June 9, 2023

A group of “detail madmen” want to be the best scrubber in China

Cloud Whale, which has been in business for seven years, has finally stepped out of its “comfort zone”.

On May 10, Cloud Whale released the first-generation smart scrubber S1. This is the first time that Cloud Whale, which has been focusing on the sweeping robot track in the past, has expanded its product line.

The explosion of cordless vacuum cleaners and sweeping robots in the past decade has led to the explosion of the entire household cleaning smart appliance market. Cloud Whale is also one of the beneficiaries of this wave of “smart electric heating”. It has suddenly emerged in the sweeping and dragging integrated robot, and quickly became a representative of the industry’s cutting-edge. The speed of its rise is unparalleled.

However, in terms of category expansion, Cloud Whale’s “slowness” over the years has left many people incomprehensible.

Not only did it take seven years to complete the first expansion, Geek Park also learned that it took nearly 20 months for S1 from project approval to birth. In the consumer electronics track, which is used to fighting for speed and grabbing hot spots, although Cloud Whale’s approach is not “unique”, it is certainly not mainstream.

Founder and CEO of Cloud Whale Intelligence CEO Zhang Junbin doesn’t think so. In an interview with Geek Park, he said that in the Jiaqing track where competition is fierce and products are highly homogeneous, quickly “copying” a similar product is a way to quench thirst with poison.

It may be that in the already hot track of sweeping robots, relying on the innovation of sweeping and dragging, the history of Cloud Whale was born, which convinced Zhang Junbin and his team that only by making a really good product is the opening of a new product. The unique password for the class. And he feels that there is no secret to making a good product—spend enough time researching existing products on the market, understand the pain points of users, invest money in product development, and work hard until you make a product that the team is satisfied with. The products are really introduced to the market.

To complete this step by step and do it solidly, in Zhang Junbin’s view, 20 months is not only not slow, but the team’s research and development speed is much faster than when it was making sweepers a few years ago.

Perhaps in his eyes, the first expansion of the category itself in the seventh year of its establishment was a re-test of the “new company” back then.

Zhang Junbin said that the biggest test is not even technology or capital, but whether the belief in making products is still there? And has the ability to run a company increased over the years?

01“Where to hit where” products and “the force remains the same” company

The choice of the category of floor washing machines seems simple, but there are also head-scratching problems behind the seemingly simple choice.

Cloud Whale first became interested in floor washing machines in 2021. Zhang Junbin told Geek Park: “In 2021, the floor washing machine market has already shown signs of growth, so we will study why this category is selling more and more. good.”

On the one hand, the preliminary research made Cloud Whale realize that in many small houses or families with very poor ground sanitation, the role of sweeping robots is actually very limited; The existence of the shortcomings of the sweeping robot, such as the relatively lower threshold for the use of the floor washing machine, and the stronger sense of participation of the user, can better meet the diverse cleaning needs.

The conclusion that this product category is worth doing can basically be established quickly, but for cloud whales who don’t want to directly “copy” similar products, and don’t want to simply do ODM, the bigger problem is how to figure out the most authentic users. Demand, make a different “good product” out.

In the product display video released by Cloud Whale this time, a man holds the S1 floor scrubber with one hand to clean the floor. When encountering obstacles such as table legs and other furniture, the cleaning roller can deftly avoid it every time. , Clean the hygienic blind spots hidden under the furniture, and the user looks effortless. Park colleagues who experienced this product in advance at the Cloud Whale Media Communication Conference also confirmed this point: “It is very easy to use actually, you just need to hold it and then control the direction.”


The user experience of Cloud Whale S1 is very comfortable | Picture: Cloud Whale

What Cloud Whale’s product team may most want to achieve is thisuser experience. In fact, from the moment Cloud Whale decided to enter the scrubber track, a question that runs through it is-how to do it? How to make users feel that this is a product that can better solve problems through meaningful innovation.

During the 20-month product development cycle, the Cloud Whale user research team recalled that at least they visited nearly 1,000 households, covering different city levels, different family structures, and different cleaning habits. The person in charge of Cloud Whale user research told Geek Park: “Whether it is a family of eight with three generations under one roof, or a newly married, new house, or new family, we try to cover as much as possible, and then you will find that,Cumbersomeness is a common problem in previous floor washing machines. “

In order to achieve stronger cleaning power, traditional scrubber products have to use more powerful components, coupled with the mechanical structure design with a high center of gravity, the use experience is definitely not easy.

A case that impressed Zhang Junbin is: a delicate mother who has high requirements for her body management, complained to the researchers that after using the washing machine for more than half a year, she found that her right arm was stronger than her left arm, even longer. out the muscles.

The reason why Cloud Whale S1 can achieve the effect of “effortless, pointing and hitting” mentioned above is that according to this demand, it even uses the myoelectricity of the user’s wrist, forearm, and upper arm. Conduct monitoring studies to optimize product design results. Through the self-developed AirTech light and flexible design system, combined with the low center of gravity design of the clean water tank, battery and other modules, the traction force during the cleaning process has been achieved, making the weight of one hand as light as 0.9 kg. Compared with similar products on the market, using Cloud Whale S1 The user’s muscle burden (comprehensive muscle fatigue) was significantly reduced by 42%. After cleaning, the S1’s self-cleaning system can also clean the roller brush, pipe, filter and dry it with hot air, further reducing the user’s burden…


During the development of Cloud Whale S1, the arm muscle group was tested and studied | Picture: Cloud Whale

Zhang Junbin also believes that what he is more satisfied with is that the overall product design and R&D process of Cloud Whale has become more and more professional and refined over the years, but the main line of spirit that has not changed is: do not compromise easily, pursue the ultimateuser experience

He gave an example. The first one is that after the previous research results showed that the cleaning blind spot in the low-rise area of ​​the home is an unresolved user pain point, the R&D team of Cloud Whale launched an “attack” on this problem without hesitation.

The person in charge of the Cloud Whale S1 product told Geek Park that although there are many different design solutions for floor scrubbers on the market to solve this problem, users still often encounter “slots” in actual use, such as washing machines. After the body is lying down, it can only be fixed and cleaned in one direction, and it cannot be flexibly cleaned in more positions; or although the body can also lie down at 180 degrees, the sewage backflow problem is likely to cause the fan to rust, mold, or even Short circuit, resulting in shortened product life.

This is indeed a difficult point in the industry. Cloud Whale’s R&D team has done many rounds of program verification in the early stage but failed to meet expectations. However, the team is still unwilling to give up the point of “laying down” until the product is opened. A tackling team of dozens of people was urgently established. After more than a month of efficient and concentrated overcoming, the Cloud Whale team developed a self-developed gas-solid-liquid active separation technology for a problem that almost no one in the industry can solve.


Cloud Whale S1 supports 180° lying down for cleaning | Picture: Cloud Whale

“The gas-solid-liquid active separation technology is to separate the gas, solid waste and liquid waste inhaled by the washing machine, in which the gas is sucked away by the fan, the solid waste is left in the solid waste box, and the liquid waste is actively sucked into a The area is relatively airtight and far away from the fan, which solves the risk of sewage entering the fan after the scrubber is lying down.” The person in charge of Cloud Whale S1 product development explained.

Another example given by Zhang Junbin is the seemingly inconspicuous “sewage tank” problem. The research and development team of Cloud Whale S1 floor scrubber also spent two or three months on it. Iterated more than 20 versions in the design stage alone. Later, in the mass production stage, due to the complicated process and difficult manufacturing, the team even developed it by itself. The corresponding equipment has been manufactured for automated production.


And all these efforts stem from an uncomplicated requirement: “We found that users need to clean the sewage tank every time they finish cleaning, and picking and placing the solid waste box on the top is a high-frequency user operation scenario. We hope that In this scenario, the user experience is the best. It will not be difficult to pull out, and it will not be stuck and easy to fall off. It is best to lift it up gently, take it out and flush it, and the garbage will be cleaned up. .”

Finally, the waste water tank of Cloud Whale S1 adopts a layered design. A solid waste bin is built on the top of the waste water tank, which can efficiently filter solid waste such as hair, and liquid waste enters the bottom of the waste water tank together with the sewage, thus realizing cleaning during the cleaning process. Automatic separation of solid and liquid garbage, users no longer need to manually peel off dry and wet garbage after use. In Zhang Junbin’s opinion: “If another company makes this product, if you don’t polish the experience of picking and placing the garbage box, it will not affect the use of the sewage tank.user experienceIf it’s not good, just bear with it. But our cloud whale team is not like this, we can’t bear it. “

Cloud Whale S1’s pick-and-place design for clean water tanks has also been polished. Although users may not be able to notice the impact of different pick-and-place methods on the experience when using it, the team still spent a week coming up with five solutions. After a common brainstorm, the “magnetic attraction” design adopted today was selected. In the several rounds of tests before the product was opened, the detailed design of Cloud Whale has also received extremely high user evaluations. In the high-frequency operation scene of picking and placing clean water tanks, the “magnetic suction” design is indeed more common than the market. The snap button design is more convenient.


“Thinking from the user’s point of view, redesigning the product, and making a product that can solve the pain points of users and have differentiated value compared with the products on the market is the pursuit of Cloud Whale.”

Zhang Junbin said that he is satisfied with this product, because it is not simply a question of Yunjing entering a potential category to make money, but whether the company has tried to inherit the original intention and quality in the second category. refining. Because the company itself is also the “product” that the founder cares about. Is the “force” it relies on still full after many years? This needs to be tested with the product.

02The meaning of “slow” and the goal of “fast”

Inside Cloud Whale, employees often complain to Zhang Junbin that “making a product in Cloud Whale is too difficult”. Zhang Junbin accepted this complaint calmly, “Because our requirements for products are indeed too high.”

But it is one thing to have this pursuit, and another to have the ability to pursue it.Once when Zhang Junbin was chatting with Zhang Peng, the founder of Geek Park, he used a metaphor to describe the founder’s experience when the company was developing rapidly in the early stage: “You are like a person who is tied to the locomotive at the end of the year.front endMy fellow, the train is blowing its whistle and speeding forward, and there is a high probability that you will be blown to pieces and burst into tears. “

These “blowing and tears” are obviously the inevitable pain when the organization, management, efficiency and methodology are immature. The founder and early team of Cloud Whale were all college students who started their own businesses. They had no time to learn how to build a mature and efficient organization, and they were rocketed into “space” by product and market demand. Behind the luck, there are many difficult transformations that the team only knows about.

Although Zhang Junbin did not describe in detail the organizational transformation process experienced in these years, but looking at the changes in this company, you can find some shadows of growth.

Compared with when it was first established in 2016, Cloud Whale has now grown from only 200 employees to thousands of employees, including hundreds of production and research teams, accounting for more than 43%. In 2022, the company aims to expand new categories Cloud Whale fully centralizes the R&D department, which greatly improves organizational cooperation and operational efficiency.

When making a product, we are serious about every small detail, but when making a company, we need to grasp the fate of the company from a longer-term perspective.

Zhang Junbin believes that the company itself has made great progress, that is, Cloud Whale has now formed a clearer strategic plan: since its establishment in 2016, Cloud Whale has ranked among the four tigers through 3 explosive products in the first seven years, with a market share of 14.5% As the external environment changes, Cloud Whale will also need to find the second curve for survival in the next seven years. Therefore, it is in the period of high-speed growth and its domestic penetration rate is only 3-4%. The washing machine category has become a new target.

The main reason why the expansion of categories is so slow is that Zhang Junbin still believes that “the only ability to enter a new category is to have a good product”, just like seven years ago. Only a good enough product can be grabbed in the market. In terms of share, it is almost impossible for a company to make the first product across categories, but it sells well despite poor performance. Inside Cloud Whale, Zhang Junbin repeatedly instilled in the team members: “Making 100 bad products is worse than making one good product with heart.”


Cloud Whale Sweeper J3 & Cloud Whale S1 | Picture: Cloud Whale

But Zhang Junbin now also values ​​Yunjing’s ability to create products “fast and well”.

From his point of view, from the perspective of product development speed, the Yunjing team spent three years building the sweeper J1, two years to build the J2, and one year to build the J3. The delivery speed is 2 to 3 times that of the past. The floor scrubber S1 As an attempt of a new category, the research and development took only 20 months, much faster than the original J1.

On the one hand, Cloud Whale has accumulated a lot of technical experience in the field of sweeping and dragging robots, such as dirty closed-loop detection, machine self-cleaning, and complete machine noise reduction, and has applied for hundreds of patent protections. The superposition and aggregation of underlying technologies and designs help Cloud Whale Energy has explored a more complete and extreme technical solution for the industry after cutting into the washing machine category.

On the other hand, Cloud Whale’s team system has also undergone major upgrades and adjustments in the past year. In 2022, Cloud Whale spent a year building and perfecting the middle-end system, thus forming an innovative organization capable of rapid delivery system. In this S1 research and development, there are only a few dozen full-time members of S1 research and development, and other links such as user research and analysis, supply chain manufacturing, etc., are supported by various middle stations of Cloud Whale.

Scrubbers are a new category that has grown rapidly in the past two years. Relevant data show that in the whole year of 2022, the annual retail volume of the washing machine category will reach 3.48 million units, an increase of 88.2% year-on-year. Faced with such a category with huge growth potential, Zhang Junbin believes that it is right to enter when it is ready .

The founder’s 7-year entrepreneurial trials and the company’s organizational capability iterations are the meaning of “slow”, and the goal of “fast” is to truly develop one’s pursuit and ability on the clean track.

“There must be very cloudy whale products in the cleaning track, not just sweepers, not just floor scrubbers.” Zhang Junbin, a student entrepreneur, may have had this idea in his mind 7 years ago, but he said this sentence 7 years later At the time, I was no longer talking about an idea, but frankly describing the inevitable future.

Ewen Eagle

I am the founder of Urbantechstory, a Technology based blog. where you find all kinds of trending technology, gaming news, and much more.

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