Episode 29: BetaBox Labs Rethinking the Tech Industry by Eliminating Tech Deserts with Sean Maroni

mobile tech lab for lease and tech education

 

The Podcast

Full Video Interview

The Road to Ending Tech Deserts

Sean is the CEO and founder of BetaBox Labs, a company rethinking the tech industry by manufacturing and operating rapid prototyping labs run out of customized shipping containers. The containers are essentially mobile tech labs, filled with 3D Printers,  laser cutting, 3D scanning, vaccum forming — the tools you need to bring a new product into existence, including internet of things (iot) equipment.

BetaBox is mainly an educational service. The shipping containers are rented out to schools, institutions, and businesses where Betaversity teaches students how to work with the amazing tech tools onboard. It’s an educational tech lab on wheels. Tackling the huge issue of tech deserts.

A Product of Sales Ingenuity

The company started as a consultancy, helping universities create maker spaces inside school buildings. One major problem — while it was easy finding evangelists that understood the immense value a maker space would bring, convincing the decision makers of these schools was a challenge. Afterall, its expensive to build a makerspace on a hunch. So came the mobile lab. BetaBox launched a mobile lab as a sales tool to convince the people behind the money of the value a makerspace would provide to students. They put tools into a shipping container and invited the decision makers to check it out. The tangible element, seeing the product in person made all the difference.

“It gave people a taste before making the huge financial decision to build a maker space”

Since then the mobile labs program has expanded to K-12, hackathons, recruiting events for tech firms, and partnering with design firms to create in-field consumer design products. Sound familiar? This is a tip Regina Vatterot gave in Episode 27 when she literally went up to strangers in the park and asked for feedback on her medical pillbox device. Regina and Sean have proven that hands on product testing give you incredible feedback that modules and engineering tests cannot.

Sparking Innovation

Sean created opportunity through the roadblocks. The evangelists didnt have enough weight to make large financial decisions like building maker spaces. So the BetaBox was created as a way to prove their value. Forever changing the trajectory of BetaBox Labs.

BetaBox has turned from fixing up shipping containers, to now customizing their own platforms. It’s not a shipping container or a trailer, BetaBox is its own class of approved vehicle registered with the DMV, a custom facility that no one else has or can offer.

Tech Deserts

 

One of Sean’s goals is ridding the world of tech deserts. The basic concept= new technology is created and its expensive, only certain groups can afford the new tech, these groups acquire and start innovating using the new tech, once prices are cheaper most innovation has been created…so people (like kids or low-income adults) don’t have access to these amazing tools.

Sean’s Advice

  • “First design it for you” this is a piece of advice Sean backs with some cool life hacks. Like the daily countdown he sets, reminding him when to go to sleep and how much time he has before bed. “Then design it for 10 people, then 100, then 1000…”
  • Sean suggests making the human elements work first, and then design the systems around what you’ve built and where you’ve discovered a need for improvement.
  • Don’t try to convince people that don’t understand your product, go find the people that already want your product.
  • 2 takeaways: he tried to design too much for scale, designing for a year from now instead of what was needed today. 2: Trying to make B players A players in a few instances, which required more management time.
  • “Your rate of learning needs to be above the rate of learning of the growth of your company”.
  • How Sean boosts creativity: he connects disparate ideas. One way is diffuse mode vs focus mode. “Diffuse like when things are all over the place, vs focus when you’re zoned in” he says.
  • Negative capability– ones ability to hold a paradox in your mind and not be too stressed out
  • Having a side project can benefit you by giving you time to go away from the main project, providing a lens to see the full time project from the outside.
  • The lens Sean finds himself doing things is through doing more with less

BetaBox Roadmap

BetaBox has a goal to hit 1 million experiences in their labs by 2020, currently they are at about 10,000 and if they double every year they will reach the goal. They’ve landed a huge contract that will impact hundreds of thousands of students, one step closer to the goal of ridding our world of tech deserts.

Resources Mentioned

Sean mentions the Stanford eCorner to pickup a lot of the context and nuances you cant pickup in a book.

Sean’s reading Sapiens, which he says is blowing his mind!

Why Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Hustle Round

What quote or piece of advice is on his mind?: Reading an article on limiting decisions and life automations, thinking of willpower as a finite resource that lowers with every decision you make. Think Zuckerberg and Obama’s attire

A Recent accomplishment he’s most proud of: when something goes good for the right reasons, when you see the system start working.

Recent Influencers– stoicism from DHH (Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson) and Ryan Holiday (author, former Director of Marketing for American Apparel), with his new book The Daily Stoic. Both were recent guests on the Tim Ferris show here’s Ryan’s episode and DHH’s episode.

A tip or word of advice Sean gives– “Suurround yourself with people that don’t drink your Kool Aid”.

In the Weekly Callout Sean calls out Rebecca Homes, founder of Ello Raw a natural, healthy snackfood company.

His advice on hard things- just do the thing, stop procrastinating. “The only way forward is through the front door”

You can follow Sean and updates on his tech desert solution on Twitter @SeanMaroni on Medium or email Sean at sean@betaboxlabs.com

Shoutout to SoHHL for the dope intro music 

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