“Be obstinate about your vision, be flexible with your tactics” –Vinod Khosla.
In the startup world, where most things don’t pan out as planned, and you experience the most extreme highs and lows, being obstinate about your vision is very important, especially when you’re doing something that’s never been done. Just as important is having passion behind that vision that allows you to overcome the many challenges throughout a very tough journey. And being flexible with your tactics can help maneuver through many unpredictable trials that can make or break a startup.
It’s been an incredible journey with ELEVATE. Even through the lowest lows, the most uncertain times, what’s always been clear has been the vision my co-founder and I share of truly making an impact. In fact, it’s getting through the many challenges that have helped progress us significantly. It’s those defining moments that have helped shape us along with the opportunities that have come our way and our persistence in making significant connections that ELEVATE has evolved to what it is today.
ELEVATE is the brainchild of my co-founder, who also happens to be my husband. An innovative mind who constantly believes in challenging the status quo, passionate to reinvent the process of building from the ground up and has a love for nature.
It was in 2012, while Nathan was on a pristine site on the North Shore of Oahu, that the idea of ELEVATE was conceived. During a boring engineering job (septic system design), his mind naturally wandered to what type of house could naturally blend in among the beautiful ironwood trees where development was planned to occur.
The concept was a tree like structure, that would seamlessly blend in with its surroundings and have minimal impact to the site with its small “trunk” footprint on the ground.
As the design and concept developed, it was clear that not only was there a need for it in housing, but commercial applications (i.e. retail & office spaces), especially in cities that continue to grow with limited space. ELEVATE can fit into most locations where conventional construction can’t. We’re reimagining how space can be used, and how we can activate underutilized spaces for growing cities that need more innovative, creative solutions.
The shared vision of how ELEVATE can make an impact in the world through limitless applications began our journey as co-founders. Two Civil Engineers, a husband and wife team, raising two kids, running our engineering company (a foundation stabilization company), while doing a startup, creating man-made trees, seemed so crazy to many.
I’ve always loved problem solving, and I have an innate mentality that anything is possible. I also tend to be an over analyzer, and throughout this journey, as Nathan and I have analyzed everything we’ve done and what we’re trying to do, we’ve never had a doubt that we have something impactful.
In 2015, we decided it was time to go from the idea phase to building our first prototype, despite many who advised us not to. We learned many valuable lessons, the most important was to be in Silicon Valley.
In early 2016, a successful bold attempt to connect with a legendary Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist began the many trips between Hawaii and the Bay Area, while slowly planning a permanent move. Besides introductions made, a key phone call from that VC, who gave us the most powerful advice, significantly impacted ELEVATE. What seemed like such an impossible task/challenge at the time, expanded our thinking tremendously.
Using advanced technology with a far more innovative design, ELEVATE evolved into a truly radical structure, pushing boundaries in the construction/building industry. Not only can the structure be set up in two hours by two people, ELEVATE’s Architect, Dennis, another innovative mind, brilliantly saw the ability for the new design to be transformable.
By definition, “sustain” means to “strengthen or support.” Dennis greatly believes that our primary responsibility is to “strengthen or support” the life of people. He gauges success of our sustainable structures by its ability to be used by many different people, in many ways, over a significant period of time. And it’s become ELEVATE’s belief that the only way we can meet those requirements is through transformation. We feel that if there is no, or little, capacity for “continuous transformation,” then there can be no real sustainability.
For ELEVATE, sustainable means it must have the ability to transform and be re-adaptable. In a world that is changing faster than ever before, it’s not realistic to think that what works today will work in twenty years.
From its tree position, with a 20 sqft trunk footprint, it can transform into the mandala, with 2000 sqft space. A radical 100X space transformation that has the potential to make a global impact.
Our second prototype was soon built. Highly portable, we decided on an unconventional market entry that would allow us rapid prototyping and testing out in different geographic areas and different customer sets. We found our base camp. Temporary corporate event structures to get to the masses quicker.
In 2017, Nathan and I moved with our two kids from Hawaii to Silicon Valley to continue quick progression with ELEVATE and to be in the heart of innovation.
In the same year, another significant connection brought us to another milestone. We connected with Tony Hsieh. Rather than tell him about ELEVATE, we told him we’d show it to him. Nathan and I made the drive from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for his Zappos and Downtown Project world to see and experience ELEVATE first hand.
Tony’s collision theory, and our experiences in the event space helped crystalize one of ELEVATE’s bigger visions, data gathering. From corporate events to big festivals, data gathering is essential for efficiency in logistics, layouts, customer/vendor needs, and other things that can create better experiences and better events from start to finish.
On the macro level, the movement towards smart cities is crucial because data and the IoT can allow for better parking, improved traffic flow, greater security, improved disaster planning and other areas that can help improve the overall quality of people’s daily lives. And ELEVATE is the perfect platform, especially as we continue development of our easy plug and play smart arms.
With 3 structures on Zappos’ headquarters in April of 2018, and being part of key corporate events, we believe ELEVATE will have another significant evolution in our vision to creating the infrastructure for smart cities globally.
We’re excited to see the future of ELEVATE as we continue innovating and experimenting in all fronts through our diverse and unique team.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein.
We need to build the future we want to live in through unreasonable thinking that can make the impossible happen.