April 5, 2023

#001 – Brian Charter – Transcript

Bricks and Bytes
Bricks and Bytes
#001 - Brian Charter - Transcript
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Show Notes

Well, to give you a background on how I ended up doing what I’m doing now, I began my working life in the property industry. I spent the first 10 years working in and running property maintenance and refurbishment businesses, overseeing the maintenance of 18,000 toilets. Our work involved decent homes, social housing, and government building projects.

During those years, I took a step out of the larger industry to work in a retail maintenance company with my brothers-in-law. This experience sparked my interest in entrepreneurship, especially when we got an external coach consultant involved. I found the strategy work fascinating and felt like I was already bringing some of that knowledge to the table.

A few years later, after having twins and realising I was spending too much time away from home, I decided to pursue the strategy work more seriously. I trained and began coaching businesses, eventually growing a strategy consultancy with a business partner. We now deliver programs for the government and have worked with many amazing business owners.

As I observed trends and thought about the world we’re leaving for our children, I became increasingly interested in the green economy. During the pandemic, I was introduced to Maro, the co-founder of Suzy, through a family connection. Maro had built property tech businesses in Brazil and had an idea about monitoring potential solar radiation output of homes using geolocation data.

Our discussions led to the development of the Susie House concept. We now have a demo version of the app and recently secured funding to build the MVP. Our team has connections to both the UK and Brazil, as Maro is based in the UK but has built businesses and worked with developers in Brazil.

To put it simply, Suzy House is an app designed to help people reduce the carbon output of their homes, save money on energy bills, generate income through home upgrades, and increase the value of their homes. It works by connecting to your smart meter or an IoT device to monitor your home’s energy consumption. Users can identify potential improvement projects based on their location and home specifics, and the app provides accurate estimates of the impact on their monthly bills and potential revenue generation.

To determine the sustainable technologies applicable to a user’s home, Suzy House starts with a quick survey about the home’s characteristics, such as the year it was built, insulation, windows, roof type, square meterage, and the number of occupants. From this information, the app creates a benchmark for the average CO2 emissions of a home of that size in the UK. Suzy House then uses a scoring mechanism, similar to Strava, to encourage users to improve their homes and reduce their CO2 output, lower their energy bills, and increase their home’s value.

The app aims to create a sense of competition and community, encouraging users to share their progress with others and challenge them to make improvements as well. Suzy House connects users with installers to obtain blind quotes for the suggested improvements without sharing contact details, making the process easier and more comfortable. The app also helps users identify available subsidies, grants, and other funding sources for sustainable home improvements.

Currently, the Suzy House team is working hard to obtain qualification for carbon credits.

 

The Suzy House team has had conversations with contractors and received enthusiasm for the idea, although it has not yet reached the testing stage. The app serves as a lead generation tool and can act as a catalyst to increase demand for retrofitting services. The market is expected to become more competitive as the demand for sustainable home improvements increases.

The UK government’s plan and regulations play a crucial role in creating opportunities in the industry. As regulations become more stringent, focusing on insulation, sustainability, and carbon footprint, more opportunities will arise for Suzy House. The government has set a goal for the UK to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which will impact various industries, including housing.

The government is gradually targeting developers to create more energy-efficient homes, offering incentives and penalties to encourage improvement. Although there are no specific milestones set for homes to become carbon neutral by a certain date, the government has set objectives for the automobile industry and new-build houses to be net-zero or carbon neutral by 2030.

Currently, Suzy House is still in the ideation stage and does not have a tangible product to offer to the market. However, the team continues to work on the idea, focusing on catching trends and keeping up with the government’s plans and regulations to ensure the app’s success in the industry.

 

So the question is, what’s the plan for the next few months? To get this rolled out into people’s hands. We have a demo version and we also have an IoT monitoring device that we have tested and we’ve managed to link that up to our demo. The demo isn’t the full working MVP, so the next stage is to roll out over the next couple of months a sort of beta MVP where we will just be running various tests across 10 properties, and then during the course of the next nine months, we want to then have a pilot of a hundred homes and then a pilot of 300 homes. And that will be, I need to check our timeline, but it’s essentially sort of four months time, I think four or five months in to do the first 100 homes. There’s a lot of testing we want to do first because we want to give it the absolute best chance of success in terms of how people respond with it. So we’ll do a lot of that testing and then obviously it’s sort of gradual testing with larger and larger test bases. So by nine months time, I think we want to have a user base of about 700 in total. So we’re anticipating that we will also generate some organic growth and of course all of that will really still be test phase. The first 2000 IoT devices are going to be free to end users. One of the, got a few go-to-market tactics actually, I might not talk about them all here just in case. Yeah, sure. Other people are listening in, but a couple of things that I think could really capture the interest of the general public and that will be at a stage where we’re really feeling like we’re ready to roll the thing out and it not fall over. So you’re looking like early 2023 to really go on a growth. Yes, we’ve got another year of real initial revenue generation stage, and then we want to really go for it 2023 onwards. I mean, now’s the time because what’s happening with energy costs and household energy bills, and there’s going to be a high level of motivation to engage with this, I think. Yeah, sure.

Oh, it’s going to go even, yeah. Brian, so Suzy is tackling existing buildings, right? Primarily, however, so one of the key things is this measurement function and it doesn’t mean that it can’t be installed in new build because you’ll still be able to monitor against a benchmark. So one of the things is if we can establish the carbon credit mechanism, people who buy a new build house, they might pay a little bit more for new build but they would already qualify for a credit on the basis against the benchmark because it’s all right, well we’ve got a four-person house that’s producing 25 less CO2 than the average; they’d earn a credit for simply having purchased that. Also, not all very few new build properties are actually installing solar or wind or ground source heat or anything like that at the moment. So there’s still the opportunity to make improvements. They may be very efficient, but they’re not necessarily becoming revenue-driven at the level they need to be. There’s opportunity there, even for new build.

I was just going to say, just looking at the time, before we move away from Suzy House, is there anything you say, add that we haven’t discussed so far. I don’t think so. Hopefully it hasn’t been too rambling. It’s quite a broad concept. So I appreciate it. Yes, very across in a succinct way. So I apologize if I’ve gone off on one. You can tell I’m very enthused about it. And Todd’s not me talking about it wants to get going. So I hope it’s very informative and innovative as well. So you could talk about for hours if you really wanted to. We’re working a lot of it out as well as we go. So yeah, maybe in a year’s time, it will be a different conversation. That’s right. Come back and we’ll tell you about all the users and all the kinks and all the challenges that we’ve had along the way. Oh, you mentioned actually, so you mentioned beta testing. Is there any people you’re looking for or have you got the people lined up or are there people that could perhaps reach out to you? We’ve got people lined up, but you know, if anyone was listening and went, I really want to be a part of this, by all means reach out to us. You can find us at Susie.house. We’ll follow us there. We’ll keep you updated with our newsletter. You can follow our Twitter account, link in with us.

Have you had an unlimited budget? of everyone by the way. So it’s a very interesting. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they answer this question. Okay. So if someone gave you an unlimited budget to invest in any emerging business technology or trend, what would you spend it on and why? It sounds like of course I’ve got to say this, but I genuinely believe it. And it’s going to be the green economy, green energy, green sustainable economy. Or that is going to be the driver of growth over the course of the next 20, 30, 40 years. How are we going to continue to in a sustainable way. I mean there’s so much going on around. It’s fantastic. I love watching the innovations that are coming out, just the different drivers that are, I have invested in various companies and opportunities that are in the supply chain of green energy. For me, that’s where the future is.

Okay. Through your journey, what is it that, because I guess that’s your first tech kind of business that you are involved personally, yeah? So through this journey, what is it that you would have done differently and what did you learn is like a very important thing for someone who hasn’t done it yet. It’s a funny one because I feel like it’s been slow to get to this point and so I would have said I would have gone faster. However, I think it’s actually allowed us to solve and really think through, and there’s a certain amount of problems you’d never solve until you get into it, but it has allowed us to think through.

I think the one thing, though, that I’m conscious of, and this is a real sort of, it comes out of tech folklore to some degree. I remember reading The Lean Startup a little while ago. And there’s a story in there about essentially a team who got a load of funding and spent a year designing this app. And then once they’d got it all built, they took it to market and tested it with about, it was some sort of music game for kids, tested it with those kids and immediately they could see all the problems with it. Get out of the building, that’s what people say. Yeah, exactly. Get out of the building, start, make it work. And I think, you know, while we’ve taken time and we’ve really worked on the concept, actually, that’s the one thing that probably, maybe we should have had up until now was more conversations with the potential end users. It’s something that we’re very conscious that we’re going to start doing now in earnest and working out the kinks.

And so I would say, you know, that would be the lesson that I would pass on to anyone would be, make sure you understand your customer if you’re designing any tech product; work with them along the way constantly from as early a point as possible to understand people’s input and feedback. And we’ve done that through interviews and discussions thus far with people to gauge their engagement with the concept and what they’d like it to do. But now it’s time to really start to get them using it. The thing with customer discovery is a continuous ongoing process, which you’ll be doing probably forever. So, better later than never. Yeah, exactly.

Cool. Let’s wrap this up. I mean, where can people, you mentioned it earlier, Suzy.house, where can people find more about the business and yourself, Brian? Yes, they can find me just Brian Charter, B -R-Y-A-N Charter on LinkedIn and at BGCharter on Twitter, although I have to confess I’m not a huge tweeter. If you want to reach out to me there, by all means, happy to chat. Suzy.house is the website.

Thanks, Brian. Thank you very much. Thanks, guys, this has been fun. Nice to chat. Thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of the Bricks and Bytes podcast. If you are enjoying the show, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. We really appreciate it, and we’ll catch you in the next episode.

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