Innovating against world poverty

In early 2017, our team decided to develop a 3D printer designed to serve the world’s poorest, and innovate against world poverty. Over the course of eight months, we collaborated with ICON, a construction technologies company, to develop the Vulcan, the first 3D printer created specifically for nonprofit use. Then came the important part: printing a home and getting people to care about it.

world poverty

In the chaos of the announcement (a VIP launch party, public launch party, and press launch), we knew it was going well but didn’t grasp the magnitude. In hindsight, it’s easy to see the launch went completely viral. With more than 100M video views and 1B impressions, capturing people’s attention to our cause against world poverty was no easy task and took a village of people to pull off.

Aside from luck (and an incredible story), three particular New Story values made the launch success possible.

1. Improve through feedback & learning.

Leading up to the press launch, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would want to receive if I was a press outlet with a full inbox. My goal was simple: make it easy for people to love this story. I wrote a draft and sent it to every friend I have in the press industry, asking for feedback. The summary? I got a lot of stuff wrong, made changes, and iterated until it made my press friends want to do a happy dance. Even my best attempts at creative empathy couldn’t beat real feedback from real humans who know.

2. Think big, break down, execute.

We’re a small but growing non-profit. To be honest, viral wasn’t even in our scopes. We could have aimed even bigger than we did, but one thing we did do was set specific goals that felt bigger than we could accomplish easily. Even right up to two weeks before launch, we were relentlessly knocking on doors to hit the marks we’d set. If we’d gone in with mediocre expectations, the results would reflect our lack of ambition. To the same point, I often wonder what would have happened if we had prepared better for a best case scenario.

3. Team of founders.

When all is said and done, I attribute much of the launch success to New Story’s incredible humans. Several of our investors called me with unsolicited offers to reach out to their press connections. Twenty-four hours before the launch, everyone on staff was doing whatever needed to be done. One team member’s first day on the job was literally spent mopping the patio outside the home in Austin — definitely not in her job description. We have this phrase, “Team of Founders,” which means everyone on our team is as invested in the organization as if they had founded it themselves. In the launch, I learned this goes beyond our staff and extends into our network, too. We’re so very thankful.

Here’s what I learned in the launch: a real test of your values is how they play out at inflection points in your organization.

All the carefully-contrived values in the world mean nothing if they don’t play out in the lived experience and decision-making of your team. For New Story, we were able to achieve a far greater impact for world poverty than we could have imagined, thanks to an ecosystem of amazing humans who share these values.