The story of how a hobby combined with a charity can turn into a successful and developing company.
Once Christian Weber woke up in the night — an obsession deprived him of sleep. “There must be another way. I have to think of another way” — spinning in his head.
After more than 20 trips to Burning Man — the annual American art festival in the desert of black Rock in Nevada, where very hot and dusty, — Weber for the first time suddenly encountered a completely new type of tents — hexayurts that his friend was brought to another event. It was the year 2014.
Weber really liked this piece — the inside was spacious and cool, despite successive cold and heat. And he decided that next year will bring the same (he had to organize a camp for 350 people).
However, he doubted that it was a good idea. It seemed that hexayurt long time to gather that she’s fragile and takes a lot of space, and to bring it, you need at least a pickup truck. In General, Weber, who at the time owned oil company, offering environmentally friendly alternative to the extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, threw this idea out of my head and concentrated on the planning of the camp.
But four months later, he woke up at home, in NAPA, California, from a sudden surge of attack of inspiration. In a recent interview he recalls:
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The idea of a monolithic hexayurt, the walls of which will be converted from a single material, completely captured me. I began to think of how this can be implemented in fabrics — for example, origami.”
The result of these reflections appeared Shiftpod — durable, insulated and prefabricated a tent weighing nearly 30 kg, but easily fits in the car. Given the size of four by four meters and a height of two meters at the highest point, it easily fits a double bed and a lot of things, and most people can stand it at full length.
Initially Weber had planned to make a limited number Shiftpod for his friends on the festival. For this, he told friends about his idea and made the order form, thinking that perhaps the person at 30, you can make tents for $800. He says: “the Link somehow leaked on Facebook, and then it began… Some strangers sent money… that year we brought to the festival three hundred tents”.
Shiftpod similar to the lunar module, quickly gained popularity. Last year at Burning Man was established more than a thousand tents. By the time Weber has already sold its green oil company and founded Advanced Shelter Systems Inc. (ASSI). So his night idea turned into a multi-million dollar business beyond the us market — so far that it needed a new currency.
Festival tent or shelter in the disaster zone
According to Weber, the tent was designed specifically for the harsh conditions of Burning Man, but gradually he became interested in the and participants of other festivals — including the elite Further Future, which is often called “Burning Man for billionaires”.
Once Shiftpod sold for $800, but the new model 2.0 costs $1299 (discount total price is $1499). In addition, the company introduced Shiftpod Mini (according to Weber, “woman weighing 50 kg can bring it to the festival on the shoulder or take the plane) and a system of tunnels connecting the two tent together.
But the history of the Weber is not limited to the sale of thousands of elite tents for fans to have fun under the stars. In 2015, when the inventor returned home with another Burning Man in Northern California, a fire broke out, killing four people, destroying over two thousand buildings and deprived of the shelter of thousands of people.
“I got back in the car, went to Burning Man and took 20 tents. We all washed and fixed, and I offered them to a charitable organization that coordinates assistance to victims,“ says Weber.
His proposal was not interesting to anyone — the organization make only money. In the end, Weber donated some tents to individual families. Nevertheless it was an important experience which showed that the bureaucracy has proliferated in this area.
Shelter for refugees
From the beginning, ASSI has pledged to donate to the charity of one Shiftpod for every 20 sold, but now the theme of shelters for victims of natural disasters and other emergencies excited about Weber even more. He says:
“Now in the world 53.4 million forcibly displaced because of wars and political conflicts. Many of them live in shacks made of tents, so we are trying to create for them a convenient and inexpensive shelter that could serve up to five years.“
Today the shelter ASSI can be found all over the world — they are in Haiti, Japan and Nepal. In Greece they were used to heat the refugees who arrived by sea. According to Weber, in partnership with one high-tech company, they were able to send two hundred shelters in Honolulu Hawaii to help the homeless. And last year, when the Florida coast approaching hurricane, Weber called and ordered from him a thousand tents. He says: “we had a few hundred pieces, we loaded them into the truck and sat ready”.
In June of this year in Oregon, Cape Blanco, carried out combined exercises to prepare for emergency situations military, police and representatives of other agencies — in total, they were attended by 40 local and Federal government organizations. Weber was asked to bring Shiftpod and new products, including Shelterpod and Responsepod to demonstrate their capabilities.
Jordan fanning, coordinator of the center for rapid response in Brookings, Oregon, recalls: “We were very impressed. We met in Aeroporto, and it was planned that the event will be held under the open sky. Suddenly the rain started. We had been Shiftpod, and he became our temporary conference room“.
Most everyone present enjoyed the speed of installation of the tent — especially those by inexperienced volunteers. Fanning says:
“It’s great that its so easy to install — most of the bigger shelters are composed of many parts and will not understand them”.
At the meeting were several members of the air force. Weber says: “Here is landing a helicopter, its blades still did not stop, and Shiftpod already assembled”.
The tent keeps the wind — none of them was formed under the gusts, educated helicopter propellers. (At the April testing at the John brown University one of the tents set in front of a giant fan, and it broke only when the wind reached a speed of 175 km/h)
Fanning says the power of the Brookings considering buying a few dozen Shiftpod, in the event of the earthquake to provide shelter for key personnel. “We can store 40-50 pieces in a transport container and then in the event of an incident we can respond promptly, without waiting for assistance from FEMA (the Federal Agency on management in emergency situations) or state authorities,” he explains.
Weber believes that one of the biggest challenges in disaster response is competition of various organizations, resulting in delay in the provision of assistance. All this time many people are forced to live in schools, stadiums or office buildings, while they have nothing but blankets and things they had time to recover from destroyed houses.
And he wants to find a solution:
“Our goal is to create a set, which will be shelter and water filtration system — the family of four to survive for one month. System to support 1,600 people must fit in one container“.
The obvious customers are Weber’s major companies in earthquake zones (e.g. in Silicon valley). In addition, they have plenty of room for storage shelters. Weber says, “You can open the container and instantly deploy the camp. It remains to plug in communications — radio, satellite communications — and everything is ready.“
He calls it “a Rescue camp Shelterpod” and it’s like the decision that he and his companions used at Burning Man. He says that the kit for the deployment of the camp is a 12-metre shipping container:
“Every year we take the camp from the container and use it as a kitchen — and there are folding tables, and air conditioning. And when the holiday ends, we remove all back in the container and put it into storage until next year.“
The same sets ASSI plans to rent to businesses and organizations who need to be prepared for natural disasters — or to donate to the needy.
Although ASSI willing to spend part of the money to charity, it is still a commercial company — and the idea of creating a new cryptocurrency is born out of the need to subsidize charitable projects.
It is expected that Sheltercoin will appear in the coming weeks and will be arranged in the image and likeness of bitcoin and other similar systems. If Sheltercoin will attract sufficient funds, ASSI will be able to return to charity funds. In addition, this approach would make more transparent the transfer of money into the hands of people caught in the disaster region.
Weber hopes that if people will buy Shiftpod for the cryptocurrency, it will raise its price — the more expensive it will cost, the more ASSI will be able to donate to shelters. He explains:
“The more people use the coin, the higher its value, as their number is limited. And the higher the value, the more equipment we can buy, the more people we can educate, and the more products we can produce“.
In addition, Weber hopes to be able to use Sheltercoin as a way to instantly transfer money to those who help those in trouble. In the traditional approach of funds have to wait a few days and sometimes a week. Weber says: “Using the blockchain, I can send money directly to someone’s phone.” And they will bring them to a company that is changing the bitcoin for local currency”.
He adds that the people who are changing the currency, is often one of the first to arrive in the disaster area.
If it would work? Weber hopes that, Yes, and indicates that Sheltercoin may be the first cryptocurrency backed by a solid company with an international mission and a real product. He believes that many new crypto-currencies represent a bare idea or concept. He says:
“We are well established thanks to popular product and a huge market. So we should be able to create a significant demand for cash”.
Heather Vescent, futurist and expert on alternative currencies, agrees that demand for the cryptocurrency today, “incredible”.
First she knew nothing about the company’s plans, but now the idea of creating a cryptocurrency based on social values, she seems to be very successful. However, she warns that to succeed ASSI and those who will use Sheltercoin should be to be consistent and to prevent misuse of tokens that diverge from the quoted values.
She also notes that, although the potential new token is huge volatility in the cryptocurrency market market could very easily lead to large losses for the supporters Sheltercoin.
Weber is aware of these risks and prepared for the fact that the company could not cope with them. But he is convinced that this is the best way to advance the mission ASSI, that is, to bring the shelter to where they are needed at the moment. Weber dialectt:
“I always thought that Burning Man is my outlet and hobby. Now, building on the skills gained, I can create a product and share it with the world, and to help not only people who decided to have some fun in the desert, but those who are in trouble”.