I have a few exciting milestones I want to share regarding my business and my career. First, Colborne, having just completed our second successful Kickstarter and nearing our third, has been accepted into the Fashion Zone at the DMZ. Secondly, in September I will be acting on a long-standing passion for renewable energy and joining the investments team at AMP Solar, a leading Canadian developer and owner of solar installations internationally.
I’ll go into more details about plans for both below — so if you’re interested, read on (6 min. read; or have Siri “Speak Screen” to you to passively read it)!
Colborne now has two successful Kickstarter’s under its belt, and continues to actively sell the Colborne Bota on our new online store (here). Colborne is primarily a design brand that creates innovative food & drink bags and accessories. Both the Colborne Bag and Bota fit that focus closely.
Myself and Dan Cristea, our lead designer have spent the past year designing and prototyping an improved Colborne Bag. We’ve had great feedback from the field of our 200+ CBag users. The new bag will be true to the idea of a stylish + functional lunch bag (still doesn’t really exist in the market), but will improve on the first bag by providing far more flexibility in its capacity for storage, integrated pockets to bring your EDC essentials (it replaced my briefcase when I started using it since I usually leave my laptop at work), better insulation & integrated ice pack cooling options, easier for cleaning, etc.
Generally the process for creating a new product from square one goes as follows:
Concept → Design → Domestic Prototyping → Manufacturer Search → Materials & Manufacturer Sampling → Product Launch → Materials Sourcing & Manufacturing → Shipping
We have spent a good deal of time working with a sourcing & manufacturing agent in Hong Kong to find and produce samples with a suitable Asian manufacturer, which will allow us to re-launch the product and quickly hit scale online and with retailers. This process has been slower than we’d hoped. The important thing I’ve learned time and again in this industry is, once you have your team in-place (design, prototyping, suppliers, manufacturers, shipping, etc.) things move very quickly. Today we had a chance to open a package with our second and third samples from our factory, and things are looking great. Getting confident with a sample, and thus a factory, means we can get back into Kickstarter mode and begin preparing to launch the new version of the bag! So many people have asked when a new bag was coming, so this is very exciting for us at Colborne to be making this progress!
This August we were accepted to the best (and only…) fashion startup incubator in Canada, the Fashion Zone, which is affiliated with the DMZ and Ryerson University. The FZ also works with the Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion Innovation, also out of the DMZ. This move puts us in the heart of the Ryerson community of students, grads, and mentors who are uniquely skilled in fashion design and communications (the two things that really matter for our company). We have some great peers in the FZ and are collaborating and sharing skills, resources and experience everyday.
The largest challenge threatening stability of our societies (and even our species) is climate change. It would also be a stinking legacy for us to leave such a beautiful planet with. This dynamic challenge has interested me since High School because 1) I really enjoy being outdoors and appreciating natural beauty 2) there is perhaps no more exciting and dynamic issue to learn about in history, given the big scientific, technological, economic, political, social things that need to happen for us to curb such a challenge. I’m uniquely interested in energy, and the role it plays in this dynamic; every political, social, economic, environmental issue humans deal with can be traced back to energy to a large extent. It’s one of the reasons I got into the infrastructure industry, and helped author the Canadian Solar Industry Association’s Roadmap 2020.
Communications were largely centralized up until the early 2000's. Information was stored and disseminated from bureaucratic and static sources such as books, schools, libraries, etc. Phones were hooked up to land lines. We sent mail… Now everything is networked and distributed, that is, each individual has the ability to extract and contribute to a network of communication and information. The benefits are obvious.
Energy will go the same direction, and solar (+ storage) will be the primary node that individuals use to access and contribute to the energy network (Tesla knows this obviously). We may have developments in base load energy technologies like next-gen nuclear fission or even fusion, but solar is still the most “disruptive” distributed energy source. Many developing countries have already skipped the centralized communications, banking, and energy infrastructure entirely and gone straight to mobile internet, mobile payments, and solar energy. Benefits include individual control of costs and responsibility for consumption levels, national defence (less need to import oil from rivals, less susceptibility to having your grid hacked and shut down by cyberterrorists), ability to democratize energy access, and of course among many others reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
So I’m clearly pretty excited about participating in, and helping speed up the transition to a sustainable energy economy. Solar has seen recently a global CAGR near 50%, with growth expected to sustain ~13% through 2025 (ref: Cleantechnica), while coal does around 3%, and in the U.S. is seldom added to the grid in recent years, and is often being retired (ref: EIA). Even the boring old white guys (BOWG’s) at insurance Co.’s, pension funds, and endowments or trusts are divesting from fossil fuels given their long-term investment horizon and consequential fear of stranded assets and shifting consumer and policy choices (Google “institutional investors and fossil fuel divestment”).
AMP Solar is one of the leading solar developers based in Canada, having grown up in the Ontario FIT rush, and now wisely expanded beyond Canada to growth markets such as the U.S., Japan*, and India (ref: The Star). Japan installed the second most solar in 2015, behind China with 11GW (cumulative 34.4GW), followed by the U.S. with 7.3 GW (cumulative 25.6GW); India installed 2GW (cumulative ~5GW). This success in global growth markets and also growth asset classes is what really drew me to AMP (and they’re in Canada…). AMP could double their 420MW installed capacity with their shovel-ready sites, and exceed well beyond that depending on the installation rate of their 1.6GW pipeline (public info on their website). So there will be some busy and exciting years ahead.
*Japan has got to be one of the most interesting energy markets in the world right now. Being a tiny (364k sqkm — 62nd largest in the world) island with a massive (US$4.1 trillion 2015 — 5th largest in the world) and extremely energy intensive economy (921 bn kWh consumed — 5th largest in the world), that is committed to avoiding nuclear energy, and is not connected by land to any major electricity exporting nation, it has a very unique challenge in achieving power density and economics. The government has invested heavily in FIT programs there, and exciting growth continues in the country.
Why I wrote this article is because I want to 1) get back into the habit of writing and speaking to an audience regularly (thanks for reading) 2) because I’m really pumped about Colborne & AMP and wanted to share what I’m up to.
In other news I’m really excited to be speaking on a panel for the Hamilton FUSE at their The Healthy City event at the Hamilton Art Gallery. Hamilton is a great city that I think is poised for a renaissance, and I will likely be releasing another article here detailing a long-form version of the thoughts I’ll be sharing at the panel sometime in September. FUSE and other great organizations are doing really exciting work in the city!
In other other news, I’ve been working on a side-side project to create a clean technology software/application, which is an entirely new learning experience; hope to have more news to share on that in the coming year.
If you made it this far, thank you very much for reading!
“Consistency is the playground of dull minds.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind