Today we bring you an in-depth look at team BioGaurdApp from our APC Boot Camp and the story behind their fish tank monitoring system they built using APC. Team leader Roger Do has shared where the inspiration for the product came from as well as a look at how the team worked to fulfill their vision. Roger has also been kind enough to share some advice for other entrepreneurs based on his own experience of working through the development process. Enjoy!
The BioGuardApps Story: How a Dead Fish, APC, and Taiwanese Ingenuity Created a Business
When you attend a Startup Weekend event, you are expected to brainstorm ideas, create a team, validate a business model, and then pitch it to people with money over the course of 54 hours. These events are designed as intense sessions to guide participants through the challenges of creating a business. Seldom would the organizers believe that besides providing the opportunity for like-minded people to come together and have some fun would they also make someone’s dreams come true or help someone make up for past mistakes.
Team BGA giving their pitch @ APC Boot Camp weekend
The APC Boot Camp and 3D Printing Jam event, sponsored by VIA and hosted by Yushan Ventures, challenged participants to create businesses focused on new connected devices. We were given an APC as a development platform and the use of 3D printing technology to prototype case designs with. This attracted an interesting mix of designers, business minds and hardware hackers. Normally when you put an artist and engineer together it is like expecting oil and water to mix, however with just the right amount of stirring we were able to pull it off!
The event began with open group brainstorming, from which we had several ideas to select from. The idea my group formed around was an intelligent aquarium. Our hardware genius Danny (aged 15.7 years to be exact) chose the project because when he was young, his pet goldfish had died due to neglect and he still felt deeply that it was his fault. He told us about how he felt when he had to flush the fish down the toilet, and that became the driving force behind our challenge of how to be reminded to take care of our pets and have a way to do so from anywhere in the world.
Danny and Sean installing APC and components
For the next two months, we worked on creating the system that would make Danny feel comfortable owning fish again. We had significant help from the folks at VIA, including numerous meetings with many of their top people, including unrestricted access to their engineers, programmers and thought leaders. They took the time to walk us through how to integrate sensors and other peripherals through the use of the on-board GPIO and pin headers, and did not restrict help to their own technology. They even spent time teaching us how to place the internal components to minimize heat and interference issues.
While we were integrating the hardware, we worked with Volker Heistermann of Yushan Ventures Capital to develop our business and marketing strategies (also guided by VIA's VP of Marketing, Richard Brown.)
After about three months, we have a business plan, a working product, and I'm happy to report zero dead fish.
BGA's Fish Tank Monitoring System @ Maker Faire Taipei 2013
Just a few quick thoughts on our adventure so far
1. Convincing someone to help you achieve your dreams is easier than trying to sell someone something people they don’t necessarily want. By helping Danny reach a catharsis through our product, we were focused on the outcome, powered by passion, and knew when we reached success (after all, we can now feed the fish in Taiwan from anywhere in the world, WiFi connection permitting).
2. Once you have a dream, it's easier to let other people focus their attention on helping you to solve your challenges. VIA's engineers got very involved in our project and aided in brainstorming solutions to the various technical hurdles and even design issues. I think asking people for solutions is of limited value, however when you include them in your dream and the challenges you face the quality of ideas they share will be of a much greater value as they are become much more committed to your success. Some of the improvements VIA's engineers suggested to us, we hadn't even conceived of as a problem. Sometimes a question can focus a person's imagination and other times it limits it.
3. Have good partners. We were fortunate to have VIA and Yushan as our partners in this endeavor. We were able to speed through our market validation and product development cycles because they were there to assist us in removing obstacles or telling us some of the assumed obstacles didn't really exist at all. Sometimes when you think you are being a thorough planner, you're just finding excuses not to try.
Entrepreneurship is about solving problems, then creating a company that can solve that problem for the longest time. We got started because of Danny's dream of owning fish and being able to keep them alive no matter how busy he was. We will continue because there are many other people with the same wish.
About Roger, BGA Team Leader
Roger Do is a classical trained chef who has taken a detour through Berkeley's philosophy program and received an MBA as an appetizer before resuming his 20 plus years of business consulting and entrepreneurship. He dislikes cooking seafood, and that has inspired him to be part of BGA to keep fish alive. Roger manages BGA’s business, development, sales and marketing, and he is also the team's coder.