1 month, 4 locations, 5 different partners, unlimited potential: delivering a decentralised project for a clean energy future
The great thing about blockchain-based projects is that they have a magnetic attraction that draws in people who are aligned in their values. In our case, to be people and planet-centric. This was perfectly reflected in our experience collaborating with SOLshare, Freeelio, GIZ & Innogy over the past month. Video calls over time zones, smart contract coding across continents, and understanding the importance of micro-energy payments between rural Bangladesh and central Germany. We were fascinated. But the person who can tell it best is our CTO, Simon Wilson. Here’s his exploration of how, together, we developed a sprint platform project with less than a month to deliver, and teams distributed across four different continents to help bring clean energy to Bangladesh:
Decentralisation is foundational to blockchain technical solutions, however it is also increasingly part of how we all work. Decentralised, but aligned in our principles and actions to deliver on a cause we believe in: using the blockchain to bring clean energy to the world.
This month we contributed critical blockchain infrastructure and a Ui to deliver a demonstration of a unique and powerful energy donation concept at the Free Electrons global energy accelerator module in San Francisco. The application uses the power of blockchain to enable solar panel owners in one location (Germany in this case) to donate surplus electricity they produce to remote villages, communities and specific users in Bangladesh. SOLshare, an award winning enterprise bringing solar power and microgrids to Bangladesh, is part of Free Electrons, the globally leading clean energy accelerator. Managing Director, Dr Sebastian Groh, presented this demo to a room of Silicon Valley’s best, just hours after our teams collectively delivered the solution.
For us, this has been an exciting project with potentially huge implications to help connect and provide consistent stable power to the 1.2 billion people without it.
We were delighted to be a part of this project which aligns perfectly to the RedGrid mantra and objective: ‘enhancing the human elemental experience’. But as exciting as it was, perhaps one of the best parts about it was the actual process of how the collaboration and project all came together.
To understand this, let’s rewind four weeks to how it all began.
It started with a chance meeting between our CEO Dr Adam Bumpus & Dr Sebastian Groh from SOLshare in Sydney, and a brief discussion about how our businesses objectives aligned, and possibility of a collaboration. What exactly that collaboration might entail was undefined at the time and neither of the teams had been introduced.
On a late afternoon for us, and an early morning for the other teams, RedGrid, SOLshare and another SOLshare partner Freeelio all met on a call. Participants on that call were dispersed between Germany, Australia, Bangladesh & Belgium. During our conversation we explored potential opportunities for collaboration, and Sebastian mentioned that he would love to be able to show a prototype demonstration of SOLshares’s SOLidarity token donation model at Free Electrons, as well as a pitch deck outlining the concept.
We couldn’t have been more excited by this, as we saw it as a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our blockchain capabilities in the energy space. So together, on the call, we all dived in and committed to make it happen!
This was a pretty bold commitment; the pilot and demo would need to be delivered in San Francisco in exactly 29 days.
To deliver the outcome our team of distributed individuals and businesses would need to;
- Pull together the user stories and features we wished to convey.
- Create the end-to-end solution and working pilot.
- Ensure that we had considered all contingencies to account for tech or logistical issues in delivery, as Sebastian was the only one heading to San Francisco to deliver the pitch
- And we would have to do all of the above in a project that coordinated the efforts of 4 companies, 10 individuals, dispersed across 3 different continents.
To make matters more challenging, our core contributors also had travel commitments so they would be moving around for the 2 weeks prior to delivery; Sebastian travelling through 3 countries, Adam travelling between Australia and Hawaii to speak at the VERGE Hawaii conference on clean energy innovation, and myself splitting time between Melbourne and Singapore. Add to this, our deadline included a week of Ramadan so business in Bangladesh was more or less closed.
It was going to be a sprint in every sense of the word.
Timing was never great given the distribution but we made it work with lots of late night Zoom calls and Google Hangouts, with all hands on deck, working around the clock (literally). We had several of these particularly in the beginning so we could get the users stories complete as quickly as possible, and jump into building the actual demo.
Our teams achieved great synergy as I coded up the front end interface and worked with the SOLshare team on user stories, whilst Sebnem, the founder of Freeelio, prepared the presentation material for the specifics of the imagined solution. The rest of the teams supported the project by helping us formulate user stories, work through ideas, and make sure we were delivering on time and to the right audience. This segmented approach allowed everyone to work to their strengths, however it also meant that it was far more challenging to ensure that every aspect of the demo and presentation clicked together. This caused us to have to regroup, and adjust the media content, features and workflow multiple times.
When we embarked on this project, I anticipated the hardest part would be the actual build itself. But interestingly, as challenging as this was, this wasn’t the most difficult part. What proved to be most difficult, was getting the narrated demo of the platform under 1 minute. My first try of the recording went for 5 minutes. With some rescripting and multiple more attempts I managed to cut it down significantly.
Overall this project to me highlights one of the most interesting and powerful attributes of working in a blockchain-based startup, and that is just like the technology, the community and projects are distributed and global.
This creates logistical challenges all of which we faced here, but means that businesses and individuals collaborating are theme and principle aligned, and typically much more passionate about the outcome than a traditional brick and mortar business.
Even at the event, a decentralised presentation was delivered in that it was being presented by Sebastian, a German living in Bangladesh, to an audience in San Francisco comprising investors from all around the world, with the voice of RedGrid and Freeelio based in Melbourne and Germany.
Overall the delivery was a success with the SOLshare team attracting investment to further develop the donation token concept, and clearly capturing the interest of the FE community.
Decentralised projects are no doubt a challenge but thoroughly worth the effort as we believe they present the opportunities for new business models that will increasingly take the place of our currently centralised paradigms. Yes we will meet in person, and we will form closer human connections, but we will be enabled through technology.
The core technology at the centre of this connection is the blockchain. We have all worked across timezones and continents, but it is the capabilities of the blockchain to this cause that inherently inspires and attracts global collaboration with individuals, who are aligned on mission, principles, and some crazy rapid productivity.
To hear more, join us on our journey and follow us at:
Medium, Twitter, Instagram - @RedGrid_io