Binit prototype goes live in Austin
Austin is a city built and nurtured on exceptions, in every way. From when I first step foot into this Texas town, back in 2015, to today, when we launched our domestic waste tracker prototype, the city has intrigued me. Sure, Austin has grown, transformed, but in so many ways, it has stayed the same: open, curious, a city embracing new ideas and change. There is no doubt in my mind that launching Binit in Austin was the correct decision, which I suspect, will play a transformative role for our young company.
Here’s the latest from Binit. Back in December we were knees deep in fundraising, networking at the Slush conference in Finland, trying to get our R&D funding to build our device. To no avail. It’s no secret or shame to openly share our misfortune, from 22 plus meetings, we closed zero. We did hear a lot of good idea guys, good luck and sorry we don’t do hardware, but one meeting struck a cord with us. The advice was: you’re doing it all wrong. You have the corporate mindset and mentality. You want to impose a solution in hope the market will buy it. “Wrong, wrong, wrong way of going about it,” the man said.
And while it stung, it was spot on. We were upside-down. But that’s part of the learning process. Sometimes, many times, we find ourselves upside-down. What’s important, critical in fact, is to quickly correct course, and plow into uncharted waters, even if it means swimming without a lifejacket for a while. A long while.
When we came to Slush we had an idea, we had a visual presentation of what our utopian world of tracking domestic waste could look like — from cad drawings of our smart bin device, to wire frame app. We had research, tones of market research, from how humans feel about trash to how we respond to tracking our own behavior. Fitbit, Oura, and Nest were our north stars. But we didn’t have any real customer engagement feedback, and no customer acquisition stats. No physical device to speak of.
And yet, we are a B2C hardware company. Yes, hardware is at the core of what we do. We build trackers to help you, households, better understand what you waste, and how you waste.
Our bet is that by getting you to a better understanding what you are doing, you will begin to change your behavior in alignment with your aspirational self. This is not terribly hard to grasp, nor is the relationship between tracking behavior and improving behavior something we invented. We are borrowing concepts and human code from behavioral science, which has identified and defined the nature of human aspiration, the burden of cognitive dissonance, and the human desire to improve on personal performance. We believe in the power of data helping people make better choices, also when it comes to waste.
And that’s what we are now testing in Austin. In the last two months we managed to build a fully fledged prototype domestic waste tracker, which continuously captures and stores weight signal. The device has an indigenous load cell, a micro-chip, a microprocessors and a mini computer, all installed on acrylic plates. It sit at the bottom of the bin, capturing daily the amount of trash each of the 13 pilot households produces.
To make the test count and help us prove our hypothesis, we broke it into three phases. In the first phase we are capturing blind data without any feedback given to the customers. In phase two, we will be installing a display unit into the bin, which will give the customer in-real-time feedback about what they are wasting. If the science is correct, we should already start to see incremental improvements — waste quantity reductions across our 13 households during this phase — as customers start to process and understand the quantitative impact of their consumer choices. And in phase three, each household will partake in rudimentary gamification, where we will introduce the notion of community average waste, and compare each household, no longer just against time, but now against the larger community. During this phase we are introducing competition and tacitly inviting our customers to be the best in class. In essence, we are asking them to compete against their neighbors. We know this works on other platforms like Strava.
This is an extremely exciting phase for Binit, as we are now testing in real time and in real life, what we have come to believe over the course of two years of research and analysis to be true, that measuring waste can help households reduce it.
There it is, our busy winter. Binit is on a roll, and we are excited for the next stage of our company’s development. I should also mention that none of this would have been possible without the talented and amazing help we got from our new computer science DVT engineer, Neri Osmanovic, who not only is a top notch data and hardware geek, but a golden ear, a rock star and lead guitarist in KevBev, a hip local Austin band. If you haven’t come across them yet, do check them out. A musical odyssey awaits, guaranteed.
Binit, make less waste.