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Jeff Wilson aka Professor Dumpster: Minimalistic design & affordable housing
Jeff Wilson, also known as Professor Dumpster, is a former HBCU environmental science professor and a serial tech entrepreneur.
About This Episode
As Professor Dumpster, Jeff has lived in a 33 sq. ft. modified trash dumpster as part of an environmental education and minimalist housing experiment. His work on sustainability and minimalism has been covered broadly by publications like Forbes, The Atlantic, NY Times, and The Washington Post.
Jeff talked to us about his “Dumpster Project” as well as his previous and current startup ventures. As an entrepreneur, Jeff has founded and built a micro housing startup, Kasita, that was sold off in 2018. Jeff’s latest company Jupe, has been a part of the recent Y Combinator batch, and Jeff also highlights what he learned from that experience.
In our conversation with Jeff we also discuss the details of how his current product works, the challenges of building a hardware company, picking the right co-founder, and… fundraising at the urinals.
So, we'd like to talk about the very beginning stories on Startup Foundations. So how did you first become an entrepreneur? How did you get interested in big business startups, high-intensity interval capitalism?
I like that term. Is there an acronym?
Greg Miaskiewicz: It's HIIC.
HIIC. Well, I'm a sixth generation Texan.
Greg Miaskiewicz: Natural born HIIC.
So it's a weird story. I've been an environmental science professor, a tenured professor. Safest job in the world. I decided I wanted to do this experiment around minimal living and around waste. So I convinced the university administration, to let me live in a 33 square foot dumpster for a year. An actual used trash dumpster and convert into a home. When you have aspirations as a professor of being part of the 1%, it's probably going to have nothing to do with wealth.
So I just went with, I'll live in 1% the volume of the average American home, own 1% of the stuff and consume 1% of the energy and water.
So did this and began moving my little dumpster house around the city and playing with coding officials and planning and learning how to design small spaces. And at one point, as you're laying in your dumpster at night, looking up at the heavens through the roof, this idea came to me of making the iPhone of housing. An integrated piece of hardware and software.
Of course, there's an iPhone at Tesla and Uber and everything I learned later. But it seemed like a good
enough idea. I moved out of the dumpster, raised my first check and started a company called Kasita.
Alec Hartman is the co-founder and CEO of Welcome Homes, a startup streamlining the way people buy homes online. Alec was also a co-founder in a now publicly traded company Digital Ocean, that provides cloud infrastructure that helps businesses build and scale software applications.
Natalie Barbu is the co-founder and CEO of Rella, a startup building software to help influencers and content creators manage and expand their business. Natalie is also an experienced content creator, with over 350,000 followers across platforms like Youtube and Instagram.