Jan 8, 2016

Soofa Solar Bench at Lafayette Centre

My name is Michael Bradley--you can call me Mike--and I'm a friend of Andrew. He roped me into doing a blog post.

Andrew and I met at the University Notre Dame. We were in neighboring dorms.  Since Notre Dame, we've stayed in touch through football games, Christmas parties, and email chains.  Since I moved to DC in 2013, we talk a lot about renewable energy and blogging.

Good blogs fascinate me. They seem to best represent the evolution of the long essay into the internet age.  I read a lot of them and am always looking for new and useful information to share with Andrew. One of my recent favorites is waitbutwhy.com (definitely worth checking). I enjoy the mix of comedic commentary, in-depth research, and stick-figure illustrations. A lot of my reading focuses on technology and energy.  I am specifically interest in products and ideas that make actual financial sense as opposed to new theoretical research. I care much more about function over form.  That's the CPA in me. I'm excited to be sharing a little bit of that background through this blog.

Now onto my post. On a recent stroll through Lafayette Centre (pedestrian walkway near Farragut North Metro Station) I noticed a modern-looking bench with a solar panel mounted on top of a center console. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the solar was providing power to USB ports on the sides of the center console. It was a great solar find and I made sure to snap a photo since I knew Andrew would be interested.

This is the first one of these Soofa benches I've seen in DC. After some additional research, I found that the benches are being piloted throughout Boston. Changing Environments, a Cambridge-based Internet of Things startup is the parent company.

A few ideas about this bench:  
1) these would be great out along bike paths, hiking trails, or down on the national mall.   
2) it would be ideal if these guys partnered with an app like Spotcycle, so you'd actually know where the benches are.  
3) I could definitely see many clean energy-minded business owners getting these for outside their businesses.
4) Lastly: the best trait of this invention is that it works right out-of-the-box.  My suggestion to Soofa, and to the many products like it, is to start selling their product the same way that Texas Instruments sells the most successful solar-powered product of all time - the calculator.  The reason that every calculator in the school classroom runs on solar is because it’s easier and more convenient.  No teacher wants to put batteries in 25 calculators.   I think these products would have a lot more success if they made their sales pitch: "Obviously, the people want charging stations.  This is the easiest way to do it.  The set-up is under 5 minutes, it works everywhere, you never have to worry about extension cords."

Michael Bradley is a '09 University of Notre Dame grad. He lives near DuPont circle with his wife, Lexie and their dog. 

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