses 10 companies:
- Agua: Providing clean water to 300,000 people w/out chemicals or energy (just plants).
- Damascus Fortune: Nanotechnology that transforms carbon emissions into material for spaceships.
- Innoz: Most used mobile-app in India. Designed to leapfrog internet. +120,000,000 users.
- GuruG: Educates and empowers teachers through a “gamified” platform.
- Solar Ear: World’s 1st digitally programmable and rechargeable hearing aids.
- Protei: Wind powered, shape shifting, open source sailing drones that explore and clean oceans.
- Evolving Technologies: Radically affordable medical devices for maternal care in emerging markets.
- One Earth Design: Harnesses the sun for cooking & energy. Ranked best solar cooker on earth.
- Prakti: Feeding 250,000 people daily with ultra-affordable and fuel efficient stoves.
- Artificial Vision for the Blind : Artificial intelligence leveraged as a non-invasive cure for blindness.
Keep an eye on these guys. What will happen to them in the next months and years? Will they realise the idea that “entrepreneurship can change the world”? Will they become icons of social entrepreneurship? Or will theses companies fall apart? Time will tell.
Testing Protei 10.5
Protei 10.5 Testing in Parque del Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain. Thanks to the Prieto’s (Muriel, Jesus, Rosa), Bianca Cheng Costanzo & Nils Mattisson.
Photos by Improbables productions, Fanny Pernoud & Olivier Bonnet.
What we learnt
The world is a big place, but I want to keep my summary as short and synthetic as possible.
A journey of learning
- 20130109 SAN DIEGO, CA, UNITED STATES. Departure.
- 20130110 ENSENADA, MEXICO. Red tides affect the region. Delicious food, good people.
- 20130115 HILO, HAWAII, UNITED STATES. Meeting with Henk Carson, Marcus Eriksen & Anna Cummins, Spectacular plastic pollution, Kamilo Beach. Unreasonable short about Protei and plastic.
- 20130127 YOKOHAMA, JAPAN. Presentation at Tokyo University. Midori, Japanese translator. FuRo Robotics Laboratory. Unreasonable documents Protei visit at FuRo. Akihabara “Electric Town”, Flying Tokyo presentation. Protei and Safecast in Fuksuhima measuring radioactivity. Japan, 2 years after. Kyoto University, departure.
- 20130208 HONG KONG, CHINA. Make it in China! Deciding to set up our headquarters in Hong Kong / Shenzhen.
- 20130218 HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM. Vietnam : “Croire our douter”, believe or doubt.
- 20130221 SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE. Singapore, Startup Country.
- 20130301 RANGOON, BURMA. Myanmar.
- 20130311 COCHIN, INDIA. Kochi.
- 20130318 PORT LOUIS, MAURITIUS. Maurice.
- 20130330 CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA. Cape Town, Koeberg, South Africa. The Gangster incubator, great sailors.
- 20130407 TAKORADI, GHANA. Oil + Fish Industry = complicated.
- 20130421 CASABLANCA, MOROCCO. HACKATHON !!! Redefining success.
- 20130425 BARCELONA, SPAIN. This very post.
During the voyage we built 3 Protei prototypes that we transported and tested in a variety of waters. Although not having access to our working space, tools and materials often felt limiting, we learnt how to do more with less, simplifying how we prototype Protei.
In a nutshell Protei needs to be:
- More rugged, to take around.
- Smaller needs to fit in a standard suitcase and be easy to strap to a backpack. Lighter in particular would allow the use of rechargeable D cells as ballast.
- Simpler to set, wire at the beginning and while the machine is already in operations with spring loaded clamps at the end of wires.
- Transparent is convenient for maintenance and acknowledging if there is a water leak inside the dry case.
- Equiped with a modular removable dry case inside the hull for the electronics makes maintenance much easier.
- The ease to recycle the hull is critical to most people since they do not want to see Protei polluting the oceans.
- The mast length should not exceed the total length of the boat, for safer packing and transportation.
- Sensors: travelling to all these places, talking to local scientists we learnt a lot about the sensors they would want to transport within Protei.
- Cost: we have a much better idea of who can buy Protei, for what and at what price.
- Managing Performance expectations: We now know what people want this technology to do. We must make clear that we are delivering a beta product at this point.
- Define our identity and culture as a corporation. Some have described Protei Inc. as a technology coompany, other as social entrepreneurs, some as a clean-tech startup. Being surrounded by other companies helped us understand how similar and different we are. This may sound obvious for those who know us but this is our corporate culture:
- Ethical order of priorities: 1. Environment, 2. Social, 3. Technology, 4. Profit.
- Open: The problems we are trying to address are huge, as huge as the ocean, there is enough work for everybody. Let’s work together.
- Hands-on: think and develop by prototyping, by testing the field, in the hands of our user. “Fast, cheap and out of control“.
- Community-driven development, Product and timing to release open source documentation: To make sure we cover our overhead and stay open, we release the documentation when we ship the product, not before. Internally, we work on extremely fast prototyping cycles.
- Fast paced. Being an Open Hardware business means that we invite others to copy and improve on what we do. In other words, we are constantly trying to put ourselve out of business, helping as much as we can competition. We have to innovate constantly in order to stay ahead of the game.
- Radical innovation on 3 main topics (for now): 1. Technology (Shape Shifting Sailing Robot), 2. Open Hardware, 3. Global innovation community (Social R&D).
- Collaborative, competitive: Collaboration and competition can be one same playful activity as long as it is fair and harmless. Again, the ocean is big enough for all of us, let’s address its issues together.
- Measured risk: like any corporation, we need to survive to thrive and contribute to our maximum capacity to the world.
- Organic growth: Protei brings about a new technology, but it is really a new industry potentially. We want to grow with our community.
- Ambitious but not speculative: too many engineering firms or labs guarantee their technology would scale before testing. Let’s not do that. Because this is a new industry, we do not want to have opportunistic investment speculating and deviating us from our core value.
- This is about learning: Developing Open Hardware Shape-Shifting Sailing Robots is not that common and there will be bumps on the road. Let’s learn about them.
- Non-military applications: we will not provide technical support for life threatening applications.
We learnt about what kind of people we want to be, who we want to work with:
- About the people:
- Integrity, loyalty: we can all agree that we we are all different, and we need to be able to trust each other.
- Creativity & Persistance: doing whatever it takes to make it work, even it is not in the job description. Be resourceful, own it.
- Humour: being capable of laughing especially in the difficult or painful situation. That tells
- Curious & Fearless: In a given experience, the expected outcomes may be A, B or C. Choose D. Ask the hard and the painful dumb questions over again.
We decided to move to Hong Kong !
- Decided to move the manufacturing to Hong Kong. We could not have make that strategic decision without this trip.
We had amazing mentors from whom we learnt so much :
- Tom Chi: about rapid prototyping, ways of thinking, metaphysics…
- George Kembel: Empathy, Design Thinking…
- Daniel Epstein: Story telling…
- Ken Banks: Being lean, scaling up and making choices…
- Kamran Elahian: about being kind, the dimension of future progress…
- Jeff Hoffman: defining your target customer, team building, leadership and employee qualities, pricing…
- Megan Both: about being business minded, strategy…
- Megan Smith: the emergence and access to information…
- Pascal Finette: about pitching and cultivating the spirit of innovation in your company…
- Chris Shipley: launching a product…
- Matt Mullenweg: about leadership and control of Open Source project…
- Coleman Chamberlain: building a company vision and identity…
- Caroline Whaley: about team building….
- Prince Fahad al Saud: imagination and the self…
- Jane Finette: About community building…
- Hunter Lovins: Green economy…
- Carly Cooper: about design thinking and running a startup within a large corporation…
- Scot Frank & Catlin Powers: performance and humanitarian business structure…
- Amruth: Determinism…
- Rehan Hassan: Start-up legal issues 101…
- Safecast, Joe Morros: Radioactivity and activism in Japan…
- Truc-anh: about poetry, rage and beauty…
- Archibishop Desmond Tutu: about god, love and justice…
- El Alaoui: doing with what you have…
And the list goes on and on…
In every single port we stopped we met people that could benefit from Protei. From the mexican scientists in Mexico studying red tides, to those in Hawaii combatting plastic pollution, the Japanese network of radioactivity sensing activists around Fukushima, to the chinese, vietnamese and indian residents, environmental activists and scientists, South African sailors and roboticists, the Ghanian fishermen suffering oil pollution, the fast growing maker movement and engineers in Morocco. We have learnt so much about our community on this journey as much on the technical, financial, psychological and personal level.
I also learnt a lot on a personal level. Many of which are hard to explain with words.
- Gabriella Levine: getting to know my business partner. Yes, she’s absolutely awesome across the board. Exceptional, I’m the luckiest man in the world to work with Gabriella. For me developing good people is the condition to developing good technologies.
- defining my personal identity as global citizen. I have been traveling so much these last years… The ocean is my home. Forever.
- Achieve a dream, Sailing around the world: since I am a child I have been dreaming of sailing around the world. Check. Next time I want to do it wind powered though!
- Develop strategies of “How to use capitalism for the Environment”, “Open Hardware for the Environment”. I feel I made a lot of progress thanks to all the discussions we had on board and on land.
- Built a new family: and that’s not a detail. A trusted network, that’s priceless.
Learning to “dream with my eyes open”
I think these 2 images below sum up what has changed for me.
Retrospectively I feel I was almost almost gambling, about the different options. I feel I know more what I am doing now.
A lot of what seemed mystery is really common sense. It all makes sense.
Many of my intuitions have been verified. This mask has the third eye. I’m not trying to evoke anything esoteric here, I am only suggesting that a lot of what I felt instinctively about the business was made tangible. I feel more confident now. Also impatient to get on the “battlefield” after so much preparation.
- logistics of moving
- set up a company in HK in order to manufacture
- find an office, a workshop and a place to love
- anticipate transportation, food, insurances
- Find a sponsor / partner / client to contribute towards our manufacturing cost and be at the forefront of sailing technology and re-inventing ocean big data capture and clean up
1 ship. 100 days at sea. 14 countries. 10 companies. 2o mentors. 600 students. A life changing experience.
From right to left ”Make, Code, Sail, Share” in arabic.
I love the comment of the Unreasonable at Sea Media team explaining what a “Hack-a-Thon” is :
While in Morocco, Gabriella Levine and Cesar Harada of Protei took advantage of the engineer community in Casablanca to host what they called a “hack-a-thon”. While most people think of “hacking” as “the process of gaining unauthorised access to computer systems for the purpose of tampering and / or stealing personal and financial information,” the intentions for the event was far from malicious or illegal. The attendees of the event were presented the challenge of designing and testing a boat in 12 hours using scraps and raw materials not typically used for constructing any type of aquatic vehicle. The accelerated learning and prototyping that came out of the event defines a new type of “hacker” as one “who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.”
We have to give great thanks to ESITH ENACTUS for being such great hosts and participants. The workshop was lead by :
- Cesar HARADA (France-Japan): Inventor of the Protei Shape-shifting system, Ex MIT Project leader, TED Fellow.
- Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master from ITP Tisch New York
- El Wali El ALAOUI (Marocco): Founder of SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, first hackerspace in Morocco.
- Darren BENNETT (USA): Creative Director, Microsoft Studios, Member of the original Kinect group.
None of this would have been possible without MCISE (Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship) The event was sponsored by Microsoft Studios, Xbox, filmed (above) by Unreasonable Media, and documented also by Improbable productions for Thalassa, Fanny Pernoud & Olivier Bonnet. We also want to thanks the TEDxCasablanca team for their hospitality.
Half of the workshop was in french, some in english, and a little in Arabic. We broke into 4 teams of about 8 people each. This was the program of the day.
- 10:00 – 11:00 : Introduction. Open Hardware movement. Protei. Workshop intro, Q&A. Break into groups.
- 11:00 – 12:30 : Rapid prototyping. 3 fast cycles of design rapid prototyping in small groups.
- 12:30 – 13:00 : Quick lunch.
- 13:00 – 14:45 : Build in small groups with instructors, quick review.
- 14:45 – 15:00 : Quick public review of each unfinished prototypes.
- 15:00 – 16:30 : Final build of prototypes.
- 16:30 – 17:00 : Walk to lake with prototypes. http://goo.gl/maps/Z5opH
- 17:00 – 18:00 : Test in the water. fim, photos, documentation.
- 18:00 – 19:00 : Diner
- 19:30 – 24:00 : Work at ESITH for those who want to continue, advanced hacking, improve prototype, documentation, share on social media.
Our amazing organising team!!! 4 boats in the water! All winers!
We gave a t-shirt and a hoodie to the winning team… A few hours later : this was on facebook!!! The pride of working together is mutual. Thanks to Roman Yablonski for the amazing Protei logo, people love it! We must also tell for the story that our original intention was to hold the Protei Hackathon, at the first and only (to date) hackerspace in Morocco : SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace in the middle of the desert by the sea, founded by the mesmerizing El Wali El ALAOUI. I designed this sticker in honor of our collaboration :
We keep precious memories from the hackathon. Next time, Protei hackathon in Tarfaya, Inchallah!
Protei meets OCP
We have been lucky to meet the sustainability managers of the largest Moroccan company, the OCP. ”OCP is the world’s biggest exporter of phosphates and derivatives. The company is solely responsible for the production and sale of Moroccan phosphate resources, mined at the Khouribga, Ben Guerir, Youssoufia mines totaling 85 billion cubic meters of reserves in central Morocco, and Bou Craa about 1 billion cubic meter in Saguia el-Hamra region, in the Morocco-controlled part of Western Sahara. OCP is a state owned company created in 1920.” Source : Wikipedia. OCP has both an R&D and a sustainability department. OCP used to operate a large fleet of ships to export phosphate, but it is no longer the case, it is now the client that is responsible for procuring the materials. We had a good discussion about the environmental implications of the OCP and will keep contact with the group. Special thanks to Soraya Joundy for the intro.
Redefine Success, Young Chamber of Commerce Rabat
What is success to you? For me it is to conciliate Humans with Nature and Technology. It comes from my belief that without the environment, there is no social structure, without social structure no technology, no technology no money. So the only business I want to be involved with, would have an order of priorities that is clearly 1. Environment, 2. Social, 3. Technology, 4. Profit, which is pretty much the contrary of business as usual. I personally think such conception of business is the best way to reverse our negative impact on the environment and gear out of the anthropocene. The Ocean is where all life comes from. The ocean is the future of our habitat, food, energy, transport, communication, security. More than protecting it, we must make sure it thrives with life.
For those who are more math-minded :
I tried to explain this so many times, and often got that blank expression in return. The normal curve that some environmentalists advocate doesn’t start to be good enough for the environment. It is not about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, we need to go much further than that if we want to revert our negative impact on the environment. The idea is very simple. What people call “green-tech”, “eco-friendly” or “clean-tech” suggests that it is good for the environment. Not neutral. But that can only be true over time. For example : a solar panel requires a lot of energy to be manufactured. You need to use a solar panel for a long time, maintain it and use it in an efficient context to offset the environmental cost of designing, developing, manufacturing, packing, shipping, selling it to a customer (first half of the red area on the graph) before you even start using a green product. I remember reading an average solar panel needs to be used ~10 years (other half of the red area) to offset it’s own environmental cost from fabrication to sale. It is only after 10 years of regular use that a solar panel goes below being neutral and starts becoming really having a positive environmental impact (green area on the graph) until it “dies”. Even that does not include the product “after life” when it is being recycled, hopefully “returned to nature” without damage or accumulation in a landfill.
Protei collecting ocean data will not offset it’s own environmental cost easily. What it does, it reduces the environmental cost dramatically in comparison to operating a large fossil fuel-powered oceanographic vessel for the same job. On the other hand, a large Protei unit that performs environmental clean up (plastic debris, oil spill) would offset it’s environmental cost very quickly by capturing trash /pollution / environmental “value” in the ocean that others have produced. I call that “absorbing other companies externalities“, some people use that to get evaluated on the carbon market. We want to partner with companies that have a lot of these externalities, probably through the channel of Corporate Social/Environmental Responsibility, some companies would speak about “Shared Values“.
Why do I mention that in my blog post about Morocco? 2 main reasons :
- I encourage young engineers to think that it is not about minimising the negative environmental impact their technology has ; it is about having a positive impact on the environment. That may mean changing the agenda of the company. Can it be profitable? I think so in many cases. If not short term, that comes across to me as a generally good long-term strategy. What’s also true, is that destroying the base of everything else – the environment – will not permit any of the rest to happen. We need to make these choices.
- In this post I mention OCP. OCP is apparently doing a great job mining phosphate in its own rights, but the fertiliser that gets exported, when used inappropriately by their clients can have heavy implications on the environment, especially the oceans with hypoxia, eutrophication and many other directly or indirectly fertiliser-induced effects on the ocean do occur. We would love to investigate on this topic and perhaps assist OCP improve the after-sale.
We enjoyed Morocco and we’re excited to come back. These days some of the people we talked to are discussing how they could open and manage a hackerspace in Casablanca :) … That’s exciting! Keep going ladies and gentlemen!
Dans le cadre de la série de conférences “45 minutes of Success Story Telling”, la JCI Rabat a le plaisir d’accueillir Mr. Cesar HARADA et Ms. Gabriella LEVINE pour une conférence sous le thème “Success Story of Change Makers”
Cesar Harada est inventeur, Environmentaliste et Entrepreneur Franco-Japonais, il est TED Senior Fellow.
CEO de Protei, César est actuellement en train de developper “Protei” – un navire autonome à voile révolutionnaire, à coque à forme variable.”
Gabriella Levine est américaine, Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master de ITP Tisch de New York, et COO de Protei.
Soyez Parmi nous pour les découvrir et partager leur expérience.
With Gabriella Levine, we had the amazing luck to have Jeff Hoffman who “is a serial entrepreneur in the internet, technology, and entertainment industries. He has founded, co-founded, and been the CEO of numerous start-ups and larger companies, and has led his companies through acquisitions and public offerings (Priceline.com, uBid.com, CTI, and others).” Jeff told us that many people have great ideas, what really makes a difference is the execution, but more precisely the targeting of the customer. Who will buy? At what price? What kind of quantity? When? How? These are critical questions that change over the lifetime of a product and keeps changing as the technology improves, the cost fluctuates depending on the supply – demand balance and the marketing and distribution strategies.
We had for Jeff these 2 main requests :
- Help us narrow down our customer target
- Help us “choreograph” the timing in the pricing and product / technology development
Put the client in the room
Jeff’s first advice was to literally put the client in the room. So we did! We drew a life-size client in the room who would be writing either a bank check (yes!!!) or a “fail” sign (no!!!). Having the client in the room helps you answer these hard questions. The client should be there at every stage of decision. We called our client “William” and quickly we realised that William would not be our (only) client in reality, if our client at all. So… we realised that we would quickly see a “fail” sign if we were not more thoughtful here. So… who is Protei’s client?
Who will buy Protei? At what price? In what kind of quantity? How?
Jeff told us that most entrepreneurs would say that “the entire world would buy their products” (by year 4, more than 50% startups would die btw), but since it is impossible to target the entire world, it is a wise idea to target as precisely as possible to start with. Jeff said “Think big, act small“. The people would buy / use Protei come in many different color sizes and flavours (from left to right) :
- Humanitarian user: someone who’s life depends on the data / clean up work produced by Protei. This user is hard to reach, has very limited resource and needs a very highly performing product. Even if this potential user makes the greatest use of Protei technology we may not be able to serve this user immediately since our technology is so new and untested.
- Kid: Kids are great users, they want a product that is easy and fun to play with, it has to be cheap and robust, plug and play and we can sell in great quantity, but few parents are ready to put a lot of money on expensive toys.
- Hobbyist: Hobbyists are great because they love novelty, they are patient to receive their order they have passed on-line, they tend to be very dedicated to assemble, test, document their activities and give us feedback on-line.
- Hacker / Maker: want a product that is modular and extendable to modify and run their own experiences on the product as platform. They tend to be very good at tinkering and sometimes good at documenting and sharing their improvements with the community.
- Ocean Scientists: are our ultimate target as they are the one that serve the highest goal of Protei that is to explore and protect the ocean. That’s what we want to turn kids, hobbyists and hackers into: active advocates, data-producers and ocean-cleaners. Now Ocean Scientists in academia and institutes generally do not purchase machines and instruments with their own money, they would carve out part of their lab budget to buy Protei. What ocean scientists need is reliability and extendability since often times, the instruments they will put inside will add up to be much more costly than Protei itself. So, interestingly, if ocean scientists may not make the biggest volume of sales, we want their technical needs to drive the evolution of Protei.
- Sailors: We have sailors (of real large boats) but they are falling very much in the hobbyist category when it comes to operate a 1 meter long Protei.
- Industrial: this is where most revenue may come from in the future but currently the technology is not mature enough to market Protei. These guys are willing to put big money for industrial applications but they need industrial 100% reliable results.
- Military: big money surely, but that is not our culture and not what we want Protei to be developed for.
We decided :
- GREEN: Our target for MARKETING = Hobbyist / hacker! This is where the greatest volume of sales can be achieved, determining the packaging, channels of marketing and distribution (mostly on-line distribution).
- RED: Our target for QUALITY = Ocean Scientist! We want Protei to be used for ocean science and collect ocean data, so we need to know more from our “golden user” the ocean scientist that will drive product and technology development.
Product evolvability : in short that means that we will market a product aimed at hobbyists and hackers that would be easily upgradable to be used for ocean science.
Redefine Product with a user-centric lens
Now we know who is our target market (Hobbyist / hacker) we take in consideration what they want in GREEN, they want to have fun:
- 1. Easy to use
- 2. Affordable
Right after which comes the requirments of our quality target (Ocean Scientist) in RED, they want reliability:
- 3. Robust
- 4. Modular, Extendable
so they can install all sorts of ocean sensor on the sailing robot.
This is a user-centric approach that redefines our product agenda and development strategy.
Very different from the engineering, scientific or intuitive / artistic approach we had so far. It was more than time to do this.
We made the assumption that different buyers would buy a device at a very different price (with different features of course) :
- $1 : Humanitarian user (subsidised)
- $250 : kid (parents paying)
- $700 : hobbyist
- $500 : hacker
- $1000 : ocean scientist (using lab budget)
- $700 : Sailor
- $5000 : Foundation
- $7000 : Industrial
Empirical criteria ranked on a scale of /100 :
- Pricing: at which we can sell each machine depending on the client profile (above)
- Promotion: satisfied clients are our best representatives / evangelists. Especially at the beginning, influence might matter more than pricing or even volume of sales.
- Improve and share: Protei is Open Hardware that means that we actually invite people to use (copy), modify and distribute our technology for free. We’re asking in return to be credited but most importantly we’re requiring our community to contribute to improve the technology. So our customers are really our R&D department, we treat them as our most precious collaborators.
- Contribute data sets: We may have few sales to ocean scientists, gathering data, analysing them is going to be what adds the most value to our sailing platform for remote sensing.
- Accessibility: How easy it is for us to reach our clients? That’s totally subjective, that’s our social networks, the people we like to talk to, the people who like us.
- Ease of Production / expectations: Industrial users have extremely high expectation and even if they are willing to pay a high price it will take us a long time to meet their expectation. Kids just want to play, it is much easier to produce for them. Hobbyist / hackers / ocean scientists are the most likely to tinker and to be satisfied with an alpha product.
- Ease of delivery: where are we located? Are there high tax / regulation / compliance on imports in the country for the application envisioned? Is the country we’re trying to work with politically unstable, suffering corruption?
These different factors allow us to carve out the potential each client profile have for us. That’s the yellow line.
Next is to roughly estimate how many Protei boats we can sell to each of these potential client. That’s the red line.
So now we multiply the yellow line by the red line and obtain the sales potential per client profile. That’s not an accurate technique in any way, but that’s fast and easy helping us find out who gains the most value from our product VS what’s the sales opportunity for us.
For Protei at the current stage, the rank for potential revenue from sales would be :
- Industrial: scoring the highest because that’s where we can make the biggest marging, but the technology is not ready for that yet.
- Hobbyist: that’s the immediately most accessible market
- Sailor: same as hobbyist as they are passionate about sailing and willing to invest money in their passion
- Foundation: they would finance buying many units at the same time but they are quite hard to get
- Kids: as we come on the market, we want to build a brand culture that is welcoming for kids but that’s more aimed at ocean scientists
- Ocean Scientist: our favourite user but almost smallest group!
- Hacker: “hyper-technological-human-anomaly”, but oh so valuable ;)
- Humanitarian user: the one that personally needs our technology the most that is also the hardest to get to and serve.
This research is highly valuable since it tells us that extreme users – that we expect to represent a minority of our clients – are the one that are driving technology development even if they rank very low in our sales potential. I think this is not unusual, and crucial for us to aknowledge who are the most valuable (in volume) and/or influential buyers / makers of our products. That also tells us that we need to fight to get to industrial users as fast as possible.
Strategy & Marketing, to reach our goals of sales and cultural growth
Now we know the quality we want to achieve (ocean science), and we know the target client (hobbyist), how are we going to orchestrate our sales?
As our customers are our R&D , our community for a Open Hardware technology, we cannot stress enough how determinant it is for us to be intentional about how we set the right culture (hands-on, hacking for ocean science) around our product depending on who are going to be our first users.
- $1000: Early adopters, setting a culture. Ocean Scientist. We want our first users to be hackers – ocean scientists. They are a minority of power users, that will be our star-testers, tinkering and driving with us the development of this new technology.
- $700: Quality UP, Price DOWN! Hobbyist, sailors. Driven by our small but high-profile community, we can improve the technology and deliver a second generation of machine with many more features as a kit. Basically it would be a version with more sensors, more powerful electromecanics, more processing and communication range etc. As a reminder, even if $700 could sounds like a lot, it would actually be a very good price for a sailing robot that could be made autonomous with a suitable embed intelligence and sensors.
- $500: sustainability and growth. Hackers. $500 retail price is the current average price for a basic 1 meter long RC sailboat. For that price, I believe we should be able to build a very robust sailing robot fully fitted with sensors and an android powered CMU on board. That kind of price and high quality for value should satisfy the greatest volume of customers while being a powerful and extendable platform for science for a while.
- $250: Democratize! Kids. Once our technology has been validated by a small (read manageable) but highly qualified core group that would have contributed design and code improvement, it would be time to broaden the diversity of customers. We should open to a large volume of sales also after we have built a robust and scalable data infrastructure to welcome. The dream is ”Science instrument at the cost of toy!”.
- Kits: customise your product. As an Open hardware company, we pride ourselves to be transparent and offer our clients to buy the parts they want and assemble the boat they dream of. From travelling around the world and talking to potential clients, it became very clear that Protei would be one product in our catalog and that even the internal components of Protei could be used for many other sailing robots designs. At this point we will diversify our offer and empower the community of makers that want to explore and protect the oceans like we do.
From making this one day research we learnt enormously about our sales strategy, and how we intend to building our community and culture around products that they would love and invest in. Thanks a lot Jeff Hoffman for this great lesson!
Protei is coming to Morocco !!!
With a Massive Hackathon !!!!
It will take place Saturday April 20th all day, we are looking for a location – so apologies for the french – english mix below.
Protei in partnership with SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace / Thalassa / Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship – Moroccan CISE
Venez fabriquer des robots a voile basés sur micro-controller Arduino, Raspberry π, servo-motors, DC moteur et autre senseurs pendant une journée inoubliable d’électromécanique, de code, de test dans l’eau, de rencontres. Nous fabriquerons des coques de bateau, des mats, des voiles, des boitiers de contrôle mécanique, assemblerons des circuits électroniques, programmerons, testerons nos machines sur l’eau, partagerons sur les réseaux sociaux. Nous discuterons aussi les principes du mouvement DIY et Open Hardware (technologie libre et gratuite).
Protei est un navire autonome Open Source a coque articulé developé pour explorer et nettoyer les océans. Les océans souffrent de marées noires, de pollution plastique, fuites radioactives, surpêche, mort des récifs coralliens, changement climatique, montée du niveau de la mer. Nous devons developer ensemble des technologies àtants la hauteur de ces défis.
Le hackathon est ouvert aux experts comme au débutants sera facilité par :
- Cesar HARADA (France-Japon): Inventeur du system Protei de bateau à coque articulé, Ancien Project Leader au MIT, TED Fellow.
- Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master de ITP Tisch de New York.
- El Wali El Alaoui (Marocco): Fondateur de SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, premier hackerspace au Maroc.
Come for a 1-day intense hands-on workshop we will build remote-controlled sailing robot based on arduino microcontroller, raspberry π, servo-motors, DC geared motors, and the available parts. We will build boat hulls, mast, rudders, sew sails, assemble electronics, write code, build circuits, test-sail our boats the water, and document it online. While doing so, we will also discuss some of the concepts of DIY & open hardware movement.
Protei is an Open Hardware Shape Shifting Sailing Robot to explore and clean the oceans. In order to address the scale and complexity of the issues in the ocean – Oil Spills, Plastic pollution, radioactivity, overfishing, Coral reef mapping, red tides and climate change- we must develop scalable, hence, Open technologies.
The hands-on workshop open to experts and beginners will be facilitated by :
- Cesar HARADA (France-Japan): Inventor of the Protei Shape-shifting system, Ex MIT Project leader, TED Fellow.
- Gabriella LEVINE (USA) : Hardware Designer & Hacker, Top women in Tech (Adafruit), Master from ITP Tisch New York
- El Wali El Alaoui (Marocco): Founder of SaharaLabs / Tarfaya Hackerspace, first hackerspace in Morocco.
- pour 50 personnes, tables, chaises
- proximité de l’eau (lac, grande piscine, mer)
- electricité, Internet
- capacité de faire de la poussiere et travailler tard le soir
Vous connaissez un tel endroit?