Author Topic: The uBeam FAQ  (Read 359778 times)

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Offline mathieumatteomatthew

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #350 on: May 10, 2016, 12:02:05 pm »
Hi guys,

I don't know if any of you has come across this yet, so here it is:

http://liesandstartuppr.blogspot.de/

(not the author)
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #351 on: May 10, 2016, 12:38:22 pm »
Hi guys,
I don't know if any of you has come across this yet, so here it is:
http://liesandstartuppr.blogspot.de/

Nice find. It's an ex-employee who left a few days after the Tech Crunch article.

Quote
Now I need to first comment, that the engineering team was sorely pissed at the idea that we needed whipped into shape by two people who clearly had no idea what to do at a technical startup in the R&D phase. We were almost as pissed as when another article was placed in Techcrunch talking about uBeam achieving the physically impossible, such as charging through a pocket. In my opinion, the addition of these two "C's" marked the end of any hope of the company achieving anything - I left two weeks after that article was published, and I think history is proving my feeling as to what their addition would do to the company was correct.

EDIT: Sounds like the author was the VP of engineering?
Quote
When I left it was an ugly departure, but was reported to the investors as "the VP Engineering left for personal reasons" - personal reasons being "sick of putting up with this bullshit". I wonder what uBeam's excuse for Hushen will be? "Spending more time with her family", "Having achieved everything she had set out to, it was time to move on to other things", or like me has she left for "personal reasons"? I'm betting on the first.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2016, 12:40:17 pm by EEVblog »
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #352 on: May 10, 2016, 12:44:17 pm »
Wow, I'm reading through that blog and it ain't pretty!
http://liesandstartuppr.blogspot.com.au/
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #353 on: May 10, 2016, 01:01:21 pm »
The reason engineers went to work for uBeam:
http://liesandstartuppr.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/tilting-at-windmills.html

Quote
A question that's often asked on such blogs and forums is "It's never going to work. Why would any engineers work there?" while uBeam themselves point to the fantastic engineers that work there as evidence that they have a solid and viable technology.

So who is right? Well, I can't speak for other engineers, but I can talk about my motivations for doing so. And for me, neither is right, and neither matters - not even considered in my decisions.

As some background to this - I'm very experienced in ultrasound devices and acoustics. It's something I've spent over 20 years working on, am well known in the field, and have encountered pretty much every type of device out there and worked on in one way or another. I'm very good at what I do, and while not wealthy, I'm 'financially stable'. Finding work isn't an issue - but at times finding truly challenging and interesting work is.

So along comes a consulting gig - "Get paid to work on an interesting technical challenge." Of course I'll take it. At this point I start working with the other engineers involved in the project, primarily Marc Berte (the then CTO, who left uBeam in Jan 2015). When you work with a wide range of engineers over the years, you get a feeling for who you want to work with and who you don't. He's very, very sharp, and knows his stuff, and I'm finding I'm learning things from him - and that's pretty uncommon for me - to the point he might be the smartest engineer I've ever worked with.

We're making strides and building things, and sure it's a rollercoaster but this is the sort of thing that just gets to the heart of why you do engineering. Hard challenges, constant learning, being inventive on a tight budget, smart engineering colleagues.

Then the fundraising starts and you're sitting in the offices of big name VC's and rather than the usual 30 minutes of them reading their email as you go through your pitch before "So sorry, maybe in 6 months" it's extending the meeting to two hours and multiple callbacks. Fifteen years living in Silicon Valley and now I'm doing what everyone flocking there is desperate to be.

As an aside - I'd like to think the presence of this engineering team also somewhat swayed the VC's into funding. As the lead investor, Upfront Ventures, commented in a blog post:

"Here is where having Marc Berte and a team out of MIT who have designed systems like this for years gave one confidence we could do something others couldn’t copy and at price points that could make us market leaders over night."

And then you're funded, Series A. Offices by the beach in LA, top-of-the-line equipment you've always wanted, and hiring more great engineers to work with. And why do those great engineers come on? Well from what they all said after - "Hard challenges, smart colleagues to work with and learn from, cool equipment to play with."

Did I join because of the founder CEO and her amazing vision? Her technical savvy? Her management experience and amazing people skills? No, she figured into my decision with the single following factor: "Raises money way better than I can." (More on why engineers struggle to raise money in many future posts).

I joined because of the challenge and the CTO. The next engineer joined because of Marc and I. And so on for pretty much every engineer - and yeah, I ended up speaking for other engineers, so if any uBeam engineers want to pipe up and disagree, feel free.

So if you're looking for someone to blame it all on, blame Marc. :)

And the point of this story? In my opinion, don't take the presence of smart engineers as confirmation of a technology's viability (either way), and don't think the engineers at a company you find questionable aren't smart and are fully aware of the technical issues of what they're working on. They just want to play with fun toys.
 

Online coppice

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #354 on: May 10, 2016, 01:28:18 pm »
The interesting thing he never says about his work at uBeam is whether he was just taking the money to do interesting work, or if he actually thought there was the possibility of a product somewhere down the road.
 

Offline Fungus

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #355 on: May 10, 2016, 02:38:31 pm »
The interesting thing he never says about his work at uBeam is whether he was just taking the money to do interesting work, or if he actually thought there was the possibility of a product somewhere down the road.

He seems well aware that it can never work (explains it mathematically, with equations).

Bottom line: He just wanted to play with the toys that would let him confirm that (and get paid to do so).

Me? I'd do the same.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #356 on: May 10, 2016, 03:06:41 pm »
The interesting thing he never says about his work at uBeam is whether he was just taking the money to do interesting work, or if he actually thought there was the possibility of a product somewhere down the road.
Probably careful wording to avoid breaking any confidentiality agreement.
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Offline bazsa56

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #357 on: May 10, 2016, 08:59:20 pm »
Just finished reading the blog. The entire thing is pretty well written and an amazing read, somewhat funny even if you have a certain type of humor.

If the author ever wrote a book about his experiences I'd love to read the whole thing and it'd probably be an excellent educational piece for engineers just starting out. I've only been in the industry for 3 years and more on the software side of things then the hardware, but I gotta say that even after this relatively short time in the industry nothing about the whole uBeam story really surprises me. Back in university I probably would've thought otherwise and they really do not prepare you to deal with the sort of idiots you'll encounter.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #358 on: May 10, 2016, 10:38:54 pm »
The interesting thing he never says about his work at uBeam is whether he was just taking the money to do interesting work, or if he actually thought there was the possibility of a product somewhere down the road.

You can read between the lines that he never thought it was possible, at least what Perry was claiming. But maybe he hoped they'd realise that, come to their senses and pivot the project to some niche thing.

Word on the street is that there is no one good left to hire.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #359 on: May 10, 2016, 10:46:29 pm »
Here is the problem with uBeam (i.e. Perry)
From the job ad for VP of engineering:
http://www.startuphire.com/job/vice-president-electrical-engineering-350972
This is genuinely what Perry thinks:
Quote
If it doesn't break the laws of physics, it can be done

She doesn't realise it ain't all about physics, there is this pesky thing called engineering reality too  :palm:
 

Online rx8pilot

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #360 on: May 10, 2016, 11:21:02 pm »
She doesn't realise it ain't all about physics, there is this pesky thing called engineering reality too  :palm:

Reality has sunk more than one of my dreams before. I learned to admit the defeat, tuck my tail, and move on.
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Offline HackedFridgeMagnet

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #361 on: May 10, 2016, 11:23:59 pm »
Heres a line from the new job add.

Quote
Accurately summarize and communicate project status, risks, and mitigation plans to other departments and to executive management

If she can get someone to do this then maybe she could learn from them.
 

Online Bud

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #362 on: May 10, 2016, 11:48:42 pm »
Quote
Prototype build, test and debugging
Yep, this is what VPs usually do.
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Offline HackedFridgeMagnet

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #363 on: May 10, 2016, 11:49:08 pm »
I am going to reveal my ignorance here (not for the first time) and ask what the "two C's" means.
I have my initial gut response but I'm not sure.

I'm pretty sure it's from http://techcrunch.com/2015/09/28/electric-liberation/   C as in CFO and COO.
Quote
uBeam’s getting ready to ship its wireless phone chargers, so its 26-year old CEO Meredith Perry has hired some hardware industry veterans to whip the business into shape. Former Apple and Palm finance leader Monica Hushen will be uBeam‘s new CFO, and Cisco, Palm, and Nokia VP Jeff Devine is joining as COO.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #364 on: May 11, 2016, 12:04:54 am »
Heres a line from the new job add.
Quote
Accurately summarize and communicate project status, risks, and mitigation plans to other departments and to executive management
If she can get someone to do this then maybe she could learn from them.

It's clear she doesn't want to learn, she wants to be proven right that she is a genius visionary, an outside the box thinker who ignored engineers and experts and made her dream a reality. Because, you know, that's all it takes, belief something will work and it will, if only it doesn't violate the laws of physics (which it doesn't)
Or whatever waffle she said here:


It's like believing that you can make a practical car that goes 2000km/h, it doesn't violate the laws of physics. Forget all those closed box thinking engineers talking about friction and wind resistance and down force etc.
 

Online coppice

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #365 on: May 11, 2016, 03:57:12 am »
Here is the problem with uBeam (i.e. Perry)
From the job ad for VP of engineering:
http://www.startuphire.com/job/vice-president-electrical-engineering-350972
This is genuinely what Perry thinks:
Quote
If it doesn't break the laws of physics, it can be done
She doesn't realise it ain't all about physics, there is this pesky thing called engineering reality too  :palm:
We just need more deregulation. The radium glow in the dark novelty industry was doing fine until those health and safety people got involved.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #366 on: May 11, 2016, 05:31:05 am »
It's clear she doesn't want to learn, she wants to be proven right that she is a genius visionary, an outside the box thinker who ignored engineers and experts and made her dream a reality.
Maybe she's the 100th idiot.

Nope, because to to be the 100th idiot you have to actually succeed. uBeam will flop miserably, and fairly shortly.
Although, if the measure of success is being able to convince people to fund you, then yes, a worthy 100th Idiot award winner.
 

Offline Fungus

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #367 on: May 11, 2016, 07:50:06 am »
Just looking at their job list:

http://www.startuphire.com/search/index.php?searchId=c9231fd8241e5c07058426090048e528

Aren't they all basic positions that should already be filled by now?  :popcorn:

 

Offline amspire

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #368 on: May 11, 2016, 08:10:28 am »
Just looking at their job list:

http://www.startuphire.com/search/index.php?searchId=c9231fd8241e5c07058426090048e528
An interesting list of jobs. Looks like they are going to track the uBeams's position optically. Something like flashing IR led that you must not cover up. Boring! I thought they may be doing it somehow with ultrasonics with a phased array on the transmitter.

So this thing is going to have custom ASICs both ends, a camera to track the receiver, I guess a two axis motorized rotator on the transmitter, who knows what to align the receiver, custom ultrasonic transducers both ends, a powerful ultrasonic amplifier on the transmitter, and a really really pathetic data-over-ultrasound capability.

How much is this monster going to cost? I spend about $10 a year on microUSB charging cables, so I hope it will be cheaper then that.  :-DD

I was thinking that if they are smart, they will use the money to develop useful ultrasonic detection/imaging technology so at least they have something. It doesn't sound like they will end up with any useful technology at all. Perhaps the transducers may have other uses, but it looks like they are still looking for transducer designers. I thought that was the heart of their invention.

Richard
« Last Edit: May 11, 2016, 08:18:12 am by amspire »
 

Offline Fungus

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #369 on: May 11, 2016, 08:24:11 am »
An interesting list of jobs. Looks like they are going to track the uBeams's position optically.
That's the latest idiotic idea, yes.

It won't work, obviously, but the engineers get to play with expensive toys for a while longer and Meredith gets a bit more time as a "visionary".

 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #370 on: May 11, 2016, 08:43:20 am »
Just looking at their job list:
http://www.startuphire.com/search/index.php?searchId=c9231fd8241e5c07058426090048e528
Aren't they all basic positions that should already be filled by now?  :popcorn:

Yep.
Likely because:
a) Everyone keeps leaving
and
b) The tech doesn't work as Meredith thought it would, so, meh, keep trying...
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #371 on: May 11, 2016, 08:51:20 am »
An interesting list of jobs. Looks like they are going to track the uBeams's position optically. Something like flashing IR led that you must not cover up. Boring! I thought they may be doing it somehow with ultrasonics with a phased array on the transmitter.

IIRC, it went through various incarnations, from no position tech, to "oops, performance is going to suck unless we really beamform and steer this thing", through various techs that didn't work well enough, so, meh try again with some sort of optical tracking. Because, you know, it just has to be a solvable problem, Meredith has deemed it so.

Quote
So this thing is going to have custom ASICs both ends, a camera to track the receiver, I guess a two axis motorized rotator on the transmitter, who knows what to align the receiver, custom ultrasonic transducers both ends, a powerful ultrasonic amplifier on the transmitter, and a really really pathetic data-over-ultrasound capability.

Yep, but it uses beam forming to steer the ultrasonics.
All this bleeding edge tech to replace a $5 Qi charging pad, and at probably 1/50th the efficiency, yeah, winning idea  ::)

Quote
How much is this monster going to cost? I spend about $10 a year on microUSB charging cables, so I hope it will be cheaper then that.  :-DD

You don't have to worry about it, because it will never make it to market  ;D

Quote
I was thinking that if they are smart, they will use the money to develop useful ultrasonic detection/imaging technology so at least they have something. It doesn't sound like they will end up with any useful technology at all. Perhaps the transducers may have other uses, but it looks like they are still looking for transducer designers. I thought that was the heart of their invention.

The people that do/did work there are very smart, but word is that Meredith doesn't want to hear anything but her own fairytale.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #372 on: May 11, 2016, 09:15:11 am »
The people that do/did work there are very smart, but word is that Meredith doesn't want to hear anything but her own fairytale.
Sounds like you buy a big supply of ear plugs, start the job, say yes to everything Meridith asks for because she is a visionary, do whatever you want to do in the lab with the toys, and leave when Meridith is highly disappointed in you. It is not like you can actually design the working ultrasonic link. A very weird paid holiday.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #373 on: May 11, 2016, 09:23:33 am »
Sounds like an ideal job for an engineer - If you're one of the experts in the field you can name your price as they have a ton of VC money burning a hole in their pocket, all the fun of experimenting and playing with nice toys, with no prospect of all the boring stuff for production.
And when it all goes titsup, or you leave, it doesn't reflect badly on you when applying for the next job because it was an obviously impossible task.
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Offline Fungus

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Re: The uBeam FAQ
« Reply #374 on: May 11, 2016, 09:24:20 am »
Yep, but it uses beam forming to steer the ultrasonics.
All this bleeding edge tech to replace a $5 Qi charging pad, and at probably 1/50th the efficiency, yeah, winning idea  ::)

Rich people don't mind spending $5,000 per transmitter and having huge electricity bills.

The real problem will be the bulk that the receiver adds to the phone. Nobody with enough money for uBeam wants a half-inch thick phone.

(And if you do huge phone you're probably better off adding more battery instead of some silly charger that only works inside a few specially modified buildings. Double the current battery size would last most people all day).


 


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