February 29, 2024

Apple Vision Pro and the Future of DIY

Meet Becca Berger, the Silicon Valley-based CleanTech coatings inventor who is literally using solar power,  AI, VR, and Apple Vision Pro to shake up the coatings market!☀️ 

“My goal is to get the coatings world off petroleum,” she grins as she slides Apple Vision Pro goggles over her green eyes. “Here, take these,” she hands me a pair. “Welcome to the future!” πŸ¦„

You’re ambitious! What is your endgame vision? 

“Apple Vision Pro has changed everything! In the not-so-distant-future, every home will have a headset. Think the sticker price is too high? Well, after you say goodbye to your TV, your desktop, your laptop, your tablets, maybe even your cell phone, you are going to experience a tremendous savings. What do you think homeowners will do with all those savings? I’m hoping they will want to fix up the home and I think the Apple Vision Pro will help them do that. This is why I’m developing a quality of life app that uses virtual reality and AI avatars. 


Let’s say you want to paint your wall. You’re a Bob Ross fan, so you select the 'Bob Ross' avatar to help you determine your square footage #input. Next, Bob helps you browse through 'The Wall Paint' colors. You and fake Bob take a stroll through some Japanese cherry blossom happy tree forests in Tokyo or you see a wonderful tropical waterfall on the island of Maui, and AI Bob Ross shows you exactly how to paint that on your wall #output. Best part, he helps you get the job done for around $100 from the comfort of your living room. 
Now that your wall looks like the Sistine Chapel, you decide you hate your entertainment center, so the 'Bob Vila’ AI avatar steps in to help you repurpose and reuse instead of buy new. Vila helps you match your entertainment center, your kitchen table, and your end tables using “Weather Wash” reactive wood stain. When it’s all said and done, Vila gives you the Restoration Hardware look for $300 instead of $3,000. 

Finally, you select 'Martha Stewart' to help revitalize your dressers with “The Furniture Paint.” She gets your dressers looking like works of art and she does it for less than a $100. 

You’re having so much fun and saving so much money, you start your own DIY channel and share it on my DIY app, which will be similar to the gaming app “Twitch.” 

That kind of forward-looking program would go beyond anything in the App Store now. The future demands a platform where smart creatives can: find inspiration, plan projects, learn skills, discuss problems, explore solutions, purchase supplies, watch and/or record instructional videos, share their experiences, and make repeat purchases. It’s called an integrated development environment and it could have a heavy viral coefficient. I’m talking… escape velocity.” πŸš€

Ok, I get it, that’s the tech piece, so what’s the problem with oil-based coatings?

“They’re gross. They’re stinky. They are hard to use. The problem I had with oil-based wood stains is that I couldn’t get the colors that I wanted because I’m not a professional finisher. I didn’t really understand how to wipe on, wipe off, and layer color tones like professional applicators have to. Also, and worst of all, they off-let carbon and harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC’s.) That’s bad for applicators and bad for homeowners. Ugh… don’t even get me started on the dry times. Anyways, I solved these problems by inventing my own wood stain. CleanTech Coatings is now on the shelf. The value is that anyone can get the high-end Restoration Hardware look, at a Walmart price. I love solving this problem. It’s my passion.”

While she works, I learn that a combination of events inspired her. First was a quote from Tim Cook in the “Elysis” project press release (link.) The second was in Bill Gates book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

“As a passionate artist, I knew I could help Apple’s green initiative, but more importantly the applicators. I just didn’t know where to start or what to build. I had a hunch that my blog would allow me to explore groups of DIYers to see if they shared my pain. So I started with a discreet survey built around my pain points and I learned that my readers were experiencing the same problems that I was. I called them and just had basic conversations about what they wanted. I thought I knew what they wanted but they asked me to focus on the benefits of water-based wood stain, because that’s what they were willing to pay for. I thought a water-based wood stain made sense because very little innovation has occurred in the coatings category in the last hundred years and formulating seemed technically feasible, so I invented one.” 

So the stain was your minimum viable product, did your customers want more than a wood stain?  

“Yes! That’s exactly what happened, my Instagram blew up with an enthusiastic group of customers demanding water-based wood stain, but leaving with so much more. I was able to extrapolate that they basically wanted me to make VOC free furniture paint (link)wall paint (link), and also topcoats (link). The survey results have helped with optimizing my strategy. My hypothesis so far, is that, their demands will shape the whole product line. With each new sku, margin costs will fall and the entire line should ease into profit-market fit,” Becca explains as she uses an air compressor to mix raw ingredients in a 330-gallon tote. Check out my Instagram account: @WeatherWash (link.)

Wood stain is a commodity, so the lifetime value of the customer is good, but how do you plan to cross what Geoffrey Moore calls the “Chasm,” and establish the lifetime value with the majority markets? 

My strategy is to focus on making my business better. I think Apple Vision Pro early adopters will get the word out through virtual reality. The idea is that our digital marketplace will teach clients how to do their DIY projects. Price parity with Minwax and iterative in-market testing will help the products cross the chasm. Of course, customers can scan QR codes on the quart and watch a video that explains how to apply the product, but most importantly, the instructor refers clients to the next coating. From there, we split and expand skus. As the data continues to come in, I’ll keep testing it and improving the product fit, just like my UX Software Engineer friend does at Apple, #designthinking. I know it’s just a hypothesis, but I’ve generated $1.28M in wood stain sales since 2022. I’ll do way more than that as the Apple Vision Pro sales increase. The key takeaway is that by reducing clients’ labor and material costs, I believe my coating quadrant retail sales can grow to $5M by 2026. Of course, I need to make sure the product economics are positive, but that’s how I see fast growth.”

Can you tell me about the coatings market?

“The total attainable coatings market (TAM) is approximately $186B. Although wood stain caps at $7B, paint, furniture paint, and topcoats bring in as much as $179B. These U.S. markets are serviced by roughly eight-thousand Home Improvement stores and have over 294M US consumers in foot traffic per week. That’s why I want retailers with the highest foot traffic. I know an early entrant isn’t going to make a huge dent immediately, but that is where the action is happening, in the retail aisle. I believe the whole product offering, ‘my coatings quadrant,’ could realistically get the service obtainable market (SOM) to $150M within ten years. Sounds crazy that I’m only at $1.35M in sales and I’m talking about a big number like $150M, right!? Haha! Howard Stevenson’s quote makes so much sense now. He said, ‘entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled,’  so let the good times roll.”

Do you have an economic model?

“The forward looking model with retailers is [(price) x (number of skus) x (number of stores) x (number of shelves) x (inventory turns) ^ Brand] = Revenue. These coatings work like a funnel. You do your end tables and then the kitchen table has to match. Of course, the entertainment center can’t stick out, so it becomes a project as well, and then your headboard. Next, the walls need to accent the furniture. The exterior of the home will need to be refreshed and, finally, the deck has to be done. In a short amount of time, the whole process starts again because trends change. Increasing customer lifetime value would hinge on trends, product education, and seamlessly moving clients onto their next project. I have a healthy profit margin, but the key lever for growth is expanding into five hundred big box retail stores every quarter.” 


Who is your target customer?

“Our target DIY client is referred to as LOHAS (link), Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. They talk to me through Instagram, which a great place to A/B test them. IG is a high-density network where LOHAS will recommend products through word-of-mouth. LOHAS feels what I felt. Simply put, they want products that do 80% of the work for the end user, while they do 20% of the application. They want fast cure times, with one step-application, not several layers. They want clean coatings and resist using products with strong chemical odors. LOHAS wants a guide to reduce the risk of project failure. They tend to make purchasing decisions based off their values rather than price. They’re educated and intelligent. They want the RH colors, but they want to save money and brag about how they did it themselves. They want a community to do projects with and share projects with, on social media. 

In 2020, LOHAS represented one-third of home purchases. The majority of Home Depot ($157B) clients are DIY consumers who are fixing up homes to sell or repairing homes they’ve just bought. I see a lot of LOHAS crossover between the world’s two largest retailers, Walmart and Home Depot. The LOHAS market is much bigger than just coatings. These are the clients responsible for Lululemon’s success. The LOHAS market represents $472.5B (TAM) in revenue as of 2022.”

What is your biggest hurdle?

“Distribution! For the last hundred years, my competitors have held a strangle-hold on the retail shelf. Although that is starting to change. Kelly Moore just went out of business, so there is going to be $457M worth of paint purchase orders on the market. Also, PPG is refocusing their energies on specialty lines looking to be a “bigger fish in a smaller pond.”  In the DIY space, Sherwin, BEHR, and Benjamin Moore are using price, operations, and ubiquitous shelf availability to hold marketshare and increase sales at approximately 2% year over year growth. Price is one of my biggest hurdles because I haven’t crossed that chasm to the eight-thousand retailers that my competitors have, so I don’t have that experience yet.”

Becca attributes her success to lessons she learned in her MBA operations class. She has capitalized off of continuous flow manufacturing (CFM) and just-in-time delivery (JIT) processes that she learned in MBA case studies. What are some constraints that you’re experiencing as you scale?

“Warehouse capacity and price parity to start. When we first launched in gallon milk jugs on my apartment deck, space was an obvious issue, and costs were high. Now that we’ve grown into multiple 330-gallon totes, our next increase will put us in 15,000-gallon stainless steel vats. The biggest constraint of any CleanTech product is going to be price parity

Right now my price on the shelf is $19.97. My competitors are around $15.97. The end consumer is paying a CleanTech premium of $4 when they buy WeatherWash, which is 25% higher than my competitors’ prices. In truth, you only have to use one of my quarts compared to the multiple quarts you have to buy to match my colors with Minwax. But, with more orders, my total manufacturing output will increase, and labor efficiencies will improve. I’ll pass those decreases on to the end consumer and get my price in line with my competitors. I might even land at $14.97 on the shelf. Technology-driven learning, product efficiency, and shared experience will reduce costs per unit as the total volume of production increases. At least that’s what the classic experience curve says,” 

As states have begun to regulate paint and stain emissions, do you see any opportunities to capture those laggard markets?

“States could accelerate the inevitable switch from oil to water through regulation. California has already started regulating the coatings industry in a way that forced many manufacturers to leave California. I think a better solution would be for lawmakers to use tax incentives and subsidies to shape consumer behavior. It would be nice if state and federal governments would give CleanTech coatings the same incentives they give solar and wind. Could you imagine the impact regulation would make if lawmakers required 25% of paint and stain to be carbon-free? The same way they require 25% of grid energy to be renewable? The reduction targets two primary points of emission. Reduced carbon from plant manufacturing and reduced carbon/VOC off-letting from product application.

How is your product innovative?

“My product is innovative because it is tannin reactive. Once the stain is applied, a natural reaction occurs inside the wood, and the wood changes color. My secret sauce is that I know how to stop the reaction so that it doesn’t continue to age over time. Consumers can’t tell the difference between real driftwood and the wood that I stain, which is great because my stain gives them an unlimited supply. Innovation is easy to spot when you’re reducing labor costs and reducing material costs.”

What’s the difference between Sherwin William’s manufacturing process and yours?

“When I built my manufacturing plant, I followed Bill Gates’ advice. He said, ‘we need to do three things to avoid a climate disaster. 1) We have to get to zero. 2) We need to deploy solar and wind faster and smarter. 3) We need to create and roll out breakthrough technologies that can take us the rest of the way.’ My manufacturing process is innovative because I did all three of those things. 1) I got my formula to zero. 2) I used solar, but I’m not talking about solar panels that power a plant, everyone is doing that. I’m capturing solar power to cook the batch inside the tote. 3) I created zero carbon formulas and rolled them out to Walmart. While I was researching base formulas, I learned that Edison, Tesla, Ford, Dupont, and Sherwin-Williams harnessed their economic opportunities by using oil. On scale, these 19th century industrial operations account for one-fifth of global energy use and are responsible for roughly fifteen billion tons of carbon off-letting annually. As the oil supply decreases, prices will continue to increase. Eventually, the oil demand will be higher than the oil supply. When that happens, I expect that low-carbon and carbon-free manufacturing processes, like mine, will disrupt old-school oil-based manufacturers.” Becca tosses what appears to be herbs into a large plastic tote. She pinches a little of this, and a little of that, and folds raw materials into the product with a wooden oar.

Are your materials renewable? 

 “My formulas for paint and stain harness naturally grown renewable raw materials and utilize renewable energy sources. I used a ratio of total gallons produced / energy use and learned that my manufacturing carbon emission is practically zero — and the product itself has no carbon or VOC emissions. It’s beyond carbon, it’s #netzero, which is my vision for coatings.” 

Circling back to the stain, your product is truly magic in a quart, but your operation is next level. You said that you use the power of the sun to make the product. Can you tell me how you do that? 

“Sure! When I learned that Apple used solar panels to power its manufacturing plant and work facilities, I asked myself, ‘what else can photovoltaic cells do?’ Apparently PV cells can only capture a maximum of 22% solar power. The scientific question I asked was, ‘what percentage of the sun’s rays could cook a batch of wood stain?’ It turns out, wood stain can capture up to 80% of the sun’s rays and that is more than enough energy to cook the batch. Once we acquire machinery to automate the line, we will install solar panels, and use the sun’s energy to manufacture paint, as well. Also, my operation will generate power for the grid. #Negawatts (link)! I think this is the future of American net zero (link) manufacturing! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ ” 

How do efficiencies play a role in CleanTech?

“Efficiencies are the key to real CleanTech results! The built environment is responsible for 29% of the 52 billion tons of annual carbon emissions. I have five main efficiencies that can reduce that percentage right now: raw materials, workspace, energy, labor, and plant power. I have one goal in mind when manufacturing: my energy efficiencies must maximize outputs and minimize inputs. I would say my operation is 78% efficient right now. When we scale to our goal of eight thousand retailers, I expect my efficiencies will go down at first, but once we get past the experience curve, I think they will be closer to 92%.” 

If you had one wish, what would it be? 

“I wish that Tim Cook would join my company and help me take over the coatings service attainable market (SAM.) Is that too ambitious? Seriously, with the Apple Vision Pro, his manufacturing experience, and retail distribution, we could make a huge dent in the DIY market. Join team CleanTech Coatings #TimCook, we can be unicorns.” 

What would you give up? 

“Take a look around you. Everything I have here is for sale, including things you can’t see like equity. Hang tight, it looks like my staff is overflowing a tote. I gotta go. Are we done here?” 


That’s a wrap. 

I’m surprised Becca can even hear me over the noisy air compressors, shouting, and continuous lid hammering. She is laser-focused on “the batch” and somehow manages to answer all my questions even though we are interrupted a dozen times by managers and employees. 

Here are some key takeaways: I personally have a new appreciation and a new perspective for renewables. I believe renewable energy operations will be revolutionary. Why? Because renewable energies are REPLENISHABLE, whereas crude oil might not be. If renewable energy products can perform as well as oil-based products and cost just as much, or less, why wouldn’t we switch? CleanTech products may be able to sell at even lower prices once the machinery is paid off because the cost of generating energy is practically nothing. 

Operationally, Becca has arrived at a manufacturing crossroads where renewable raws and alternative energy sources intersect. The result is a breakthrough technology that needs no electricity and no fossil fuels to manufacture. Her process may even be cheaper than oil-based wood stains and this visionary entrepreneur has decarbonized the product and the manufacturing operation. She has lit a path for industrial manufacturers inside and outside the coatings industry. The possibility for a transition from oil-based formulas to carbon-free water-based formulas now exists. 

How will the big switch from oil to renewable energy happen? 
Inventors and innovators, like Becca, will harness renewable energy the way she did with the sun’s power to make wood stain. Inventors are inventing products that will have ripple effects, as products are dropped into the market. Light bulbs, alternating current, and gas-powered vehicles were all products that were like a pebble in the pond. Some ripples will be big, like the Apple Vision Pro, electric wind, solar, and electric vehicles. Some inventions will be small, like biofuels and Clean Tech Coatings. Either way, from big to small, the wave of change is coming and AI combined with Apple Vision Pro will accelerate that change. 

When will it happen?
It’s already happening! In the summer of 2020, Germany successfully powered their power grid with 56% solar power. If you want to see the switch happening within the built environment, specifically wood stain, go to your local Walmart store or go online to Walmart.comHomeDepot.com, Amazon.com, or Becca’s website, WeatherwashCoatings.com. Just search for WeatherWash and don’t forget to leave a review! 😊 

As the big switch begins, some serious questions are: How will innovators get 52 billion carbon tons to zero in these categories: transportation, agriculture, electric power grids, industry, and the built environment? How much is the big switch going to cost? How many fossil fuel jobs will be lost? How many carbon-zero jobs will be created? 

Pundits believe 2050 is the cutoff before the 1.6 trillion tons of carbon emission heat the earth up one or two degrees and bring irreversible global damage. Think superstorms, extreme weather, droughts, food shortages, and energy grid collapse. Don’t be afraid of what may come. The big switch shines rays of hope through the darkest carbon cloud and it’s happening one rippling innovation at a time. 

Thank you for reading, and may each and every one of us find the ability within our consuming capacity to make the BIG SWITCH