This is an excellent intro to the S3 Pioneer Program, so thank you for this @alexwalkerjones .
As you know, we have been all hands recently to get all S2 Passiflora refill kits and starter kits out to our amazingly patient pioneer community here. I am pleased to say that the remaining boxes will be shipped this week, so all packages are in transit to their respective homes!
Starting from June, the team have been putting in place the necessary steps to prepare for the S3 program. So let me now give some details on where we are with various elements, beginning with the incredible plant, Ashwagandha!
As you may recall, we had significant setbacks on our timeline with S2 due to handling errors that resulted in our golden sample of plant material being lost by our extraction partner at their base. Even though they are experts in the field and have done nothing but plant extraction for over 100 years, they explained that freak accidents still happen. So we decided to begin the extraction process early on the plant material for our S3 program.
The first challenge we had was that the usual supplier of our Ashwagandha was out of stock by the time we placed the order (one of the challenges of working with only natural plants is harvest times – imagine that!). So we began by evaluating the alternate supply. And even though we are keen to rush S3 as quickly as possible, we were not happy that the alternate material sourced was of the same potency as the original material we were working with on flavour development. It’s not just good enough to be Ashwagandha – we want an older “vintage” where the plant is sufficiently mature to have generated the active compounds at sufficient levels.
So we are now testing the new season material from the original supplier. Once that testing is complete, and results are entirely satisfactory, we will order the raw material in support of our most extensive Pioneer Program (with over 1,000 pioneers), which we expect on our extraction partner site (estimated arrival w/c 5th September). Allowing four weeks for production and testing means the production batch will be available in the first half of October.
We also began flavour development on Ashwagandha in the first half of August with our flavour house. We are continuing with our approach to limiting any additional material to what can be extracted directly from a plant – so no flavourings or chemicals are added for taste profiling. This week we completed our first draft of the taste profile. We expect to do two more rounds and settle on the three different explorations for the S3 program by mid-September. Following flavour dev completion, our partner will produce and ship the natural extracts to our sofi labs in Liverpool in time for the plant extraction to complete and arrive by the first half of October for final mixing and bottling.
We decided early on a colour direction for the S3 bottles to celebrate some of the natural pigments of the Ashwagandha plant. Over three thousand bottles are painted and printed in preparation for the S3 program. As we have sufficient time and are trying to manage our ecological footprint, we are shipping the bottles by sea rather than air. We know this precious cargo is at sea and already en route to our Liverpool facility. They will arrive on site just after formulations, to be mixed by mid-October, ready to bottle and pack for the end of October. Currently, all of our bottling happens by hand, so we are preparing sufficient resources to be available to get through the mixing and bottling of our formulations and have them ready for the end of October.
As you know, the S3 is an entirely new generation of sofi stick. You will note that it will feature a rechargeable (USB C) lithium battery (Please do let us know in advance if you do not have a USB C cable as we are currently not planning to supply these!). Also, the bottle recognition technology we will be validating with S3 is the one we will roll out when sofi goes live in 2023 (based on RFID). The current technology we are using can only recognise three bottle variations. The new RFID technology allows us an infinite variety of formulations and journals each separately using the same sofi stick. So whereas S2 was an iterative change to S1, S3 is a complete redesign of the sofi stick – and we hope for the better!
So far, we have been very much in the prototyping phase. With S3, we started to prepare the sofi stick for much broader production – with an initial production run of one thousand units and distributed to all existing pioneers replacing your existing (collectable!) sofi sticks from the S1 and S2 programs.
We also want to achieve a much more beautiful finish on the body, and we are testing three different manufacturers who can provide production scaling for our sofi. We expect to see the first sofi sticks coming off the line by the end of September. We will make sure to share sample pictures with you here. But this is a critical step for sofi as we move from a minimum lovable product to one that we can put in people’s hands at scale. We also want a much more beautiful finish to our aluminium metal body, so we hope to reveal that in the coming weeks.
It’s “All change!” as we move from proof of concept electronics using standard components and a watch battery for power to something significantly more sophisticated. We have also had to design our blue tooth antenna within a very tight space package and upgrade our sensor capabilities to recognise infinite formulations. So a lot to pack into a little smart stick. We have finished all electronic designs and have asked two different manufacturers to start making sample units to validate that all of our electronics work both on the board, in their function and when fully assembled. There is always a risk of discovering we need tweaks. We expect S3 electronic boards by mid to late September, and we plan to validate them within a couple of weeks. We will print a further thousand S3 circuits as soon as we have validation. Right now, electronics appear to be the toughest timeline to accelerate as S3 is not an iterative adjustment to S2 but a whole new generation.
If you imagine, these parts house the electronics, so even though their design is complete, we cannot begin production until we have validated the electronics. Even a 0.1mm change to the position of a component on the board may require modifications to the housing, trigger mechanism, assembly and so on. But we expect that as soon as our electronics are validated, we will begin manufacturing the six thousand plastic components for the S3 build – one at a time (because we are still not on an automated production line)! We have a fantastic partner here that we expect will deliver within three weeks. We plan to complete plastics and land them at our UK assembly facility before the S3 electronics are entirely manufactured.
All sofi units to date (both the S1 and S2 Pioneer Programs) have been individually hand-assembled, and many have been individually fettled to fit! We are conscious that our current resources will be fully stretched when we go from making up to 300 sticks at a time to more than one thousand. We plan to land all components by the end of October and assemble and pack for shipment in the first half of November.
We hope that the S3 build will represent a standard that, once we deploy, we can begin freezing hardware development (only picking up tweaks and improvements for S4 to S5). This will allow us to focus purely on getting the optimal sequence of plant formulation and harvest working out. So we have been thinking about our roadmap, and we expect that after S3, the velocity will begin to pick up as our focus becomes on generating new formulations and distributing them to an active base with working sofi sticks.
We plan to release the S3 sofi app by the end of October beginning of November. You will notice a significant change to the sofi app and aesthetics. This is in recognition that in the future, sofi will not only target sleeplessness and anxiety but also address states where Pioneers will use their sofi stick not simply at night time before bed but throughout the day. For this, we must have our sofi move beyond the twilight and have a day mode. The current dawn at the bottom of the S2 app design is a nod in this direction. We will release the S3 sofi app before the S3 packs to Pioneers.
There will be improvements to current and new features such as “sofi seeds”, a method of rewarding active pioneers, high sofi scores and successful referrals. We love to see sofi grow and flourish organically from our community here rather than have to keep paying google and Facebook for lead generation. We also want to recognise the incredible contribution that we, as Pioneers, are making to the development of sofi. Once the sofi product is available for consumers, we can recognise this contribution of Pioneers by providing preferential and discounted access to the sofi store by redeeming sofi seeds.
The following two months will be super busy with us generating our data on Passiflora and making incredible discoveries between individual Pioneers and their specific responses to this remarkable plant that’s already giving me technicolour dreams! By the time we wrap up and go into analysis on Passiflora (October), we hope we will be preparing the S3 app for release. Shortly after (November) the S3 kits should begin to make their way to all Pioneers. Right now, our visibility is in the second half of November, and we are constantly working on how to accelerate this timeline.
We will continue to share the good, the bad and the just unfortunate as we have very openly on this thread and in this place because that’s how our community works. As always, we are blown away and grateful for all your input, time, patience and love.
More to come on S3 soon!
sofi launching XX23