Today, we hear from the CEO of Australian-owned Jaunt Motors, Dave Budge. Dave uses OmniGraffle to create design schematics that are beautiful and customer-friendly.
Dave walks us through Jaunt’s mission of completely restoring dilapidated Land Rovers into 100% electric vehicles, so anyone can enjoy off-roading in nature without polluting it. He shares why taking extra time to create beautiful schematics in OmniGraffle was important to their overall design process.
Some other people, places, and things mentioned in this episode:
Andrew J. Mason: You're listening to The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind The Omni Group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. My name's Andrew J. Mason, and today we talked to the co-founder and CEO of Jaunt Motors, Dave Budge, on how he uses OmniGraffle.
Andrew J. Mason: Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Omni Show. My name is Andrew J. Mason, and today we're interviewing Dave Budge, CEO, and co-founder of Jaunt Motors in Australia. Dave, tell us a little bit more about who you are, what you do as CEO, and where you find yourself.
Dave Budge: Yeah. Hi, thanks so much for having me on the show. I live and work in Melbourne, in Australia. We run a small little electric vehicle company. We take old classic four-wheel drives, in the current case Land Rovers. If you don't know what that is, it doesn't really matter. Jeep, Land Rover, Land Cruiser, classic boxy 60's 70's four-wheel drives. We take out the very underpowered original gasoline engines, and put in electric motors and batteries and what we would say, we remanufacture them. We tear them down to completely every little piece, repair the things that need repairing cause these have been sitting in a back field for 30, 40, 50 years. Rebuild them up with some more modern components, but still try and create the feel. And the important thing for us is that we're not just doing the quick internal combustion engine to electric motor swap. It's about building a complete vehicle and integrating the controls and the gadgets.
Dave Budge: It's very much about the user experience and making sure that it doesn't have that mechanical intimidating factor that particularly old four wheel drives can have, and it doesn't have that sort of technological intimidation that for a lot of people, particularly in Australia that have never driven an EV before, it doesn't have that technological overload as well. So making very approachable, fun vehicles that importantly keep these cars on the road and show that EVs can be a lot more than just technological marvels, they can do all sorts of utility and fun things as well.
Andrew J. Mason: If you happen to spend any time at all browsing Jaunt Motors' website, you'll notice that it's less of a mass produced "crank-it-out" kind of a widget style production, and more of an artisan handcrafted experience that feels like it's tailored to the end user. Really amazing amount of thought and detail going into this work. Dave, is this an idea that came to you one day that you were just driving your car and saying, "Hey, I think I'm going to retrofit electric vehicles."
Dave Budge: Yeah,
Dave Budge: yeah. It kind of did, maybe a bit of both. I think sometimes a lot of these ideas like this, there may be a little seed that sort of planted long ago and it rattles around in your brain until it finds a sort of home, but it did literally become a more serious thing when we were driving. So I had a four wheel drive, like a lot of people do in Australia, we have the highest per capita ownership of SUVs and pickup trucks in the world here. For necessity sometimes, but then also because that's just what you do here because "Oh, one day I need to go in the Outback" whether you're doing or not. So we had a four wheel drive, we're out, we were using it literally to get multiple day out into the Bush to camp, and that's something that we do quite often, and always felt a little bit guilty to be burning a lot of diesel to get out somewhere into a pristine environment. To be burning 200 liters and creating all this carbon emissions to get out somewhere away from all the carbon emissions of the city where I live. And there's cost to all these things and and sound, right?
Dave Budge: So being able to drive on four wheel drive tracks, hear the Bush, hear all this stuff, it would be great. I was like, "I just wish that I had an electric four wheel drive. There is none to buy. I would love that." And that developed into going, "you know what, the technology for converting EVs has matured, from something where you had to basically build everything yourself to manufacturers supplying components and particularly being able to access OEM grade products." There's hundreds of EV manufacturers in China for example, and the infrastructure's there and all this kind of stuff. So, can we help push Australia's adoption of EVs in particular, because we have one of the lowest adoptions of EVs in the developed world. By saying, "here's a vehicle that you associate with Australian culture. It's the kind of vehicle that Australians buy." And can we, by making these vehicles electric, push that conversation forward?
Dave Budge: So, I sort of felt when you get something that is a personal problem and you can associate a societal problem with that, then you can probably make a business around that. Hopefully, anyway. But this coincided with me trying to figure out what I was going to do next in my career. I was just in a place where I'd left a previous job, and I wanted to get into something that was involved in either energy or agriculture, while still creating a product, because that's what I'd love doing, that it could have some larger mission and be involved in some sort of advocacy and that kind of thing.
Andrew J. Mason: I feel like it's my duty to point this out. We're recording on a video Zoom right now, but the podcast is an audio. And so this is how hardcore Dave is, he's actually recording out of his car using AirPods.
Dave Budge: When you say that though, they may be under the wrong impression that I'm in one of the cars that I'm talking about. No. I'm in a 2014 Honda Fit hatchback. So it's not as romantic as it might sound.
Dave Budge: Also an old Land Rover wouldn't sound as good because they are just kind of bare sheet metal and not too much comfort and practicality.
Andrew J. Mason: And to the original product idea, I have to say, I feel like the best ideas feel so "aha, of course." Of course, in retrospect, we shouldn't be driving vehicles with high emissions going out into the middle of nature where just the irony of that is off the charts and you feel like why hasn't anybody thought of this before?
Andrew J. Mason: Tell everybody how you came across OmniGraffle and the Omni group, and how this company intersected with your life.
Dave Budge: My previous life was in technology, so I started building interactive CD ROMs in the late '90s using things like Macromedia director and all these kinds of tools. I then moved into web design and development and early dotcom stuff, and had always used a Mac except for a short little window there in the early 2000s, always used Omni products for a long, long time. Probably not when Omni started, but I feel like it's always been there as a company that I've been aware of and used tools for as long as I can remember, so maybe 20 years. So I'd use tools on and off and I think, as someone who's developed done a lot of interaction design, mostly for the web and occasionally some software design, I'm just interested in what's going on. I'm interested in companies doing interesting stuff. I'm interested in alternative softwares in ideas of human computer interaction and all those kinds of things.
Dave Budge: So, I think I was using Omni products and OmniGraffle, cause I've had a license for a long time, before I ever really had a need because I thought, "oh, this is a really interesting thing" and playing around with it. Fast forward, 20 years, 15 years, whatever, I find myself in a position where I'm running an electric vehicle company and part of that is obviously electrical wiring. The market out there for electrical wiring is extremes. There's some free utilities, there's some very, very hardcore, you might think of solid works electrical which is designed for the physical and electrical design of a city, basically. Then all of these things though are often coming from a place where everyone using it has an electrical engineering degree, it's all about symbol placements, and of course OmniGraffle you can go and download a symbol set that is all electrical symbols. but we've got a business where the people in it, what we're doing is not just electrical schematics to go out to a factory.
Dave Budge: It's a handcrafted, hand-built product with people from all different backgrounds. Most of whom aren't able to just look at an electrical schematic and read symbols. So being able to draw a beautiful, yes, intentionally or trying to be, but a very human readable document where the headlight looks like a headlight, the switch looks like the actual switch that you're installing on the dash, the plug looks like the plug. It means that it's a lot simpler for a lot of different people in the work truck to be able to read, it's not just the domain of one specialist who has to translate that and it's also an important thing for us to be able to create documentation that is usable for the customers. So we hand the keys over to these cars, there's a QR code on a badge under the hood, and they can scan that and they can get all the technical documentation and every part that's in the car and they can also get all the wiring diagrams.
Dave Budge: And if you've ever done work on a car from an OEM, it's a real struggle sometimes to find any documentation because they control it and they sell it as part of a pack to dealerships or whatever. Maybe someone on a forum has got a PDF of it somewhere, and its scanned in and you can't find it. So, being able to create documentation was very useful for all the people in the workshop, and it had a life beyond us because it was human readable, I guess? And that just means it's colorful, not just black and white with color codes, it's got images of things and it's laid out in a way that makes sense when you look at the physical thing and you compare that to the diagram, you can see the relationship there. So putting that extra work into create something and in the end by doing that looks like quite a beautiful, interesting thing. That's a lucky byproduct in a way.
Andrew J. Mason: You mentioned this timeline that kind of heralded bank to the early days of Apple, and it makes me think of how when the engineers were putting all of this extra forethought and detail into spaces, the customer didn't usually see the inside of the computer, just how wasteful some people thought that that was, but how important it was that they figured that it's important that we make this beautiful everywhere for the customer. I feel like that same level of detail and forethought has gone into your processes and systems, which is really nice.
Andrew J. Mason: For somebody that's first using OmniGraffle, or even generally in software, there's the technicalities of it. So yeah, you can take a tutorial and learn about the software, but what's the thinking process behind that? I have a feeling there's not just the technical skills happening here.
Dave Budge: Yeah. So I guess if you just look on the surface, there's big drawings with a lot of wires and a lot of lines and a lot of connections and a lot of labels, and you can see the amount of mouse clicks that have gone into that. But that is also a way of designing the circuitry. So it's not just we have the circuit design and then we can do a [inaudible 00:11:38] version of it, this is the circuit design and whatever one of our diagrams you're looking at there's probably 10 versions of that that have become more advanced and we've been able to... And this is again an important thing about being human readable by everyone, is that we can print out a giant print of that and talk with the whole team about, "okay, this button is linked to this thing and that triggers that relay and that therefore enables this mode in the car. Do we think that's right? Or should it connect here?" And everyone can kind of point and work through it.
Dave Budge: To make computers, software, it's all really one thing it's just communicating to other humans, right? Everything that computers are built for is just ways of communicating to other people, whether that's art or science or whatever, or Zoom right now. But getting stuff out of our brains to talk to other people about it is a really important thing, and it helps make better products, right? For me, the challenge coming into that is I'd never designed anything so complex before. I've done the circuit design and done some of that work but not to the level of designing it on paper.
Dave Budge: And I'm a visual designer I guess by background ultimately, I need the visuals to help it stick in my brain. And so designing that in OmniGraffle in that way and literally laying out the components and finding a starting point, it can be overwhelming, this stuff. There's a combination of technical integration, so how are all the wires running between all the things, but also physical layout on the page. So, I think that the challenge with something like OmniGraffle is that it is not designed purely as an electrical diagram software, and if you were to jump into that space, it's a very different process. It's basically fill out a spreadsheet with all the connectors that you need, the wire colors by code, IDs, and then it will auto generate schematics and layouts for you. And that's amazingly helpful.
Dave Budge: It's a correct wiring diagram, but it bears no relationship to the physical product. So part A is in the physical space up at the top, but on the schematic it's down the bottom and everything's all crazy moved around, and it might make sense from a wiring perspective, but it's just another barrier between people understanding how that relates to the physical thing. So spending the time creating something that you can almost hold up the wiring diagram that we've created against the physical product, the layout makes sense, the things that are at the top and the left are at the top left and it all kind of connects in a certain way, which I think was worth the time. Helped me anyway, as a visual thinker.
Andrew J. Mason: I feel like we've caught on, I want to tease that out for the audience though. It's so brilliant that there's some software that has this feedback loop that happens in advance and once you go through that design process, however you go through that design process, you hit a button and then it spits out the schematic and the schematics and afterthought that goes into a machine or is machine language. What I hear you saying here is that with OmniGraffle, the software became a part of that feedback loop and became a part of that conversation, which then informed the actual design and then back and forth one informing the other as the product gets designed alongside of itself is really cool.
Dave Budge: We're in this funny space between individual construction and, way over the other side, OEM level hundreds of thousands of units. And whereas there's often, I find, a gap between hobbyist and the real when I say pro, I mean someone designing the circuit diagram for the next Chevy or whatever, right? It's a whole nother level, because you're designing a wiring diagram for a robot to make hundreds of thousands of units. It doesn't have to be beautiful. It doesn't want to be. It's basically machine language, right?
Dave Budge: So how we create something that is still handmade, but comes with a level of repeatability, quality control that you expect. You're buying a car, you still expect the level of quality and thought and documentation, and our customers aren't for the most part people who've ever thought about engine swaps or car modification. Now, people have come to us and go, "I'd love one, John, please I'd love it in blue, I'd like the large battery pack." They're thinking about buying in quotation marks a "new car" and everything that comes with that, not talking to us about individual things. So we're not just throwing in parts, we're not just being a custom mechanic where you don't expect that kind of thing because you commissioned these custom objects. We're trying to build a repeatable platform that then can have a customized wrapper on it.
Andrew J. Mason: Okay. This next question is slightly loaded, it can apply to OmniGraffle or just Jaunt Motors in general. Is there any mistakes that you've made along the way where man, I know this can be instructional for somebody? If you're not me, don't do this.
Dave Budge: This is like a whole nother podcast in itself.
Andrew J. Mason: Yeah, for all of us.
Dave Budge: Yeah. We're starting a small vehicle company here. I think that my co-founder Martine, I've worked with her on and off 12, 13 years in different capacities, she comes from a production management background, so we've worked together really well as people with different priorities, I guess. Same goal, but competing priorities, which isn't really nice balance. Both of us however are very optimistic and positive, and that's a strength that you need in a startup, because that helps you be more resilient and gets you through creating a startup in the middle of a global pandemic and all of these other things. But I think with that you have to have a level of perhaps hubris to start certain startups like "yeah, let's start a car company" right? And with that is going to inevitably come mistakes. For people around the world who aren't perhaps in the United States, so much media, so much influence comes out of the United States in terms of the way that business works and how start ups work.
Dave Budge: The idea in Australia that you can go into somewhere with just a PowerPoint deck and come out with a few million dollars to go away and start R&D is not really practical here. And so I was just reading about Rivian, the electric truck company that just rolled their first vehicle off the production line yesterday. They've been working on that for 10 years, the guy who started it had no background in anything. Just went in and started electric vehicle company in 2009. I'm getting a little sidetracked here, but the challenge for us was we dove in and started just doing stuff. We tried really hard not to start just building a car, however, you can't really avoid it. And by that I mean, we could have, and perhaps should have in hindsight, really gone in and spent six months purely on research, talking to suppliers, talking to manufacturers. Figuring all this out on paper. However, creating a proof of concept is also important.
Dave Budge: What we learned very quickly, and maybe it was a good thing to learn quickly, was that the industry was not as developed as we thought it was. The level of quality and reliability wasn't where we thought it was. People had been building and converting electric cars, but if you're a hobbyist level converting cars for yourself, you can get away with some stuff that might be a little bit dangerous or a little bit confusing because the owner, the user, the person commissioning that or building that, knows the tech intricately and knows that you've got to flick 18 switches and turnstile or the batteries will get too hot or whatever it might be. So, I think as much as we thought we could perhaps just dive in and get stuff done, and that continues to this day, forcing ourselves to find this balance between research, methodology, process, versus just diving in and making a car and making it go has been the challenge.
Dave Budge: I actually made a YouTube video of it on our channel, because one of our customers said to us, and I was actually working on a much earlier version of the wiring diagram, he called me and I answered. He's like, "how you going?" and I'm just like, "ah, I'm deep into this wiring and diagram stuff, doing the documentation." Then he said, "documentation is really hard work until you get to this tipping point where it starts working hard for you." And I was like, "Yes, yes! You've given me the motivation to get back and click more wires!" So forcing ourselves to just hold, and while we know we could plug that thing together and make that thing work today, let's wait to finish the documentation and do it tomorrow because we can't go back.
Dave Budge: And I think that that's my learning coming from a primarily software development world. Undo is easy, redo work is still the work, correct, but you don't have a sunk cost in physical product. Each letter in the code hasn't cost you money. It's cost you time, but you're not throwing away money in product. And that's been a hard lesson to learn to go "yes, let's just make sure we get it right in software before we go into the real world, because we will save money ultimately."
Andrew J. Mason: You know Dave, you've just triggered a memory for me, I didn't have this in my notes and honestly I don't know if it's going to make it through the edit or not.
Andrew J. Mason: One of my favorite interviews I've ever done was with an actor, his name was Michael J Nelson and he ran a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000 for a couple of years. If you're not familiar it's just really low budget show where they buy the rights to old stinky movies and they have silhouettes at the bottom of the movie theater, like they're watching the movie along with you, and they make fun of it. It's a hilarious concept and a really funny show, but it's so low budget. I remember asking him, "Hey what made you guys successful? I mean, it's showing up on cable networks. This is a successful show" and I'll never forget, he said, "I think one of our biggest assets was our ignorance. There was nobody in our crew that was so experienced that they were telling us what we shouldn't be able to do. And so we just went ahead and did it."
Dave Budge: I think that that's a really interesting point, because I think it's almost a cliche that the old guy in the industry is like, "oh yeah, I've tried that, it's never going to work". On the flip side, there's people that I've worked with who from that experience can immediately find a great solution, but we definitely came up against that. Australia has a long history of failed EV experiments. We had a large car industry once that's all left, but along with that we had people trying to create a number of EV startups, which have all failed for a couple of reasons. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight I can simplify this a little bit, but on one hand EVs weren't cool yet, infrastructure perhaps wasn't there or the public understanding of infrastructure wasn't there, but also there were primarily engineers that were focusing on the logical reasoning, focusing on the tech. So here is a small city transport van, and if you look at the total cost of ownership compared to this one that you could buy, it would equal this and you get the savings here.
Dave Budge: In the end, you're paying three times as much for a pretty boring car has no emotional connection and no aspiration to you, and people aren't buying cars based on logic, otherwise we'd all be driving minivans. Very fuel efficient minivans or something, because they're the most practical. But we don't, we buy stupid cars because they're an expression of us. Some people don't care about cars, and to be honest I don't come from a car background, I only got my driver's license when I was 27 but I'm lucky to live in a city with great public transport, very bikeable and all that kind of stuff. I do love cars from a design object point of view, and a human interaction point of view, and I think that what they missed was the beauty and the emotion, and in our case nostalgia to these certain vehicles.
Dave Budge: So coming into this naivety allowed us to go, 'let's just keep pushing forward. We know we don't know a lot of stuff, let's just dive in because we know one thing." In your example, it's we know how to make a funny, interesting show, we know that the end product resonates. For us, that's the same thing. We have a vision of the end product. we may be taking the silliest most winding path to get there, but if that product resonates that's what's important.
Andrew J. Mason: That's awesome, Dave. And I encourage you, if this sounds like an interesting concept to you at all, check it out. Dave, how can people connect with your journey? There's multiple ways, I know.
Dave Budge: Yeah. So YouTube is good for some technical deep-dive stuff. We post semi-regularly once every month or two, and there's a bunch of content coming around more technical details and cars. And then Instagram is good for regular stories and behind the scenes stuff.
Dave Budge: LinkedIn is often a place where I post a lot of stuff too, and that talks about some more of the business side of things and what we're up to. We're on all the social media, we're even on TikTok and things.
Andrew J. Mason: So to anybody in our listening audience from Australia, highly recommend you check it out. Dave, thank you so much for spending time with us, it's been an honor.
Dave Budge: Thanks so much. I will say we'll be delivering our first car to US customers January, I think
Andrew J. Mason: That's awesome. So United States in January, 2022 as well.
Andrew J. Mason: Hey and thank all of you for listening today too. As always, you can drop us a line at the Omni show on Twitter, we'd love to hear from you there. You can also find out everything that's happening with the Omni group at omnigroup.com/blog.