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.