Ample Update #2
The time has come for Ample’s second community update. In contrast with the initial development period, where we coordinated multiple teams of contractors to build the foundation of our system, this current period has been focused on fixing all their bugs! and finding the right person to join the team full-time. Apart from this, we were accepted into an incubator where we have been receiving a crash course in running a startup, in particular running the startup in a Lean way.
This has led to some changes in strategy and we are much more focused now on customer and business development rather than technical development. What’s the point in building all those features if noone wants them, right? On this point, if you are working in a startup I highly recommend reading the Lean Startup by Eric Ries. You are likely killing your company by not doing it.
It’s is our current goal to engage in 3-4 months of customer-centered development (a.k.a. Customer Development) This, of course, necessitates having customers. We are aiming to release two basic forms of the app-meter system and start selling to early adopters in the next six weeks.
After speaking with numerous investors and local businesses, we have noticed that there is a demand for energy management systems in the city. On top of this, our technology stack is much more innovative and cost-effective than any of the competition we have seen. We were approached completely unsolicited by a local restauranteur who owns multiple premises and also by a local hospital asking if we could help them reduce energy consumption in their businesses. Installing in businesses gives us the credibility we need to tackle the larger goals and also helps us build the relationships that we will need get our tokens accepted in the city. Since it requires only minor adjustments to our current setup, we are making the adjustments and will start selling to a few early adopters as soon as possible.
The early consumer version of the Ample app will show only aggregate energy consumption. We will push new features in regular, small batches, observe key metrics and improve each time. The blockchain cap and trade system is one of these features, but not the primary one. Giving meaningful incentives is dependent on identifying key behaviors which is dependent on having quality data. So our priorities are in this order: data > behaviors > incentives. As the lower dependencies mature we can move up the order.
Working with contractors made sense for the initial push, to get all the foundation blocks in place quickly. Going into customer development requires a full-time and talented team. It’s the worst time of year for hiring in China because bonus season is right around the corner. In spite of this, we have finally added a Full Stack IoT Developer to our team just this week. Philip is the first person in Ample to receive a full salary and I am extremely excited to have found and persuaded him to join our team. He has a history of working with startups and has experience working on everything from designing physical circuits to developing for android and IOS. He’s perfect.
We have been more focused in communities of impact investors and environmental activists as these are where we expect to find our early adopters and strategic partners. The goal at this point is improving relationships and maintaining a presence in the local communities. This looks like informal business meetings and coffee rather than community events or evening meetups.
While the period summarized by the first update was an extremely positive and productive period, the past few months have been spent in the trenches, repaying technical debt and dealing with contractors not keeping up with their promises. I don’t mind saying it because this is the reality for all startups, whether they say it or don’t. Sometimes things don’t go great.
In any case, we’re through it now. We have completed all necessary rework and the meters are very nearly integrated with the app along with some pretty cool UX features that speed up the setup process. There have been some issues with the data quality (part of the technical debt) which has held up the data collection for training the machine learning algo’s but we hope that we’re down to the last few bugs on that side.
In general, we do not want to develop anything new until we have the ability to push it straight to a customer and get their feedback on it. To be clear, it’s not because we are short of money (we are not), we’re just working smarter. With Philip joining the team, we should get everything tidied up and in customers’ hands within the next few weeks. The technical development section of the next community update should be much more interesting.
This concludes Ample second development update. Feel free to reach out to us if you want to know more, talk business or to get your hands on some of our limited first batch of smarter smart meters.