My co-founder and I wondered why we didn't have any data about what our families put into our trash cans. That led us to learning more about composting, diverting food waste from the landfill, and deploying compost in soil. The more we learned, the more curious we became. What if we could help people divert food waste and create a tech platform for sharing their personalized data?

What it does

The dual goals for our Diversion Dashboard are transparency and story telling. Transparency is straight forward: we tell each subscriber the weight of the food waste they've diverted through Moonshot. But, what good is that weight without a context?

Residential Diversion Dashboard: We've divided our residential service area into 31 communities, so each member sees not only their diversion amount, but also the diversion amount for their surrounding community. We also have a bar graph that shows the top 5 communities by total weight. Here's an example diversion dashboard for me: Residential. Diversion Dashboard. Again, each of our residential customers receives a personalized Diversion Dashboard, just like the one linked above.

Commercial Diversion Dashboard: We've provided a way for institutions large and small to tell their story. Like at Rice University, where we collect food waste from 5 cafeterias. Here's what the diversion dashboard looks like for one of those cafeterias, the West Servery: Commercial Diversion Dashboard.

All these dashboards are simple websites, no logins or passwords required. Accessible through links or individual QR codes that we provide. And these QR codes are great, because they are so easy to share with family / friends for residents or stakeholders for companies and institutions.

How we built it

Joe and I don't code, which was a challenge! We brought on two technical founders who are expert at data management, and are working closely with a third-party tech firm who is developing our front- and back-end code. The design for the front-end was relatively easy by comparison. For the back-end dev, we've built a database located on AWS that populates all the personalized Diversion Dashboards. The data entry was manual to get all the historic data in (we've been weighing the food waste since day 1, long before we knew how we'd use the data). And the data entry has remained pretty manual the last few months. We are in final stages of completing an API so that once our drivers input the weights, our database receives that data daily; no one else has to input it.

Challenges we ran into

So many challenges. We founded Moonshot Compost because we believe eliminating food waste is an important mission, and because we believe that people should demand companies who collect their waste report waste totals to them. The challenge was how one guy who was a corporate lawyer and another guy was in business development for a transportation logistics company were going to figure this industry out, along with innovate a solution no one was providing. We attended an industry seminar and a conference, and decided we knew enough to be dangerous, and dove right in.

Global Pandemic. We launched in June 2020 in the middle of a pandemic, with no customers and no idea how to build tech. Building the operations to collect compost was a challenge, but somewhat easier than the tech.

Tech challenges.

  1. From a tech perspective, we were just such newbies. We paid for the design of the dashboard, and then had no idea how hard it was going to be to build the back end! Yes, it cost money. The hardest part was assembling the team so that we are efficient with the dollars we spend.

  2. After finding our tech founders, we started to make some progress, but there were still massive challenges. For instance, we had to switch our routing software that we use to optimize the routes our drivers take daily, because there was no good way to export data cleanly from our original routing software.

  3. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to load the historic data. Hundreds of hours. It just didn't make sense to build an API to automate it, because we'd never use it again.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

As of October 27, 2021, we have about 360 residential subscribers, and 25 commercial subscribers, and we've helped our subscribers divert over 377,000 pounds of food waste. Each of our residential customers has a personalized QR code on a sticker we have delivered to their homes. That was a massive undertaking. We started offering the Diversion Dashboard for sale since August to our commercial subscribers, and each of our new commercial subscribers since then is paying a monthly fee for the service. We are starting to back sell our existing customers.

Our monthly recurring revenue is growing steadily. It's not SaaS-unicorn style growth rates. Given that we are consumer service company with a tech wrap, we are proud of a compound monthly growth rate around 35-40%. And we have healthy operating margins around 50%, which is nearly 5x the waste industry average.

We were also selected to participate in cohort 3 of the Ion's Smart and Resilient City Accelerator last March, the goal of which was to get us into a pilot program with the city of Houston to help address goals established in the Climate Action Plan. We are proud to have completed our program work in June, and to be participating in a food waste diversion pilot program with the city from October 23 through November 27 this year. Even better, while we are collecting food and other compostable waste at only one of the three drop-off locations, we are providing a diversion dashboard for each of the three locations:

What we learned

There are two concepts that we use to keep us focused.

  1. Our software better solve problems for our subscribers, or it's just features wasting people's time.
  2. If Henry Ford had asked his first customers what they wanted, they would have said "A faster horse."

We knew we had to start a small business in the real world that collected food waste, if we wanted to understand the kind of technologies that would inspire people to change their behaviors around food waste. We've learned that inspiration is just as important for our team as it is for our subscribers. We can never lose sight of the fact we are trying to change the world. Every business change we consider, every update to the platform, we walk the change through our values. By being values focused, we are confident that the solutions we continue developing will not only solve our subscribers problems but will also make the world a better place. It's hard to overstate the impact of a team motivated by doing good, and doing it well.

What's next for Diversion Dashboard

One of the great results of building the dashboard as we have, without relying on an app that must be downloaded, is how easy it is to make improvements. There's no burden on the user to run updates. No rat race to keep up with ever evolving mobile operating systems.

Our current goal, which is nearly achieved is finishing the API for our back-end daily data transfers. Next, during the fourth quarter 2021, we are deploying an algorithm that we will refer to as our "Referral Rebate". On a quarterly basis, we will rank all our residential pick-up customers by weighted density, and provide a rebate to the half of our subscribers who are "most dense". And we will report everyone's relative density on the dashboard. The algorithm is cool: for each Moonshot residential pick-up subscriber, it calculates how many miles it takes to drive to the nearest 25 subscribers, and then it multiplies that mileage by the U.S. census bureau's population density data for that subscriber's zip code. This way, we can reward people for getting their neighbors signed up, while taking into account that the suburbs are less dense than areas we serve inside the loop. We believe this innovative referral system reflects our values. We are a business, so of course we want more customers. But, we also want to drive the fewest miles possible, to limit the impact of our collection business. We hope that our Referral Rebate will drive greater density, and we hope that featuring it on the Diversion Dashboard will encourage people to get their neighbors signed up!

We have bigger plans for 2022. Where 2021 was about personalized platforms, next year will be about creating a freemium / premium experience on our website where our residential and commercial customers can see one another. For our residential customers, they will be able to find businesses in their area that compost and be inspired by how many people compost. For our commercial customers, they will be able to tell their story, and to link up with people in the community that value businesses who divert food waste.

Built With

  • dynamo
  • gitlab
  • json
  • netlify
Share this project: