Boulder certainly has a unique startup ecosystem, and at Hygge Power, we are proud to play our part in helping it become the incredible community it has blossomed into today.
In celebration of this awesome community, Boulder Startup Week (BSW) recently provided all walks of the local startup world with an event-filled five-day week, including late-May hail! The week-long event typically draws a 10,000-person crowd and is spread across multiple venues in Boulder, featuring 1,000 speakers and 350 different events — all free and open to the public. Celebrating its 10th year, BSW’s goal is to bring the community together in an inclusive, educational and engaging way, celebrating entrepreneurship and the process of imagining and breathing life into exciting, valuable and successful companies that truly make a difference in the world.
The Power of the People When Talking Products
Our chief product officer, Max Lewin, participated in a pair of sessions as a speaker on the various panels. The first panel, “From Cardboard and Glue to a Snappy Prototype,” emphasized early user testing and an iterative feedback loop to dial in the product as quickly as possible. Max joined speakers from Sphero and other organizations to share stories about how they used various random items — from LEGOs to cardboard and pipe cleaners — to create a rapid prototype and ultimately get their products off the ground.
During the first panel, Max enjoyed listening to Steven Dourmashkin’s incredible journey on the path to creating Specdrums, which are app-connected rings that turn the world's colors into a personal sound machine, before ultimately being acquired by Sphero.
“He started from a breadboard that someone wanted him to make into a wearable device, then moved into black-and-white detection before finally advancing to the excitement offered by different colors when a user wanted to bang on some, well, colors. It was all very consumer demand driven — friends and sometimes even strangers finding out about this interesting toy and wanting to try it.”
The notion that user feedback is vital to a modern product was cemented throughout Hygge Power’s UX lead Ashton Smith’s BSW experience. But Ashton’s expertise in creating user experiences revealed an insightful takeaway.
“Tech products have always been spoken about in terms of influencing people's emotions, moods, behaviors, etc., but now that we have AI and a plethora of IoT sensors, the devices that we choose to have around can be influenced by us! Products can be optimized to work better for us by behaving differently based on our different emotions.”
And that’s exactly the experience we’re cultivating with our OPO line of products — own your power. We want consumers to be in charge of their power and have peace of mind about the power they are consuming because they’re able to leverage OPO’s smart capabilities and Wi-Fi connectivity to easily do more with their outlet — based on how they feel and what’s most important to them.
Complications Surrounding Connected Hardware
As a company developing connected smart power storage devices, conversations surrounding connected hardware devices caught our attention — and a lot of the chatter centered around how complex the space can be. During the second panel that Max was a part of, “Navigating the IoT Ecosystem with Solderworks,” he highlighted some of the early challenges we face at Hygge Power, discussing the tools available to us throughout our development lifecycle as well as how much further along the product might have been had the team known about certain tools earlier.
“For example, I believe if we had the Solderworks lab space available to us a year ago, we would have been farther along in development,” Max said. “Simply having the space to bring the team together and the different pieces is very important.”
Another complicated challenge specific to Hygge is the industry we operate in. “Providing value to both consumers and utilities while helping solve major challenges in the energy and environmental space is not something many companies are doing,” Ashton said.
He further discussed attending a FitTech meetup in an attempt to keep tabs on health and fitness technology because of its strong focus on haptic sensors, miniaturizing sensors, AI and machine learning. “Monitoring, recording, relaying and predicting the complex patterns of a human body requires a very similar approach to what we use in the complex grid and energy environment.”
Giving Back to the Boulder Startup Community
Attending events like BSW are crucially important for Hygge Power because it provides us the opportunity to contribute our two cents and give back to the community that was so instrumental in the early stages of our goal to bring power to the people — a notion that was cemented throughout both Ashton and Max’s experiences both as speakers and participants.
“Events like this allow us to learn, expand our minds and meet people who can learn from us or meet people who can help us out,” Ashton revealed. “Participating in BSW lets us be a part of something bigger and then bring that conversation back to the team. A company will only grow as much as the people within it, and every time I approach an event like this, I find that the more I try to contribute, the more I end up taking away.”
“My experience on both panels was fantastic. To be considered someone with something to share and to offer others is a testament to how far I've come over the past few years, and I wanted to participate because it honestly feels great to give back to the community that propped Hygge Power and myself up so much throughout the years,” Max said. “We've had countless favors performed for us by innumerable people in this community, so there's no way to pay back all the personal debt that is owed. But by doing panels like these, I hope to pass on the knowledge that I've gained — that we've gained.”
In the end, it’s important to acknowledge that these events are people powered and wouldn’t be possible without awesome sponsors like Techstars, Glider, the City of Boulder, the Downtown Boulder partnership, Solderworks, UpRamp and many others. So, thanks to the sponsors and people that make BSW possible — your commitment is unmatched and helps to make our community as special as it is.