3D Home Printing for the Developing World – Alexandria Lafci and Brett Hagler of New Story Charity | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "3D Home Printing for the Developing World – Alexandria Lafci and Brett Hagler of New Story Charity".
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How about we start with you guys explaining what you do, and then we'll go back in time and talk about how you ended up doing YC and all the rest of it. Awesome.
Discussion On Homeownership And Ycombinator'S Strategy
Importance of land ownership (00:09)
Sure. So we're a nonprofit. One of the first ones to go through Y Combinator, and we build houses and communities throughout the developing world. So right now throughout Haiti and Latin America, and you can kind of envision a plot of land and then about 200 to 300 homes being designed, like kind of like an urban designer would do for some of the poorest people in the world. Is there really high level of that? And Ali can add on to that. Yeah. So we'll essentially work with local governments. We'll get large pieces of land typically granted, bringing utilities, subdivide the land, and then families who are previously living in let's say 10 slums in Haiti post earthquake or an active landslide zone, so that'll solve a door will bring those families into the communities. They actually help design the homes and the communities.
Building Homes, YCombinator & Digital Marketing (00:54)
And then the families not only own the houses, but they own the land that the home sits on. And land ownership is so crucial as a path out of poverty. And were you guys working on nonprofits before, or did you just get excited about this idea? Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking it was, I definitely was not. Yeah. I was thinking the world I thought I'd be doing. And like literally, but I kind of had a big 180 in my life. And then when I was in my early twenties, I had a for profit startup before this. So love entrepreneurship, love technology, love innovation, all the things, then took a trip to Haiti a couple of years after the 2010 earthquake. So like not right after, but there's like a couple of years after, but it looked like it was a few months after. And, you know, and which is blown away by the tens of thousands of people that were living in tents because the earthquake destroyed like probably close to like a million households and like that. And everybody was given temporary aid, right, which is necessary at the time. But it was only supposed to last for like maybe 90 days. And as of today, it's been almost, I mean, over eight years and people are still living in tents like little kid, Le Mom and her, you know, three little girls are living in a tent with no protection from intruders, from storms, from anything. And you kind of just go back to like, I don't know, first principles, Maslow's hierarchy and think food, water. And I think sometimes we forget about shelter. And you just we saw it firsthand and came back and right before I met Alexandria, I actually try to find other nonprofits that could like really champion and support that were solving this issue. And then as we went out and started telling more people about it, kind of found another problem, which was skepticism.
Rough Day, Get Out (02:45)
And so many people that were skeptical about where their money actually went, right? So we're here in Silicon Valley, we're giving to ex-organization. How was the money actually being spent? It kind of seems like a black hole. What person is going? How efficient is it? Like all these things. And so we uncovered another problem, which was a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability and kind of like a status quo in a sense. And then teamed up with Alexandria and other co-founder Matthew. And like the early catalyst was, how do we take those pain points that we know donors have, right? Like our end user, reverse engineer, a new experience for that. And then we also have another, obviously the most important end user, which is the families that we partner with. And how do we provide a better experience for them as well, which Ally can talk through. And now is how it started. But just to clarify, there were companies or nonprofits working in this space, the money would just kind of like, you know, seeps out from little cracks in the business and then they kind of end up living in tents. Yeah. At this point, three years into doing this work, we've kind of come across and research and talked to over a hundred, right, well over a hundred different organizations focused on housing. Yeah. And unfortunate, well, the good news, start with the good news, the good news is that there are a lot of, you know, people and organizations that care about this, right? So there's a lot of money being put towards social housing. The bad news is there's a huge spectrum with respect to what Brett mentioned, like the donor experience, transparency, accountability, what's actually happening with the funds that are being allocated there, but then also, unfortunately, on the quality side. So the spectrum of quality of output of the homes and the communities that are being built, it's stark. You have some good quality stuff, but a lot of it leans towards, you know, fairly subpar, which is part of the problem we're trying to solve.
Most People Think Its Nuts (04:45)
Yeah. So like one example, and I won't name the organization, but it was a pretty prominent article. And this was actually like right before we went through Y Combinator. It was one of the largest humanitarian organizations, like a bunch of big headlines came out that they raised basically like half a billion dollars. And within like six years, they're only built. And this is not an exaggeration. I think like six houses. It's like legit, not an exaggeration. They're super nice. What's up? Yeah. Totally. I don't think moving to Hades. And so that leads into so I didn't get to mention, I won't go too much into it, but my background is almost entirely in international development work, right? That's what I became passionate about when I was 15, like kind of solving poverty is like my life's mission or putting a dent in extreme poverty. That's what I studied, did a lot of work with various organizations in Latin America and Africa, et cetera, and became fairly jaded in that work. I think a lot of people in the space become. And then doing international development work and having a decent understanding of that led me to want to understand poverty more deeply here in the United States. And so I did teach for America. And unfortunately about a third of my students were homeless for either all or part of the year. And through the lens of those students, I got to see that when you have housing instability, your attendance in school decreases. That leads to performance decreasing, mental and physical health impacts, parents' ability to attain and retain jobs. And so when Brett and I had our first conversation about building homes in Haiti and solving that issue, I was just really excited about the opportunity to see what the broad ranging implications of that could be.
What Were Doing (06:23)
So that's how I got super passionate about housing as it relates to poverty. And then through my experience in development work, Brett mentioned that large organization only building six homes, that organization didn't build six homes and then pocket the rest of the money.
Through Your Skinny Kid Window Sills (06:47)
What really happened if you look deeper into it is they said that they were going to build however many thousand homes. They realized things like getting land is extremely difficult. Things like doing quality control on homes, post disaster is incredibly difficult. And so they shifted away from that need and focused on things that were important, a little easier to do, et cetera. And so I think that highlights one of the core reasons why we've been successful is because we value truly partner with heavily vet local partners. One of the biggest observations in my work internationally is that everywhere you go, you spin the globe point your finger, everywhere you go, there are competent people and organizations who are going to know their communities, how to do business in those locations better than you ever will. And it would be very presumptuous of us as very young at that point we're 24 years old, right? People with ambition to say like we're going to go into Haiti, we're going to all solid or make a difference. What we did, which I think is crucial to our success, is find locals who help us to navigate effectively their uniquely positioned to help us be successful. So yeah, so what does it look like in the very beginning? So you meet and you're like, okay, we're going to work on housing. Specifically in Haiti at this point. Yeah. Does that mean like you take a trip and try and find contractors and build one on your own? Do you raise money first? What do you do? Yeah, I think it kind of going back to, so we had already, like before we got into YC, we were already like loving white comment or like listening to podcasts, like all the stuff. That's a big point of connection between us, right? I think you were surprised like, oh, this person who's like a nonprofit background watching sort of school. Yeah, totally. Yeah, we're just unfortunately unique. Yeah, like speaking the same language. And if you kind of go to, I mean, like really a core value you all have is make something people want. And we looked at that from really two users, right? So the first was a large pool of donors that, I mean, everybody listening right now, like if we said, hey, give a thousand dollars to an international large organization, how many of you would actually trust where 100% of the money goes, how efficient it is, the end results in, right? And the reality is about half the people would say no, right? And so how do we, how do we make something that they want, right? And then we designed our experience we can get into later, right? That got traction. And then to Ali's point earlier, how do we make something that our end users want where we know they don't want just, you know, lark, they don't want us going down there and building homes for them and like these super large organizations without using local talent and local materials and local jobs. And so that was really the catalyst. Yeah. And then we had something that got started. And then, so we had the idea and then now getting into MVP mode. We were super young. We were 24. We had, you know, really no capital of our own. And so we had the idea of the donor side was really three steps. The first one was we were going to make our own crowdfunding site. So you could see the family, right? Kind of like Kickstarter. You could see a picture of the family, read their story, and you can give directly to them. The second thing is that 100% of what you give will go towards building a house.
What's not going to cover any of our overhead. And we do that by having a couple of private donors that fund all of our overhead, like private investors, basically. And then the third part was when the family moved in, we wanted to be extremely accountable to the donors. And so, and was also one of the best days of the family's lives. Right. Think about it. They've been living in, I mean, like hell on earth conditions, legit for seven years. And they get into a new house. It's one of the best days of their lives. And so we take a simple move in video and we send that back to all the donors. Right. So that simple user experience of see the family up front digitally, 100% goes to it. And then you get to see the end result of the video. That was the initial concept. And then the way that we wanted to launch it was we didn't have an engineer at the time, actually, and we didn't have any money. So, we made, I'm going to give a plug to, to Webflow. Is it Webflow? Why is he coming? Yeah. So our other co-founder Matthew, his nickname is MacGyver, just because he can like legit do anything. We said, all right, we're going to make basically a fake crowdfunding platform on Webflow. And so we staged it as basically looking like our own crowdfunding platform that we built organically, where donors could come online, see the family, have the crowdfunding, have the percentage, all the things, give directly to it. And when that happened, our MVP was Matthew Alexandria and ourselves, we would just update the landing page and literally like go in and move the media. Yeah. So it's all like static. So you have money. You move it. You can't accept payments. Yeah. But it would be like, I'm at a dinner. Can you like, we just got a donation. Can you go in and you go in and you go quick calculation? This is the percentage and you like move the meter over. Yeah. There were a few mistakes we made. Yeah. Like, you know, usually a delay and people would call or email and say, did it go through and our good excuse was credit card processing. Like it takes a little bit of time, you know. And then we still hadn't, and then we're like, okay, well, we're going to still prove the new key. And when the homes are built, we'll just like go down ourselves and do the videos. Yeah. And so we actually, I think it's a good startup lesson. We were able to launch that concept like legit and only a few weeks. And we started getting money and we got a decent amount of money. We got like $100,000 within like a couple months. And that allowed us to use a local partner that we had already known in Haiti that had a long, how a lot of experience there, build our first six houses. We went down to not build the homes because we employ local workers to take the videos, see the impact, and then we sent it back to everybody. And that happened in a very short period of time. And then we applied to YC after that. And I think that, you know, just really emphasizes core principles, right? Like, you know, make something people want. Like we wouldn't have gotten that traction, gotten over $100,000 in the matter of a couple of weeks if it wasn't an experience that people really like. People were shocked at the beginning. Like, you're going to send me a video of like this exact family I just met on the website moving into their house.
The main user experience (13:24)
You know, if that actually happens, that's something that, you know, I want to be a part of, yes, we would get, we would say, yeah, this is cool. I want to be a part of it. But also this is not going to scale. So, you know, so I guess that's the other lesson too, right? Do things that don't scale. Yeah. I mean, for those first few months, like we were literally just pulling out our computers and updating the website like constantly. Did you have a design for the house? I mean, we have full-time jobs. Yeah. Let's just say that. We have full-time jobs. So it would be like in the middle of like the workday of my like supply chain, which is just a job running to my computer, like moving a meter. So you just like, you know, make it happen. Yeah. We partnered with an organization that had already started a project. And so like we didn't have to start everything from scratch. Okay. We just felt like, okay, validate and DP, validate this is something people want. Yeah. And prove it with them. And then after that, we go. Okay. And where you set up as a nonprofit at the time, or you just ran the money through, yeah. Oh, you just, wow. No, we, go ahead. Yeah, not immediately. It just takes some time. It's actually a process that takes probably much longer than it should. A couple of weeks. A couple of months. I know that's why I was surprised when you were saying like we got it all done in a couple of weeks. I was like, hmm. Yeah. Yeah. So people knew in the beginning, like, you know, we're not a nonprofit yet. They're making the donation, knowing that. And then, you know, we were able to give tax deductions kind of in retro, with a retrospect. Got you. Yeah. Through our partner. Yeah. Yeah. Cool.
Reverse engineering your goals (14:51)
Okay. And so you got to see and you got to see. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And do I see and went through thinking bigger. I think was one of the key ones. So Kevin Hale, Aaron Harris, Kat Menialik, they were our partners. Love them. Yes. And I remember it was at my apartment building. We had our first, you know, you get in and you have your first kind of call with your partner to set your goal for the three months stint. That is why I see, right? What's either like your revenue goal, your customer goal, whatever. For us, it was how many homes we were going to fund. And by the way, our homes are about $6,000 per month. Yeah. Okay. So, yeah. So Kevin asked us, you know, what are your goals for home funding? And we said, you know, this year, it was 2015. In the year of 2015, we want to do a hundred homes. And he said, okay, great. You're going to do a hundred homes during YC. So we're going to take your 12 month goal and make it a three month goal, right? So then we launched this a hundred homes in a hundred days. And I think a funny story is that we agreed to it, right? Because, you know, we're in YC, like we can't say no and we hang up the phone. And I was actually like, guys, I think we should call the back. Like we just set a goal that we cannot accomplish. Like this is not smart. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I was being a lot more conservative and we were just like, we just got to figure out how to do it. And so one of our big core team values now is, you know, think big breakdown and execute. So you have this big goal and you just have to, you know, this is not news, but like backwards planet and we did that and then actually hit a hundred homes in like 92 days. So we exceeded our goal. Yeah. So during YC was just tons of fundraising basically to get these things going. Yeah. A lot of fundraising, a lot of outreach and getting people excited about our model and why it's different. And then, and like most importantly, the direct life changing impact that somebody can make for a pretty achievable amount of money, about $6,000. And that back to what we learned, I think it really just infused in our DNA, setting very audacious goals and then saying like, okay, no BS. Like what would it take if we had to hit this, right? And then reverse engineering back to there and then, you know, making your weekly plan and executing. And that has, that was the beginning. And then there's been a lot of other stages where we've applied, of course, that same principle. So an anecdote that I'll give is, you know, YC ended the summer of 2015. We had our annual planning meeting for 2016, the end of that year. And we said, you know, how many homes are we going to fund? Do we do 200? And I forget who said it, but it was like, what would it take to do 800 homes? Like, but you know, just, let's just throw a huge number out there that seems inconceivable because that hundred homes in a hundred days seemed inconceivable and we did it. So we threw a huge number out there and just said, let's just brainstorm if we had to do what would we do. And you know, long story short, that launched the architects program, which exists now at a new story where companies actually fund entire communities, right? Instead of doing, you know, one off homes, we said, if we're going to hit a big number, we need people to be doing bulk, right? We need people to be doing, you know, big swaths of homes. And that's been successful. And when we said that at the beginning of 2016, within three months, we had what, two or three companies that had agreed to do communities. So it was really a shift in our thinking of what's possible. And you have to challenge yourself in order to see, you know, what you can achieve. And then taking the right steps to package that idea and then go test it, right? So like not saying, all right, we're going to shift all our strategy and like, everything is going to focus on this. It's like, you know, fire up for a bullet before cannibal kind of doing, right? So you create a package and you shouldn't send off the companies and you see what resonates. And then all of a sudden it's like, oh, we have this program. You iterate. Right? Yeah. And the program is like, you know, because our homes are so low cost, they're not $6,000 per home, a hundred home community where they'd be like all together, like designed beautifully and intelligently with the families. It's about $600,000, right? Which is not cheap, but it's pretty achievable for a large company. So that's how we, that's how we started. Yeah. And it's a very high impact. It means you have a high impact for relatively low. And something else that's saved pretty, uh, an achievable last year or pretty audacious to like just thinking of this, um, uh, mindset is, you know, building a 3D printer, which I know we'll talk about more. Yeah, for sure. But yeah, super young team, um, fairly early organization, uh, doing something that's very much a technological challenge, um, and in some of the hardest places in the world to work. Yeah, before we get there, one thing I am curious about is so you're dealing with all this apprehension around where does the money go? Right. And so one example of how you guys are dealing with that is just showing the output, right? But are people asking for other things? Like you, you talk about how your model is like better than others in the sense that you're maybe more transparent, more efficient, but in, in like very clear practical terms. What does that mean? So other people can follow. So actually our, um, first hire after YC, which we had a lot of funding growth, um, was okay. Impact, right? And so we didn't go out and hire more marketing. We didn't go out and hire more. We actually, um, hard impact data manager that Ali can talk about. Um, shout out Emma. She's amazing.
Telling big BS audacious goals (20:28)
And we, that was our first thing was we wanted to set up this like very rigorous impact data program, which Ali can talk through. Yeah, cause it's not actually number of homes is a vanity metric. Right. Yeah. What if those homes are empty? What if those homes aren't actually better than what people were in before? What if those homes are crumbling, right? So the impact, like what is the change in people's lives once they move into the home is actually what matters. Uh, and so to Brett's point, we've invested a lot into really understanding what that impact is, things like, you know, when families move into a home, uh, they're, they increase their amount of sleep by like three to five hours. Um, you see immediate health. It's like crazy delta by the way. Yeah. It's like four hours to like almost eight hours. Yeah. Um, and you can extrapolate, right? Like what the impact, you know, the broader impact. I mean, that was like, that was kind of a life changing thing for me in the past few years realizing just how much it like for recovery. I think it's, it's the number one for imagine people that have kids listening, like, like seriously, imagine if your kid was only getting four hours of sleep. Yeah. Every night, life would be nightmare. And then having to like, like when it rains at night, well, usually mud or rain or sewage will go through the floor. Yeah. Right. And you don't have enough beds in your, in your tent for everybody. So that means the kids are sleeping on the floor. So that means when it's bad weather, oh, that stings, you have to stand up the whole night and then go try to go to school the next day. Right. And then do it again. Just like little basic human need stuff that is so life changing. Um, that we believe shelter can provide. Absolutely.
How MH4X distinguishes itself from competing tiny home providers (22:04)
Um, you know, we're also not just building homes, right? We're building entire communities. Right. So these are these kind of like micro economies. Um, you see entrepreneurship that pops up in the communities. Um, you know, we do a lot in the beginning with community planning to plan for feelings of safety and community cohesion, like how homes are placed, where we have green spaces. Makes the link people want. Exactly. Same principle. Yeah. And the other quick thing on the data is yes, obviously we want to know what's working, but like the most important thing about our data program and we cannot encourage other organizations to do the same thing is we do it to figure out how do we make decisions from this, right? How do I make data influence decisions of like, okay, what's not working? Right. And then we can try, we can iterate and we can test and we can do a lot of new AB testing that we're doing now. Um, the same type of principles that good startups have, right?
How do you communicate that on the site?" (22:53)
Like we believe there should be no difference in how a nonprofit operates. You collect data to make your business better, not just to like show the data on the site, not just for fundraising. Unfortunately, a lot of nonprofits, you know, they, they start collecting data because they have to, because they're not going to get money. If they don't, they should ask you for this. Exactly. Um, and it should be used to influence the organization. So like our goal is for every community to be better than the previous one based on the data that we've collected. Mm hmm. And how do you communicate that on the site? Because you, you still have to deal with the psychology of these people like wanting to donate. Totally. Um, how do we communicate the data on the site? Yeah. We're still, we're still working on visualizations at this point.
Explanation Of 3D Home Building Technology
3D printing technology description (23:46)
And like also so kind of early into it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So again, we're three, we're three years old. Yeah. And so we did a lot, the way that we do it is we collect baseline data. So what are people's living conditions before? And then we're, you know, families move into a home and then you do six months, 12 months, two years. And so we're really at the point now. It's an exciting point in the organization where we're starting to get some really robust data on what the impact of a home is. And you know, transparently, we're really thinking about what are the best ways to a communicate that. And then more importantly, to use that information to change what we're doing on the ground, to be better practitioners. So what made you want to do the 3D printing? Well, so. Was it a data pointer? No, cool. So we go back to kind of in the beginning days was, how do you do 100 homes? Yeah. And then how do you do 1000 homes? And then it's like, wow, there's about a billion people in the world, right? Which is like, there are more than a billion people in the world. That do not have one of life's basic, sorry. I do not have one of life's most basic human needs shelter, right? And so we thought, okay, well, we obviously can't solve that ourselves as one organization. Yeah. But how can we start to think through new innovations and new R&D that if it works, we could be able to prove it in our communities that we could do it exponentially faster, better, and a higher quality, right? So this kind of thing that like, it's too good to be true, right? But if it works, we believe it could be a breakthrough. And then we want to prove that in our communities and then not keep that from news story, right? Like, this is our IP, like, sorry, guys, like we've got this 3D printer. But then open source or democratize that to with all the other nonprofits and governments around the social housing sector. And so we can talk more about that methodology later. But Alexandria started looking into a lot of other, a lot of different things, right? For innovation and how do we, how do we create exponentially faster, better and higher quality? And 3D home printing came up to the top and then you can talk a little bit more on that process. Yeah. And for context, the houses you were previously making or still are making, how were they made? With CMU block. So it's a very traditional construction method. There's cement blocks. It's reinforced with steel rebar. It's incredibly safe for seismic conditions, for hurricane-prone conditions. So we are completely satisfied with the way that we build houses now as far as during durability, resilience, et cetera. The big question was how do we build homes like Brett said faster, less expensively without compromising quality? Because that's the only way we're going to hit that big number or even try to scratch the surface of that big number of housing inequality. Yeah.
3D home entering large-scale construction (26:39)
So we started just doing some research. The beginning of last year, there were a few promising construction innovations that rose to the surface. We also found out that there's just not been a lot of advances in construction over the past few decades. It's such an archaic space that there isn't a lot of momentum and change. Since the 1950s, things haven't really been so powerful. It's a powerful, very mental. Right. Yeah. Yeah. It's a very important thing to do with the big players to invest in R&D and invest in changing the way that things are done. And so long story short, 3D printing was one of the things that rose to the top. And the technology is there. The technology last year when we were looking into it was there to be printing homes. We should describe this in a little more detail because especially if people are listening and can't watch a video. Yeah, yeah. 3D printing in the sense that you've seen before with a filament. It's a different material entirely and on a much larger scale. But what material are you using? Yeah. So I love that question because typically when someone hasn't seen the video, right? Maybe we can link to the video. Yeah. They're like R&D. 3D printing, you'll see the video. Yeah. 3Dhome.org. So when you, when I say it to people, they're like, is this home made out of plastic? Yeah. They're thinking about like the desktop printers and what that prints out. Look, how does that build a home? It's printed with the most common, most readily available material in construction that exists. It's built with cement, right? So if you think about a hose that, you know, that with water, right, like a water hose that you would have in your backyard, think of cement coming out of it instead. And then you use that cement and you, you know, print the perimeter and the interior walls of the home, and then you go and you print another layer on top of that. So layer by layer, you are creating a, you know, complete thermal envelope. You're creating an incredibly durable structure. Think about the cement blocks that I mentioned, right? You know, that's many hundreds or thousands of parts that are put together. At each point, there's opportunity to make a mistake, right? This is a technology where it's one continuous loop of this very strong material. So we're confident that not only are these homes going to be as good as traditional methods, but there's a huge opportunity and we're already seeing signs through testing that it's going to actually be much stronger. Yeah. And no waste like Brett mentioned. It's a nearly zero waste construction method, which also helps reduce cost. Yeah. And how we went about this was once we figured out we wanted to try it. First of all, we met an amazing partner that we work with in very public, called ICON, a robotic construction startup company. And this was not like, there was no 3D home printer machine out there that we could like buy parts of. Like we had to make it. Yeah. It was not manual. Yeah. And so like we literally as a nonprofit, we fortunately have someone of a license to do this because we have a private set of donors that believe in R&D and calculated risk and innovation. And so we actually have the funding to fund the R&D efforts of this. Right. So we had to make the 3D home printing machine, which is I think the largest machine in the country right now, I'm pretty sure, 3D home printer. And then we had to print the first house. Right. And we did that two weeks ago in Austin, Texas. Yep. And it turned out, I mean, the reality is it turned out probably better than we anticipated. It looks great, guys. It's very well checked out. It was in Brazil. It was in Brazil. Yeah. And it passed the Austin City housing code, which is actually a really strict code.
3D home cost (30:36)
And when we tested the PSI levels, it actually came in three times stronger than our normal center block homes. To what levels? PSI levels. It's like compression strength. Yeah. Oh, okay. Yeah. So that was our pre-op concept. And then the promise of 3D home printing, when we look at really three bullets, one is cost. Right. So our homes on average are about $6,500 per home. We believe with 3D home printing, we can get that down to about $3,000 over time. Not in the beginning, but over time. And then speed. So right now, take about 15 days to build a house. This would be under 24 hours. And then under 12 hours is the goal. Wow. Yeah. And then you have to do that without sacrificing quality, of course. And we believe we can actually increase quality and make it stronger, more durable, zero wastes, et cetera. So when you talk about these numbers, like 6500 now, 3,000 later, is that all in? That includes labor, everything? Per unit. Yeah. Okay.
Designing the future (31:38)
And so I saw the house in Austin. Is that like the basically the model for the future homes? Or are they like, do they have the same fixtures and windows and all that stuff? Is that a? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So in each place that we work, our homes are a bit different, right? Yeah. You have to develop them for local context. And communities actually are, like I mentioned earlier, very involved in the process of community design. So we don't just copy paste, you know, different types of homes. So the homes will look different. The size, the size will be about the same as the home in Austin. But some fixtures based on, you know, what windows we can get locally. We want to support local manufacturers. Yes. In Haiti, for example, people do not want to live under roofs that they feel are very heavy because so many people died in the earthquake with the roofs caving in, right? So we intentionally use some very lightweight roofing materials. So that would probably be different in Haiti. But the size will be, you know, pretty much the same, the size and then the construction methodology will be essentially the same. How does plumbing work in electrical? Yeah. So this is a bit hard to explain without seeing the video. Yeah. So the printer is printing kind of like, it's, think of it as like two, like an interior and an exterior printed layers of cement and then inside there's kind of little triangles. So that's spacing that you can, you know, wire and that you can put plumbing through. And then the printer actually is, you know, it's pretty smart. You, you know, upload a CAD file and it knows where to stop and start. So if you think about where the window is set, we don't have to like, you know, carve into the structure, like the printer knows to stop at a certain point and to start at a certain point, it can do the same thing for areas where fixtures need to kind of feed through into the home. Yeah. And that point is actually really exciting to us because if you could just imagine for our use case, which is the families that we work with in some of the poorest places in the world, we would actually be able to offer them different type of templates. And even help customize the homes, right? Because of the technology, which right now we just can't do. Yeah. And you have more design freedom in how you can design stuff. So it doesn't have to be like a rectangle or a square. You could actually make it circular, which is how the first one was done as well, which is extremely exciting from an architectural standpoint, aesthetic, and but also like, you know, how we can use it. It's not any more expensive or difficult to design in like loops and curves as it is to do straight lines.
Trip Harrison interview (34:19)
Right. So you get a curved window, but yeah. Yeah. Totally. Yeah. And kind of the design thing is important because when you look at social housing developments now, whether you have two kids or eight kids, typically you're in the same house, right? And if you have a disability, I mean, tough luck, right? So you know, we can design houses that again, kind of best meet the needs of individual families, which happens for you and I, right? And we don't think it should be any different for people just because they don't have as much purchasing power because of where they were born. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I would just, I'm not trying to plug a new story, but see the video like visually, like it's really important. Makes a lot more sense. Yeah. I could just YouTube it, type a new story or 3D Home.org. And this concludes phase one for us, which was make a 3D Home printer with our partner icon and print the actual first house in Austin, right? Which we've done. And now we shift into phase two, which is we'll definitely have to make product development on the printer. We'll make improvements, more testing, but then bringing it down to El Salvador is a place that we're going to bring it to. And 3D printing a community of homes is the next phase. That is happening this year. We hope to finish that Q1 or Q2 of 2019, the whole community. And we're extremely excited about it because this type of technology, if you look back, when there's a lot of technological advances, it usually does not reach the families that need it most first, right? They're kind of one of the last ones to get it. Yeah, of course. And we're so excited because this could change how we innovate shelter for the families that need it most and them getting it first, which we have just a unique use case of our homes are small, right? Our homes are simple. And that's why we think we could do it first. Yeah, we want to bring emerging technology to emerging markets because that is the area. Those are the areas where these technologies aren't just to do things like that are cool or to make us a bit more comfortable. It's where emerging tech has the opportunity to truly change lives and communities and societies and countries. So we feel like this is kind of one step, what we're doing with construction to fast forward these technologies to the places that need it. And in everything that we do, we really hope that we can help inspire this sector, right?
The partnership model is interesting as well (36:52)
If more organizations for their respective problems in food security and education, wherever if they are investing in R&D, seeing what technology might be applicable to their specific use case and bringing it to the places that they work, I think we can solve a lot of the world's biggest problems a bit faster. Yeah. The partnership model is interesting as well. Yeah. Like how did you guys go about a new story? Yeah. How did you go about doing that? I think it depends on what's the ambition of your organization, right? And we've chosen to say, hey, there's this huge problem, right? About a billion people that lack shelter. We want to try to make the biggest dent in that possible, right? And then so that's the thing big. And then you reverse engineer, okay, you can't do that as one organization raising money, right? You're governed by what you could do. But then you look at the market and you see there are thousands of nonprofits. Almost every government has budget or is working on this issue. But what we think that is missing is more R&D and more innovation, right? So we want to prove it ourselves and then say, let's get to scale by democratizing this and like sharing with everybody and then getting adoption from all of those partners.
Partnership And Investment Strategy With Icon
ICON partnership (38:02)
Yeah. I don't do it. I think you hit that. And I think you're asking about icon, the icon partnership. So I think this is a good lesson and Brett does this so well. You know, for people who are thinking about starting a business or they've started one to just talk to people, talk to as many people, especially, you know, qualified people as possible about your idea because you never know like where the dots make connect. So when we were doing a lot of research and we said, you know, 3D printing is very interesting. At that point, we did not know very much beyond what we had like read and seen. And Brett really just started talking to everyone about it and we're, you know, very, you know, grateful through IC through other, you know, programs to have an incredible network. So we, you know, you really talked to just everyone you knew. What do you know about 3D printing? You know, anyone in the space, what have you learned? Like, what can you tell us? And through that, then someone was like, oh, I actually know these guys in Austin, Texas who are experimenting with this. And, you know, the more you talk about your idea, the more you ask questions, the more you look to gain knowledge. I think the more opportunities present themselves to you. So we got connected to these folks in Austin, the icon team. >> Jason, Alex. >> Yeah, absolutely incredible. Shout out to them. And they obviously had, they hadn't built this printer as we know it yet, but they, you know, through some prototyping, we knew that they had the technical chops. But then also there was a shared set of values, right? So icon is a for-profit company, they'll be aiming to build homes here in the United States through 3D printing and other methods, which is really exciting. But they had shared values. They really care about affordable housing in the United States. And they saw this opportunity to partner with us, again, to take really promising technology for construction to places where we can immediately apply it. You know, we're not, I think there's a lot of, if you look at even new stories video, right? If you look at new stories, 3D printing video. >> Videos get emotional. >> But I'm saying, if you look at the video, the suggested videos after it will be other videos of, you know, homes that have been 3D printed in the last, you know, one, two, three years. So you know, this is not necessarily the first 3D printer period, but what's significant about what we've done is, A, it's not experimental. We're not doing it just to see what's possible, right? A lot of the printers that exist are more so in an R&D phase because they're targeted towards either for profit or luxury markets or even like building in space, right? Like we are, we want to bring this down to earth and say we have issues of housing here now. And so, you know, we were really bullish on, you know, let's get this out of the like experimental, you know, frame of mind and let's make it actionable to like print homes that people are going to be living in in the next year. And so they very much agreed with us. They believe that, you know, that the technology is ready today.
How does it work on the financial side (41:20)
And so the partnership has made a ton of sense. >> So for other nonprofits, how does it work on the financial side? Like do you guys license it? Do you buy the 3D printer from them? How do you set it up? >> It's in the early days. And to be honest, we have to first prove it ourselves. And like doing an awesome is one thing. Printing a community of homes in El Salvador is an ex-girl. And so we have to prove it ourselves. And then we'll talk through and figure out what's the best model to scale that out, which we don't have clarity on exactly yet. >> Okay. And I think something else that distinguishes the printer that we've built is all of the design constraints that we gave the icon team, right? So printer that's going to print a home, you know, in the US or many of the examples you see in some places in China, they're not going to necessarily work in Haiti and El Salvador with our specific design constraints. So it's hard enough to build a 3D printer. And on top of that, we were like, hey, engineers, you have to make sure that if power goes out midway through, that we're not going to, you know, have an issue. That if potable water is not readily accessible, we're not going to have an issue. And then the machine has to be easy enough so that we don't need like super highly technical talent in order to operate or to fix the machine. So our printer that we've designed is a printer that's ready to work in some of the most remote areas in the world, some of the most difficult to work places in the world, which is the first of its kind.
Building a Printable Home (42:37)
>> Yeah. And this is all happened in less than a year. Like we had an I, we were at one, you know, a team. These fun, quarterly summits every year, we go play. So we actually have one night at dinner, we do moonshot ideas. And everybody has to just like pitch big moonshot ideas. And we actually got a lot of good stuff from that exercise. And 3D home printing was one of the things that came up that night. >> Just a year ago. >> Yeah. Just a year ago. Just an idea. And then we started to explore it more, explore it more, talk to the right people and then say, all right, well, this is, we've done a lot of due diligence. Like this was a calculated risk. And we got to the point where we said, okay, news story is going to invest this amount of money. And we're going to do it where if we lose it, we're going to be okay. Right? Of course. Like this isn't a bet the company kind of thing. Like it's actually not at all. It was significant, but not that. And then we said, okay, the worst case is we lose it. We're going to be all right. We learn, we move on. The best case is we could innovate shelter for the families that need it most. And when you look at that and you analyze that, we thought it was irresponsible not to try it, right? Because if it works, it could change everything and it could reach more families that need shelter faster. So that was kind of how we made our decision. Yeah. >> Yeah. What's the hardest thing you see coming down the road? Like doing it at larger scale? What's going to be challenging? >> Everything. >> Yeah. >> Yeah. >> There's a lot. You know, my head's always like on the ground because I kind of run our on-ground operations. So one of the, one of many challenges will be just people wrapping their minds around it on the ground. I think talking to you, a lot of people who are listening, when you first hear a 3D home printing me, you're just like, is it plastic? How does that work? I don't get it. And so, you know, it would be naive of us to assume that we're going to print a community of homes in, you know, a watch upon El Salvador and then people are going to be super excited to live in them without knowing, hey, is this safe? You're worried about your children, right? If I, like I would not move me and my future kids into a home that, you know, I'm just a sure about- >> Well, you don't want to be like in a science experiment. >> Exactly. You don't want to be a guinea pig to do something new. And so while we know that it's, you know, incredibly safe and durable, et cetera, there's going to be a lot of kind of just education and talking to people and, you know, getting their minds around it. By they, I mean, you know, both the families that we are working with, that we, you know, build homes for as well as, you know, governments and, you know, local architects and, you know, the people literally operating the machinery too. >> Yeah, they train that. >> That's kind of wild. >> Yeah. >> Yeah. >> What? >> And the whole thing is we have a kind of a match that we say as a team. Like, it's for sure a seemingly crazy idea right now, especially when we bring it down to El Salvador and like show people and everything, right? To governments, to a lot of people listening, it's a crazy idea. Like until it's not, right? Until we can prove that it's not. And so we say like, it's crazy until it's not. But we also know that this is obviously not guaranteed, right? This is an R&D project that we feel now actually more confident than ever in because of how the first phase went. But we have a long way to go. >> Yeah. Last August, when we said we're going to start building this printer. We want to do it by South by Southwest in March. At that point, no printer existed, right? And not only was the printer built, but the house was built. And that's just to say like, you know, it seemed very crazy. It seemed that dangerous, but it happened. And I think when you're like super crystal clear on what your goals are, that's just incredibly powerful in order to like make it happen. >> Yeah. So what percentage of the team was working on this? Because like, obviously so, I mean, you guys already spoke to it, but all the troubles that you're dealing with, all the challenges. >> Totally.
Fundraising and Goals (46:49)
>> Making stuff. Like shipping things. Everyone has the same problem. Like how much of the team was working on this and how did you get it to move so quickly? >> Yeah. In the beginning, it was really just Alexandria and I. So Alexandria's our COO, our CEO and co-founders. And we weren't spending that much time. Like I think we pretty disciplined on like 5 to 10 percent like our weekly time in the early days, right? And then you learn more and it grows. And then we really only brought on one other person from our team to help in Joanne. And she wasn't spending that much time on it either. So we're able to do it where we kind of carved out a percentage basically like our weekly schedule that we were going to allocate towards it. And we just stayed pretty disciplined on that. Because I think there has to be a balance of like obviously you want to go out and have like exciting new creativity and innovation. But you can't do that without the disciplined focus on everything else. >> Totally. >> And so in the beginning, I think what's really critical and one thing we've done really well, I already mentioned this with local partners in the countries that we work in. But finding people who are experts in their space, right? Well, Brett and I did a ton with research, legal, project management, launching, etc. We're not mechanical engineers, right? We're not cement experts. And so what we did was find those people and then help coordinate us all working together to get toward a common goal. >> Yeah. Well, it's so easy to take your eye off the ball, right? Because I mean, by nature, people- >> Especially as a shiny object as this, right? Like the reality is it is. It's a shiny object and we saw that in our launch two weeks ago. I mean, we had, there have been like I think like 6 million views now. Over 500 media outlets have written on it. >> Yeah, it's insane. >> And not, yeah, I mean, it was good.
Strangledize Nimitz Crackening in mice (48:41)
And we prepared heavily for that. >> But- >> Other donations looking. >> Within the last week, we now have about like 1.3 million in donations. So it's resonating with people. >> Yeah. >> We're at Burst, we're funding basically more of the R&D of the printer. >> Okay. >> Of the next product development phases. >> Yeah. >> Because you got to put yourself in the mindset of like, like obviously people can fund houses, which is incredible and amazing and life changing. And then there's a very small amount of people that understand like creating a product like this that if it works and they could be scaled out around the world, like that's a massive impact. And that's people are starting to fund that as well. >> Yeah, I think about the government of Mexico, they're building tens, for thousands, not tens of thousands of homes per year, that would kind of fall into that social housing bracket. And so if this technology is promising, it's able to slash costs, be safer, be quicker, et cetera. Imagine the government of Mexico being able to use this to make their work more efficient and the savings, right? That may go into other social programs. That may help to alleviate poverty in different ways. >> You guys have been so effective at like picking a goal and going for it, both on the fundraising side and on the product side. What other advice do you have for nonprofits that are going through YC or just watching this and just curious about you in terms of like the fundraising, which I know can be really challenging for nonprofits. And then like, you know, just having the guts to like go for a product, which is again, like you said, your investors are excited about these goals that you have, but not everyone is. So like, that's a wholesale process as well.
Terry discusses getting to influential investors (50:24)
Like, how do you get to be in that kind of position? >> Yeah. Well... >> It's a big question, Greg. >> That's a long question. >> I think it really like people ask us a lot of, you know, how can other organizations be, especially nonprofit or social impact organizations, like how can you be more innovative or how can you, you know, do some of these things? And I think just the reality is it all starts with people, right? You have to have the right people on your team that have the competence to innovate or to be an engineer or to have the right networks. And so... >> Good. I was going to say the same thing. >> Yeah. We really value, we really like, like, I believe with all my heart, our number one asset as an organization is our team and our culture. And then that just... It spirals to other areas of like, what kind of advisors can we attract, right? And then we start getting a few very respected advisors or board members and then they get to know what's better and they're starting to tell their team about it, right? And so it's like kind of this domino effect where you have at the tip of the spear is definitely a clear story of like, why your organization matters and how important it is for you to do what you're trying to do. For us, it's a lot about accountability, direct impact, working with locals, human centered design, innovation, R&D, and just like tripling down on that story with clarity and then getting the right resources behind you that are excellent as best as you can. And then over time that builds. >> Yeah.
Advice And Strategy For Hiring And Investment In 3D Construction
Hiring process (52:03)
Plus one, Terry, I think Brett said, team, absolutely critical. We actually take... I mean, people really remark and kind of anxiously laugh after they go through our hiring process, but it's like a part-time job to go through it. We take a really long time. I think especially as a small team, it's still important because it's like family. You spend more time with these people than anyone else in the world. And so we do interviews with every single one of our team members. They come into the office and they work for a day. We take a long time to vet and bring people onto our team so that when they come on, we're fully confident in their work ethic and their sense of urgency and their values, character, relationship building. That's something that I'm actually learning more of the importance. I think Brett's a master of that. And that's one of the reasons why we have such an incredible group of advisors, donors, people just advocating for us because we treat them as part of the news story family.
reciprocation, a way to fast-track investment (52:56)
>> Part of the vision. >> Giving updates. When they have a kid sending them a new story once, it's just like relationship building. It's really genuine. These people are investing in our vision for how the world should be. We want to invest in them and continue to build those relationships as well. So just genuine relationship building is key. And then for nonprofits, I think for nonprofits too, but at the end of the day, none of that matters if what you're doing on the ground is not actually working. So it's really critical to, hey, get the right people on your team to always be testing your hypotheses, to be super critical of your work, and to make sure that you are actually having meaningful impact. Because if you did none of the other things and you just did that, you make something people want, you do incredibly impactful work, then it might be slower, but you will eventually get other people to support and rally around you, whether that be team members, whether that be donors, etc. If you're doing really high impact work, so that cannot be overstated. I'd say one, I just thought this in my head, one equation that I think we've done well for fundraising and other growth and other resources is, first to at least point, you have to have credibility of who's supporting you, what's the work that you've done, what are your results, what is your story?
ng new⌘new 9 archetypes (54:10)
So you have to build that up, which takes a lot of tenacity and all the things that get started. And then it's like, how do you get the attention of influential people? And I think it's the equation of first having the results and the credibility and then being very creative of how you're getting to those people. So we do really weird and creative things of getting to people. We'll mail a Lego kit of our house to somebody that we really want to get in front of. We don't sit just in emails, we'll make videos and we'll send a video of us directly to somebody. We just try to think really creatively of how do we get these people's attention? Because if they could just give us 10 or 15 minutes of their time, we know that our story and our credibility and our results will speak for themselves. But these people are extremely busy and have very important things to do and they're not just going to confine new story. You have to be very creative of how you're getting people's attention. And the more humanized you can make that and the more unique you can make that, the better it happens. But if you use traditional methods, just expect traditional ordinary results. Probably below average. Especially these high profile people, they're so hard to get in touch with. I mean, you see it a demo day. Here you are, you're just surrounded by another 100 great companies and that's a refined piece of the world already. You have to use this term all week. You have to take really big swings. And that means investing a lot of time, even resources into something. So for example, right now we have this new program we're very excited about. It's called Her Story. And it's focused just on single mothers that we work with in our communities. And we are going out and sharing this program with empowered female leaders in the US. And so we have our dream lists of people that we'd like to get involved. And then instead of just sending them an email or doing whatever, we actually made these, Hannah Potter who runs this program. We made these beautiful custom invitations. Like beautiful and like, look like wedding. They look like branding that. They do look like wedding invitations. They look like amazing wedding invitations with like a custom note on the back. And like we're mailing that. It was called foil on it. We're mailing that like via FedEx. So everybody opens FedEx stuff like to either them or their chief of staff or their assistant. Yeah. And it's like, that's the kind of stuff where even though it's going to be a small percentage, we've invested so much in the making that happen, there we will get traction from it. And we have.
Co-founder advice for the 3D new story journey (56:58)
And we have. Yeah. And that's great advice. Any closing words of wisdom for people? Well, co-founders out there, I mean, our co-founder relationship, I think everything starts there. And before you can build a great team, you have to have just excellent cohesion at the co-founder level. I feel one of the luckiest things and the best day of my life was being able to meet Matthew and Alexandria and our other co-founder Mike. And the chemistry that we have, how we split up time, how we check egos at the door. There's no ego at news story and how we're humbled together. That creates a culture of what it's expected to be when you join news story and then that impacts you higher. That impacts the companies that want to work with you, all the things. So I think it starts with there and it goes down to here. Yeah, Iron sharpens iron, right? That's what your co-founder relationship and other people who are, you know, starting businesses or who maybe aren't, right? That's not the entire audience. Yeah, for sure. I think just having an incredible community of very supportive and bright people around you. So like I'm super lucky that I have that every day when I go into work with my co-founders. I'm not really excited about this earlier, but I also have a group of other female founders through YC that are community for me. People who are never resentful or jealous, they're just like complete cheerleaders for you. You know, doing big things, doing things that haven't been done before. It's really scary and challenging and hard and in all of our careers, whether or not you're a founder, you're going to have so many challenges in having sounding boards and having cheerleaders and just having a really great community around you helps you feel empowered and not lonely. Like a journey like this can be very lonely. So I think placing a lot of effort and emphasis on creating really strong communities of cheerleaders around you. One last thing that we've always said this for the last three years, but especially with the new 3D home printing launch is that bold ideas attract bold people.
Bold vs lean ideas (59:07)
And the more audacious, the bigger the idea is that's going to attract more of that caliber of person. They either wants to fund it, that wants to partner with it, or wants to give up their job at Google or Facebook and come work with you to do it. And so if you're a startup founder out there, you've got to have bold ideas if you want to achieve spectacular results. Right. Especially bold ideas that aren't just PR stunts. Exactly. This is the kind of thing like it's sort of an understanding of asymmetric risk. If this works out, it's going to be amazing, but the downside is very limited. But it seems like it's working really well for you. And I would second the group meetings.
Discussion On Peer Mentorship In The Industry
Peer mentorship groups (01:00:01)
Because it's like one of the things that people don't talk about all that much in terms of YC benefit. Yeah. Like after the fact, yeah, just keeping that up. It's so smart. Yeah. I mean, I feel lucky because Ally will go have dinner drinks with her girls, which are like amazing founders. And she'll come back with all these great ideas and all this stuff on hiring and culture and everything. Yeah. And it's like, wow, it's amazing. Yeah. So just like minded people around you are going to push you toward your goals. Right. Yeah. If you read the news all the time, it's like only awesome high updates, but that's not the reality. Yes. That's very true. Yeah. And then just one last, this is not advice, but one thing that just always is in my heart is YC, Y Combinator obviously, has to return a financial ROI, right? Like, you know, based on what the company is. But I think really at the core of the culture, like what gets YC partners excited, what gets the YC community excited is solving really big problems, right? Or kind of just like new ideas and innovations to make the world a better place. And so YC was one of the first to flick with a for profit lens, look at nonprofits. Nonprofits get a bad rap, but essentially these are all people that are trying to solve the world biggest, like most intractable problems. And so, you know, I just have the utmost respect for the YC community for, you know, taking all the things that they've learned about running good businesses, you know, over, I don't know how long it is. Over a decade. Over a decade. Yeah. And helping, you know, apply and create communities and create awareness around the organizations that are really working to try to make the world a more equitable place. That was very nice of you. Much respect. Well, yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming in. This has been great. Our pleasure. Thank you. Thanks, Craig. Thank you. for coming in. Thank you. for coming in. the world. for coming in. for coming in. the world. of coming in. the world. of coming in. the world. for coming in. the world. Thank you.