Committing to AusOcean

About this time last year I incorporated AusOcean. Until November I continued working part time at Google and part time for AusOcean. Although Google was wonderful in blessing my AusOcean work on the side, I soon realized that spinning up a non-profit org (NPO) part time doesn't really work. I often advise budding tech entrepreneurs that the most important thing they can do is commit, and now I needed to follow my own advice!

I tested the waters by taking 3 months off between November and January to recruit and manage three student interns; call it a working holiday! That's my team shown above, from left to right, myself, Catherine, Jack and Saxon. Catherine is a marine biologist student, Jack a Computer Science student and Saxon a dual-major Mechanical Engineer with Computer Science. In other words, a truly multidisciplinary team.

We set out with the crazily ambitious goal of designing and building a low-cost underwater sensor network. Data (including high-bitrate video and audio, not just low-bitrate telemetry) was to be collected from a seafloor-mounted (wired) network, tethered to a communications buoy (the "rig"), and transmitted via a shore-to-sea communications link. From there it was to be streamed to the cloud for data analysis, and ultimately machine learning.

The work we did over the summer, while just the beginning, validated my thinking that commercial off-the-shelf hardware combined with open-source software, can radically reduce the cost of monitoring our oceans. While we're still testing the seafloor components and have yet to deploy anything underwater (except for water surface temperature sensors), we've successfully prototyped all of the surface and shore hardware and software components of the system.

The summer also reaffirmed my broader belief that technology can and should be a force for good in the world, not just building cool products. Alas, many non profits struggle to use technology effectively. AusOcean intends to be very different in its use of technology, with it's mission of developing and applying technology for the good of our oceans. In this regard, AusOcean is more like a tech startup company, than a traditional NPO.

So after 11 wonderful years at Google, and working with some truly amazing people, I am now all in with AusOcean!