Innovating Under Pressure. A Story of Resilience.

Avatar for Zaina Razzaq

Zaina Razzaq

Head of Marketing

In the bustling corridors of innovation, few companies have embarked on a journey quite as ambitious as Basis. This isn't just another name in the tech world—it's a revolution brewing behind sleek designs and cutting-edge technology. And this isn't just another start-up story; it's a tale of audacious dreams and unwavering resolve. I recently sat down with some of the brilliant minds at Basis to understand the challenges and triumphs of developing a truly innovative product.

Basis's inception was born more out of pure frustration than inspiration. It all began at a casual BBQ, where co-founders Danny Purcell and Julyan (Julz) Collett met and discovered their shared frustration at the energy sector and desire to change it for the benefit of both people and the planet. Within months, they quit their jobs and set out to build the world’s first true smart panel.

Roadblocks to Breakthroughs

From the outset, Basis faced the epic challenge of innovating within a highly regulated industry. Alex Cappy, COO (known as Cappy around here!), dove straight into the heart of the matter. "Leo isn't another electric panel," she explained. "The electrical industry is heavily regulated, and bringing a new product like this to market meant undergoing highly complex testing and compliance processes." Rory Shillington, Electronics Engineering Lead, emphasised regulatory-specific challenges. "Many safety rules are written with traditional electromechanical devices in mind," he said. "Applying the rules to something as innovative as Leo requires a lot of careful planning and analysis. We needed to ensure we exceeded safety expectations while complying with regulations."

Meeting regulatory standards is crucial, but for Basis, it's just the baseline. "We have a rigorous internal release process," Cappy emphasised. "It's not just about ticking boxes; it's about ensuring the quality and user experience meet our high standards before anything goes live," Cappy noted the importance of our in-house compliance lab. "Having our own IANZ-accredited lab is a game-changer," she explained. "It allows us to run continuous compliance tests instead of relying on external labs. This speeds up development and ensures safety remains a top priority throughout the process."

Customers at the heart of solutions

Simon leading a brainstorming session at Basis' Chritchurch office.

Our journey has been a tapestry of innovative approaches, rigorous testing, and strategic agility. Each team member’s unique contribution is woven into the fabric of Leo, positioning it as a standout product in the market. The commitment to excellence goes beyond mere product creation. By prioritising user research, rigorous compliance, and a unified design system informed by strategic vision, Basis fosters a culture of innovation that empowers a new way of thinking. It's in designing for the people who use the product that the team truly shines, crafting an experience that seamlessly integrates with everyday life.

From day one, the team sought to understand the customer. “We used a lot of ideation, prototyping, and role-playing with customers in the early days," said Brendon Hale, CTO. The team focused on understanding the problem space deeply and embarked on a meticulous research phase, gathering insights from electricians, homeowners, and industry experts. “We do user research upfront to understand our users and their needs so we can design solutions to the right problems. Once we have a good grasp of that, we workshop how to fulfil these needs and what that might look like,” added Jin Budelmann, Digital Engineering Lead. This user-centric approach became the cornerstone of Basis’ design philosophy. The iterative process allowed the team to depart from traditional designs, focusing on adding value and not being afraid to be different.

One pivotal moment came during this iterative process. "We explored various design ideas for user interaction with Leo," explained Jeremy Gear, Mechanical Design Lead. Initially, we considered a physical interface with buttons and dials. However, through user testing, we discovered a strong preference for a digital interface that could be accessed through a smartphone app." This readiness to adapt designs based on user feedback resulted in a sleek and user-friendly app that allows homeowners to monitor and manage their electricity usage remotely.

Reflecting on the development process, Rory underscored the necessity of planning for mistakes and learning cycles. “Mistakes happen. Getting everything right the first time is really hard and slow. Having cycles of learning in your plan right from the beginning is a far better approach, allowing you to build a quick first revision, test it and then design (and build and test) a better one,” he advised.

Moving fast is crucial to Basis’ survival, but a strong foundation ensures we’re always on track. Courtney McConnochie, Head of Strategy, brings a measured perspective to Basis, ensuring alignment towards impactful goals. “In our fast, ambiguous environment, having good strategic scaffolding and planning ‘just enough’ to start experimenting is crucial,” she said.

Innovation in action

The team constantly tests and iterates to ensure that Leo is the best and truest smart panel on the market.

One example of Basis’ design philosophy in practice is Leo’s digitally configurable safety features—a true game-changer. Traditional electric panels require manual adjustments, often involving expensive and time-consuming rewiring. Leo simplifies this with its digital configurability, allowing electricians to adjust circuit settings easily and securely using the app. “Embedding a digitally configurable solution at the time of manufacture removes pressure and enables electricians to truly focus on safety for the consumer,” Brendon explained. This innovation not only enhances safety but also offers unprecedented flexibility and efficiency.

A digitally configurable safety product simplifies panel upgrades for electricians and saves homeowners money. It sounds simple, but it’s a huge undertaking. “To offer digitally configurable safety, our hardware has to be able to perform the full superset of all possible configurations. In engineering, we call this dynamic range. The bigger the ratio between our largest and smallest configuration, the more difficult it is.’ Rory recounted. “For example, our circuits could be configured as little 6 Amp lighting circuits and have to accurately measure current down to a small percentage of 6 Amps. However, those same circuits must also support being configured as a massive 40 Amp circuit. A traditional circuit breaker, RCD or RCBO only needs to support one fixed configuration, so the hardware can be scaled and optimised for that range.”

The configurable safety example embodies Leo’s development journey to date. It starts with in-depth research to uncover an opportunity. Next, a solution is ideated through collaborative brainstorming. Finally, relentless innovation brings the concept to life.

A New Era in Energy Management

Jeremy on the tools at Basis' Christchurch office.

Basis's journey is a testament to what can be achieved when innovation meets determination. From a chance conversation at a BBQ to developing a world-first true smart panel, Basis has navigated the complexities of a regulated industry with a user-centric approach and a relentless commitment to excellence. Each step, from rigorous testing and compliance to seamless user integration, reflects a dedication to revolutionising the energy sector for the better.

Leo is not just a product; it's a symbol of what's possible when we push the boundaries of technology and design with the user in mind. By prioritising safety, efficiency, and user experience, Basis has created a smart panel that stands out in the market and sets a new standard for home energy management. As Basis continues to innovate and grow, it is poised to lead the charge in transforming how everyone interacts with energy, making everyday life smarter, safer, and more connected.