Nature Remo
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2016.06.22
MEDIA

<Tech in Asia> A sailboat, a 1,000-mile journey, and a new business

Haruumi Shiode is a globe trotter and world lover. He is one of only a handful of Japanese students to go to Harvard Business School in the past few years, but it is his father who shaped him into the man he is today.

I’m on a boat
The ocean filled an endless horizon and the sound of waves softly caressed the side of the boat. It was the old man, his son, and the sea. Haruumi had taken a three month long journey with his father, across 1,000 miles to one of Japan’s smaller islands of Okinawa. The two planned to celebrate Haruumi’s graduation and his father’s retirement.

Photo credit: Pixabay.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

The smell of salt lingered in the breeze that filled the sail, as nature nudged the ship along. “I was alone on the deck,” he remembers. “My father was sleeping in the cabin. It was only the two of us,” he smiles, “there was a full moon and the wind was steady.”

Father time
Haruumi’s relationship with his father has had a huge impact on his life. From technologist to businessman, he takes after the man in many ways.

When Haruumi was in middle school, his family had an old computer in the house. It was the kind with only a green display, on which you couldn’t do much but type documents or maybe hunt on a pixelated Oregon Trail.

One day, his father came home from his computer programming job. Haruumi was tinkering with the computer. “If you can make a kind of Space Invaders game with this computer,” said his father, “I will buy a new one.”

Haruumi hunkered down and started programming in Basic. Three months later, he completed a simple version of Space Invaders. True to his word, his father bought a new computer and the young boy began the process again in C.

This early interaction with computers eventually led him to pursue a degree in computer science, but the decision to jump into entrepreneurship stems from another childhood memory.

Photo credit: Pixabay.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

The Sony Playstation had just come out. The platform was completely open and Haruumi’s father took the opportunity to launch a gaming business. One day, Haruumi came home to his father shouting, “Ready, go!” over and over again in the bathroom.

Hoping his father hadn’t gone crazy, Haruumi continued with his school work. A week later he heard that same voice in his racing game on the Playstation. Laughing proudly, he asked his father more about the business. It was Haruumi’s first lesson on unit economics.

The games didn’t work out, but the seed was planted. Haruumi vowed to learn more so the same would not happen to him.

Scraping the earth
After completing his masters in information technology, Haruumi did business development for electric utilities. He was working on a project when the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan led to possibly the worst nuclear accident man has ever seen. While most people were still in a state of shock or debating whether the world should depend on such a dangerous fuel source, Haruumi was shuttled off to Indonesia the very next day.

Photo credit: Pixabay.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

In Indonesia, Haruumi was tasked with developing a new price-model for a coal-fired power plant. He remembers looking down from a small Cessna plane during a tour of a coal mine. “When I first saw it, I thought something was wrong,” Haruumi says sadly, “the scale was too large.”

Huge earth movers roamed the site. Giant machines scrapped the ground of its precious materials, all for our selfish consumption of power. These monstrous projects sometimes even took the lives of workers, Harumi says sadly. “There was a huge cost for nature, and a cost of life. I wanted to do something with cleaner, safer, and more distributed power.”

Becoming a pilgrim
Haruumi began to study energy efficiency religiously. According to him, it is the cheapest source of electricity. He left Mitsui and entered Harvard Business School to pursue his dream of creating sustainable energy, “I didn’t go to Harvard to study. I didn’t go to Harvard to mingle with people. I went there to start a company.”

In August 2014 Haruumi entered Harvard. By December, he had incorporated his company, Nature.

I didn’t go to Harvard to study. I didn’t go to Harvard to mingle with people. I went there to start a company.
He focused on developing the product. First was a device for air conditioners. “Air conditioners have the largest consumption in the residential space, so it was natural for me to focus on that,” he says. In his second year at Harvard, Haruumi was able to dedicate 40 percent of his credits to his business and received constant feedback from his professors.

When he was looking for technology to make dumb air conditioners smart, his father came to the rescue again. He put Haruumi in touch with an engineer who had created a piece of hardware that could connect infrared remote controllers to wifi. After nine months of courting, the engineer joined as a co-founder.

Kick it like soccer
The two completed a prototype and posted it on Kickstarter. With six days left, the team is already nearly US$25,000 over their funding goal. They hope to use the money raised as payment for the first order, which is set for delivery in August. The team also hopes to hit more of their stretch goals to add more customization like LED lights.

The technology basically replicates a remote control. Like setting up a universal remote for your television, the device chooses the appropriate infrared channels to assist in setup. It has wifi-connectivity so you can also control it from your phone. Imagine returning from a workout and being able to step into a refreshing home. The motion detector can also turn the air conditioner off when no one is in the room to save energy.

After conducting some simulations, Harumi found that people can save US$30 to $50 per year with the device. He wants to make other dumb appliances smart in the future but ultimately aims to help homeowners control their power consumption. “We want to separate houses from the power grid. Families will have their own battery and they can manage the demand,” clarifies Haruumi. “Eventually, you don’t need a massive scale power plant.” Nature is already trying to start a pilot program with a utility company in Japan.

Don’t forget, we are all on the same boat. “Human beings have the ultimate desire to co-exist with nature,” says Haruumi, “but our current society is going farther away from this instinct.”

“Once Nature expands and hits a stable upward track, I will embark on a sailing trip all around the world, reliving the memorable sailing trip with my father and personally propagate an energy efficient lifestyle, where people adjust to, not destroy nature.”

https://www.techinasia.com/sailboat-1000-mile-journey-business