Some things I'm working on - Monday April 13th 2020
Howdy folks, about time for me to knock the cobwebs off of this blog. Here are a few things I've been working on lately that you may be interested in. Or, you may just want to find out why the featured image is an aardvark.
1: Non-alcoholic Beer - Growing Point 5's online sales.
Some background: As you may know, Point 5 is a non-alcoholic beer brand that the Sandymount team launched recently (I'm just finishing off my second bottle for tonight right now). While it's been a hard time with COVID for most businesses, beverage sales is one area that has been holding up strong - with people keeping well hydrated or entertained at home. A lot of big companies are reducing their marketing spending to save on cash, so the price of online advertising has gone down (apparently, I'm just learning about this). This means it's a good time to get some online advertising going for Point 5 on Facebook and Instagram - so I've been learning how that all works.
Where I need help: I'm an engineer and so are the folks at Sandymount, so we're fairly grand in terms of figuring out production. We've also now got a handle on distribution and fulfillment. With a bit of help from some friends and connections, I think we're starting to figure out the digital marketing as well. The main challenge for me right now is finding someone that will - over time - run the Point 5 business as a GM. It's a new and growing market - the non-alcoholic beer - so if you're entrepreneurial (and especially if I already know you!) give me a shout to chat some more.
2. COVID-19 Stuff:
As you might have seen on social media I've been in and out (and in again) on pulling together some hand sanitizer production. Just as the project got shut down, Anton Hunt - a friend of mine from days at MIT - pulled it out of the grave by finding a distribution partner. We (a few engineering friends) are just producing the first bottles right now, so stay tuned for some updates (website here). In some more detail, here are a few things I've been thinking about on this front:
1. Moisturizer hand sanitizer. If anyone has good ideas for simple recipes that sanitize and also moisturize (I'm getting soft), that would be of interest. It's easier said than done because when you change the recipe then you have to get approval from the FDA. Still, worth thinking about because the hand sanitizer market has probably increased not just in the short term but also as a medium term trend that will continue.
2. Other stuff to start supplying. One area to think about is simple masks because people are probably going to wear masks a lot more in the near and medium-term future. When I needed one, I looked on Amazon but it's hard to find a comfortable one with good ratings. My aunt was telling me yesterday that Etsy was a decent source for handmade ones. Here is a simple open source design, albeit one that makes you look like an aardvark (shared with me by Anton - the design, not the aardvark). Let me know if there are other designs to consider (I think the key things to optimise for near term are comfort and high throughput manufacturing).
3. Random - Desalination on a Big Massive Barge:
One of the biggest costs of doing seawater desalination in countries like the US is planning permission. Projects can take ten years to get approval and can take many turns and redesigns along the way - all adding to cost. Why? To desalinate water you need to build large pipes to pull water in from the sea to your system. The system then turns that water into roughly half pure water and roughly half concentrated salt water (at roughly twice the concentration of the sea). That concentrated salt water then needs to be piped back out to sea and dispersed/diluted. All of this pipework, and also care to avoid sucking in fish, or gushing out the salt water on sensitive habitats, takes time and planning. Time is money and this tends to be a huge driver in the final cost of desalinated water.
Anyway, one option here is to build a barge at sea that has a desalination plant on it. You can read more about a concept from Mobile Offshore Desalination here. Good idea, I think! You put the barge a few kilometers out at sea and you pipe the water in - and hopefully save spondulix on planning permission and save a lot of time on getting a new water supply operational.
I've heard of a few companies working to put this kind of project together in the past. So, what's the problem? The problem is not technical, I think - with the right people, you can build the barge with pretty low risk. The problem is that you have to find a buyer - either someone to commit to buy the water, or someone to pay for the whole thing. It's the perfect kind of thing people/governments would like to have right when they need it, but generally won't want to or be able to commit to in advance (without some long tendering process).
I've only started learning about this, so I might be missing something major. Still, it seems worth it for me to explore a bit more because offshore desalination does seem to have environmental and cost benefits over the usual gig on land.
Areas where you could help:
If you're in government/organisation and are looking at a long term water supply option bigger than 100,000 m3/day.
If you are a big company with coastal operations that needs to secure a future water supply.
If you bought bitcoin ten years ago and want to turn it into a physical asset that can water the earth.
Let me know and we'll see where it goes.