Friday, August 13, 2010

Peter Speaks at Stanford d.School

Yesterday, Peter spoke to a small group at the Stanford Design School’s weekly Brown Bag lunches. The program, designed for the Social E Lab’s summer residents, brings in established Social Entrepreneurs to share their knowledge and experiences with the next generation of product designers. The informal sessions are a great way for us to share Driptech’s mission with others, as well as practicing the ol’ presentation skills.

Peter in full presentation mode

The small group setting of the event allowed for a more intimate interaction and greater flexibility of discussion. Peter spoke to the group for about 15 minutes, before opening up the floor to an extended Q&A session. He fielded questions about all aspects of running a social business, from specifics about affording the Dripech system to his favorite and least favorite things about working overseas.

The depth of the questions asked and the two-way flow of ideas and information were particularly striking. While the group was small, they asked an astounding number of questions, and many of them had to do with the business side of the operation. There was clearly an abundance of revolutionary ideas and talent in the audience that simply lacked the business guidance or leadership to be implemented successfully: if social entrepreneurship is to fulfill its potential for positive impact, the challenge is to find ways to connect these ideas with leadership and business acumen. Simultaneously, while the group did have a number of questions about the business side of social entrepreneurship, the event was by no means one sided. The audience contributed their own helpful knowledge from outside the field of drip irrigation. For example, one audience member suggested looking into a water purification company that was implementing a Distributed manufacturing model similar to what we hope to use eventually.

They also suggested we get these chairs. If they are actually chairs

As Driptech becomes commercially viable, it is good to see that we are not resting on our laurels, and instead are always on the lookout for new ideas.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Adventures of an Intern in Beijing

In Which the Intern Recounts the Quest for the Plastic Packaging Bags

We have had our eyes on a certain bag for packaging our systems in Beijing. In China, it seems that half the travelers at the train station own this type of bag, yet do not recall where they purchased it. I know this because I have enthusiastically asked half the travelers at the train station. This is a bag that an average person has lying around the house, not a bag that an average person goes shopping for.

With my host family’s guidance, I found myself this morning at the biggest department store I have ever seen: Jin Wu Xing, or Golden Five Star. Think Home Depot, Costco, and Wal-Mart rolled into one. A store filled with things that average people have lying around the house, as well as a million other things they don’t. The character at the end of the sign? That literally means “city.” If this store didn’t have the bag I was looking for, no place would.

I passed building materials and the furniture department before I finally got to the office supplies section. Rows and rows of stalls seemed to stretch into infinity.

I did find my elusive plastic bag. But it was hard not to walk aimlessly around in circles. I was almost lured in by the flashing orbs and party crackers at these stands in particular.

I found the door before I made any regrettable purchases for the office.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Tubing Arrives

After weeks of planning, organization, international phone calls, customs payments, late nights, early mornings, and lots of waiting, the moment is finally upon us: the 1 ton of plastic tubing ordered from China in early July has, at long last, arrived.

The arrival of the tubing sparks a swift transition of pressure in the office. For the last few weeks, Jean, our director of business operations, has tackled the problems associated with shipping a ton of plastic from China and hoping nothing unexpected transpired. With the tubing here, however, Jean can once again resume breathing while the engineering team takes over. They have the monumental task of punching all 1000 kilograms of tubing by the end of the month so it can be shipped to small farmers.

Jean is excited to see the tubing arrive...

...while Trevor, not so much

The engineers are very confident of their ability to meet the challenge, however, and rightly so: while the tubing has been in transit, the team has been ramping up our production capabilities, testing and recalibrating the manufacturing machines, finalizing production shifts, and mentally preparing themselves for the task ahead.

Trust us, there’s plenty to do

The tubing arrival marks an important step in Driptech’s history as we attempt to fill our first large order under the pressure of a deadline. As you read this, production is already underway, and we all hope for the best.

Danny, our returning mechanical engineering intern from last year, recently attended the Clean Tech Open in San Jose, where he was interviewed by Colleen Edwards of “The Real Story” blog. You can check out the interview at

Additionally, we’re all very proud of the work that we do at Driptech every day, but some achievements are more impressive-looking than others. Brett recently finished one such project: the size alone makes it worth seeing.

For context, that black pipe at the end of the track is 10 feet tall