This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write — however with every ending comes a new beginning. We want to be transparent to our end-users, supporters, and community as to why we made this decision.
This was a difficult decision and something that took months to decide, but the leadership & team, and I have decided to move on officially as full-time employees, and cease core operations at Ample Labs.
We had a great run at Ample Labs for the last 3 years and gave it everything we got, we saw a tremendous uptick & utilization of Chalmers within the cities/municipalities we launched Chalmers in (50% of Ontario, available to over 7 million Canadians). We had amazing strategic corporate partners, granters, community partners, and donors that helped us to try and make our mission a reality.
We knew like at a certain point, we gave it everything we had— we wanted so badly to get the product to work. Ultimately, we couldn’t achieve the intended impact we originally set out to achieve within the time horizon we set for ourselves with Chalmers.
We decided to move on for the following reasons:
- We had an extremely ambitious North Star — to prevent the hidden homeless from falling into chronic homelessness by moving them up the funnel out of homelessness and back into sustainable housing via Chalmers. We had <1% utilization on the app; meaning folks were getting referred to organizations, but less than 1% were actually going to the organizations afterward and we’ve tried many ways to optimize this. Due to the low utilization rates, we couldn’t collect longitudinal data on whether or not our users were actually going to the services to receive help to get back into stable housing.
- We had city customers who wanted a lot of data on the end-users and end-users who wanted privacy, we had 90% drop-off once we began collecting email/phone numbers and we held this off for almost 2-years having that gut/intuition from the beginning.
- User acquisition was extremely difficult for this segment because we learned that folks who’re hidden homeless, are “hidden” for a reason. We’d spend over $10K+/month just trying to find these users. After we’d acquire them; we had no sustainable way to keep them, our cost of acquisition for just a visitor that identified as hidden homeless was between $5-$10/per user with <1% utilization rate. There was almost no organic growth or referrals because this wasn’t a period in our end-users life they wanted to share with others.
We’ve decided to give our remaining $ back to our grantors, customers, community partners and let our partners, donors, and everyone else know.
Ample Labs will continue with volunteers to keep Chalmers up and running for a year (until July 2022) and open-source the code-base on our Github here so that any city around the world can pick up the code and deploy a local instance in minutes. We will still be checking and monitoring email@example.com if anyone wants to send us a note or chat.
This would be a super sad story if we didn’t go into sharing what we’ve learned along the way.
- There are genuine and tangential opportunities for software to play a role in tackling/solving homelessness, Chalmers is one example of software being able to solve one node on the end-users entire journey out of homelessness, but so much more human intervention is needed for a person to be treated holistically so that they can get out of homelessness and remain out of it.
- By the time individuals are hidden homeless, they’re struggling with 4–5 major problems that again software can only assist with but not necessarily solve, the goal should be to go as upstream as much as possible and intervene at the first moment of crisis. (Stephen Gaetz does a great job of talking about why here)
- There’s huge potential for corporations & start-ups to partner with organizations in this space, there is a massive gap for technologists to bring industry best practices into building software to tackle nodes of the problem and a genuine opportunity for innovation there; some of the best features we built on Chalmers came from hackathons with companies like TD and Twitter!
Lastly, I wanna say a huge thank you to all those that have supported us — all our Chalmers Champions, the overall impact we’ve created will continue to live on and touch the lives of those around us, in the last 3-years we had:
- Simon & Alex got out of homelessness thanks to employment at Ample Labs
- Over 30+ paid full-time & part-time employees & contractors
- 12 new jobs from individuals who volunteered at Ample Labs
- 1000+ skills-based volunteers from companies like Google, Shopify, TD Bank working with us at Ample Labs & on Chalmers from people around the world!
- 15 Corporate Partners from Fortune500 companies come to partner with us including Google, Twitter, Cisco & more!
- 10 Community Partners & Foundations support our work including United Ways & CFC
- Chalmers had over 330K+ total unique users which included police officers, social workers, nurses, teachers, librarians, PSW, etc.
This was a communal journey to impact the local community; we couldn’t have done this without you, and we’re grateful to every friend, mentor, advisor, colleague, volunteer, contractor, employee, board member, donor, and partner for making Ample Labs what it is today.
Lastly, if you feel like you’ve been deeply impacted by our mission and want to say a note, you can send in your note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be putting them up on this page here 🧡
Thank you all! 🙏
From CG Chen (Founder & CEO)
For those that are curious — what are we up to next? (We’re now at Mello, tackling employee burnout)