12 October 2022

Learnings: Projects & things I've made so far.

This is a general blog post on my various schemes so far, roughly sorted by revenue / success. I look like this when I’ve made something:

Open Source

Fedora New Website


Reshore - Alibaba for the USA

sunboxlabs.com v2 | Self-Install Solar Kits for backup generation

Tested on hacker news, and sold $4.5K of goods in a few days. Then sold an addional $1.5K over the next few weeks on Instagram ads to prove that is is a scalable business. Then pivoted to dropshipping, as I wasn’t adding too much value by sending it/rebranding it myself.


Energy Lollipop

Challenge: Simplify climate-change into a single number. See your office or home emissions and influence it in a real-time feedback loop with gamification elements.

Solution: Combining real-time data from the PG&E Smartmeter API and CAISO, we constructed a real-time figure for your personal or office emissions in a friendly form.

		+Real-time grid & PG&E data integration
		+React.js browser extension / App
		+Node.js / Express.js backend
		+Postgres storage
		+Running on Heroku

		+Katie Patrick (@katiepatrick)

Website Github on request

Electrade v3 | Nerdwallet for EVs

Challenge:"Nerdwallet for EVs and greentech". Directory of sustainable services, measuring impact along the way in a dynamic fashion.

Solution: This project constructs server-side rendered, SEO-friendly articles from user-submitted content and links.

Website Github on request

* Niko and one employee

* Platform for sustainable services
* React.js app
* Node.js / Express.js server
* Postgres storage
* Running on Zeit

* MRR: $1,200
* MAU: 2K
* User acquisition: SEO

paperworklabs.com | Turbotax for medical forms

See ongoing progress in the newer posts on this site, like this one

Together with my cofounder, we came up with the idea for Paperwork Labs when he was describing the challenges physicians are facing with government paperwork like the 18-page CPSP forms of California. I built a simple “turbotax for medical forms” in Node in early December, created the below video, and had on initial clients by end of January. Price point: $99/mo/login for all-you-can-eat, constantly updated “smart forms” that can export flat PDFs, report on your “structured data”, and potentially integrates with EHRs if they let us. See demo on Youtube

♜ Challenge: Healthcare Form Automation. Bringing great UX and automation to the user-hostile world of medical forms.

⚑ Solution: An elegantly simple medical form automation tool served from a lightning-fast Node/Express backend, deployed to a HIPAA compliant AWS environment.

* Mitul (sales advisory)
* Niko (sales, tech)

* React.js web app
* Node.js / Express.js logic
* Postgres store
* PDF form writing
* Javascript ES6
* Docker on AWS Elastic Beanstalk
* HIPAA compliant logging, access monitoring

* MRR: $1,843 (1x)
* Price point: $99/month for all-you-can-eat medical smartforms

Deployed Web App Github

Paper Inc. | Mail-order Sustainable Flatpack Furniture

Paper Furniture Pitch Initial by Niko Dunkel on Scribd

Above the original pitchdeck.

The initial idea was to send furniture that’s made of paper through the mail to consumers. Paper Inc. was a furniture company to help mobile urbanites get a room full of furniture with the push of a button.

We later mailed you a folded “room in a box” that was easy to set up and could simply be recycled or sent back when you move.

This project was born out of the frustration with the extremely expensive 5-axis process of milling the Lunch dining chair. It went to the other extreme. If wood is too expensive, and consumers like me balk at buying expensive furniture when we move every year in our twenties – could I make something more affordable that can simply be recycled the next time I move? I started with the business plan first. The business plan was simple: Connect all the beautiful cardboard furniture designs out there on the internet with manufacturers in Switzerland, and send them directly to the customer. I was specifically trying NOT to design a product, but to design a service this time round. The business plan won a cash prize at the Innovate4Climate 2014 investment, and pushed me and my co-founder, Benjamin Blum, into one of Zurich’s best clean-tech incubators. This was a differentiated product with a clear path.

We ended up pivoting to cnc-milled wood before we started out of fear that people wouldn’t want cardboard furniture. Maybe in retrospect thereby torpedo-ing our differentiation. This also pushed us up over the impulse-buy territory we’d previously occupied, and reduced the furniture’s lightweight mail-order nature. We renamed the project Smoke at the same time and offered all-in-one kits. We raised some pre-seed capital from Swiss Venture days 2015, but my co-founder jumped off back into the corporate world at the wrong moment and the investors re-scinded their offer. Looking back we should have stayed with the original, clear concept of paper furniture and run with it.

* Benjamin (legal, ops, marketing)
* Niko (product, tech)

* CNC-Milled furniture built in Rhinoceros modelling
* Squarespace site

* Sales: $9,400
* Revenue: N/A
* I4C Clean-Tech Startup Accelerator Cohort ‘14
* Pre-Seed round (aborted)
* My first ever entrepreneurial project

Final Paper Furniture Site Mirror (renamed to Smoke at that point)


Atmos Financial

A new green bank.


Lumen Energy

Engineered prototype, more details coming soon.


Classalog | A marketplace for classes


(Engineer, Full-Stack)

+Marketplace for Classes     +React / Next.js with server-side rendering for SEO     +"Serverless" Cloud Functions     +Firebase storage     +Running on Zeit Now     </b>

Challenge: Lead transition of existing code base to Server Side Rendered App, integrated with team, and shipped new features while re-factoring and testing continuously.

Website Github on request

Assemble | Real-time collaboration for better meetings


(Engineer, Full-Stack)

+Real-Time Collaboration for Meetings     +React.js / Typescript web app     +Node.js / Express.js backend     +Sockets.io     +Postgres store     +Running on AWS Elastic Beanstalk    

Challenge: Real-time collaboration for business meetings, this project was built from scratch. Solved all multi-user edge cases for this B2B Saas startup's MVP.

Solution: Using YJS to synchronize clients through "conflict-free replicated data types", customized to our purposes, we devised solutions to all edge cases in synchronous editing of documents and pulling structured data from them.

Website Github on request

Side Projects

Electrade v2 | A platform for EV services (starting with insurance)

A platform for EV services (starting with insurance). Eventually modelled on Nerdwallet. EV-first insurance is our initial product here. This was a pivot out of the Electrade EV trading app below.

* Niko (Tech, Content, Strategy)
* Suhas (Content, Paid, Strategy)
* Armin (Advisor)

* React Quote App
* Hugo blog and static pages
* Served from Node/Express/Postgres
* Integrated with Clearcover API

* MRR: $360
* MAU: 2K
* User acquisition: Physical marketing, SEO, Paid, Content

Website Github on request

Electrade | A mobile marketplace for EVs

Challenge: Mobile Marketplace for Electric Vehicle Leasing and Trading. Large, complex app with Stripe integration, photo upload and async operations

Solution: A simple app structure was shipped to multiple platforms and iterated on daily.

Team: * Armin (ideation, ops) * Niko (ideation, tech) Tech: * React Native on iOS & Android * Backend Node/Express/Postgres * Stripe payment processing * Listing photos upload to S3 * Dynamic pricing data indexed from Autotrader, Edmunds with Puppeteer * EV News updates through APIfy.com (see [Startup Updates](/startup-updates-7)) App Store Google Play Github

whole earth catalog | A platform for collecting sustainable companies

Modeled after Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, this digital version is a social curation experience, helping consumers compare prices and certifications of sustainable brands.

A “product hunt” for the videos of certified green companies, this initial list of brands and goods was assembled by users, and later added a voting system for popularity and scraped lists.

* Angular 2 App (later re-built in React)
* Firebase backend

Whole Earth Catalog Mirror Github

sunboxlabs.com | Platform for DIY solar kits (incl. price tracking)

With Zebulon Reynolds (for part of the way), this project sunboxlabs.com developed out of a HackerNoon post from a hacked together project, implemented between jobs, where it garnered 200’000 views and was featured on HackerNews (twice!) and /r/geek. The project was trying to solve the same as the Solar/Battery Hardware project below (the problem of solar in cities), but this time I took a content/software-only approach. No hardware overhead! sunbox labs was a Jekyll site with React components that helps hackers build their own personal power plants with components off Amazon. Also on this blog at $200 Solar Self-Sufficiency – without your landlord noticing.

* Niko (concept, writing, tech)
* Zeb (marketing)

* Static Hugo Site
* Dynamic pricing data scraped from Amazon with APIfy.com
* User submitted content

* Revenue per month: $30
* 204'600 uniques from July 2017 - July 2018
* 3.74% conversion to Amazon affiliate program
* 8 submissions


Giftlab.io | Kickstarter for physical donations

With Elisa, a platform to help non-profits fundraise more efficiently with more transparency and new donation methods including Amazon Wishlists, Itemized budgets and corporate donations.

* Elisa (idea, product)
* Niko (tech)

* Node/Express/Postgresql web app on Heroku
* Stripe Connect for payment routing
* Amazon wishlists for product gifting
* Mixpanel/Fullstory analytics

* Total sales: $30.00

Deployed Web App Github

Soap Dictate App | Medical Note Transcription App

Soap dictate was built to help my friend Libo at Stanford Internal Medicine save time on note taking (aka medical charting or documentation) with a mobile app to dictate into templates. Doctors currently spend around 2 hours a day after their shift typing up notes at the ward desktop, or catching up at home. This app enabled them to save at least an hour of this time by quickly dictating their notes into their phone during their shift, and making it very easy to copy-paste their notes into the EMR system once they’re done. The idea was to help physicians save an hour a day for $9.99 a month. The app was actually downloaded by massage therapists, acupuncturists and psychotherapists, who wanted to export PDFs and emails, for $3.99 per month. Added a bunch of disclaimers – the HIPAA situation of Apple's Speech Recognition API is unclear as it's encrypted, but Apple won't sign a BAA – however usage and slow growth continues. If Apple one day agrees to sign a BAA for Speech Recognition then I could advertise and grow the app. Team * Libo (medical product advice) * Niko (product, tech) Tech * React Native App * Mobile Frontend in React Native with RNVoice library * Web Frontend in React at http://soapdictate.com (currently replaced with simple static site) * Backend in Node/Express/Postgresql backend running on Heroku (currently removed) Stats * MRR: $55 * Paying customers: 20 * Trial customers: 1 * Price point: $3.99/month * 262 registered users * Organic app store search App Store

A search engine for green products, utilising APIfier to scrape all B-Corps (among others) and find their products on Amazon through the Viglink API. This was a search-engine-ified Whole Earth Catalog, above.

This project indexes 2101 pre-vetted companies from various labels and certification sites and compares their products with prices from the Viglink API. A B-Corp Price Tracker on Amazon, if you will.

* Niko

* Angular 2 app
* Dynamic pricing & product data from Viglink API
* B-Corps scraped from bcorporation.com with APIfy.com

* MRR: $0


I Am Off! App | Off-day planner for Physicians

Together with Libo Wang and initially Steven Pease, we set out to help with the burn-out rate of doctors at Stanford Internal Medicine: This app helps doctors (who have irregular schedules and little free time) work out who’s off and up to hang out with a super simple calendaring app.

* Libo (idea, product)
* Niko (tech)

* React Native App with Node Server:
* Frontend in React Native/Redux
* Backend in Node/Express/PostgreSQL running on Heroku

* MRR: $0
* 369 users at Stanford Medicine, Utah Medical, Harvard Medical.
* 145 WAUs
* Price: Free
* Growth through internship onboardings, organic.

App Store Google Play Github

Positivity Trainer | Train your mind to be more positive

This is a very simple side-project, which I did to learn Firebase Auth and Storage. Tries to counteract the negative media coverage of everything we cover every day by asking you a positivity-inducing question, daily.

* React Native
* Google Firebase Auth / Storage / Push Notifications

* Initially $0.99 / month => 4 subscribers after 3 months
* Now just $0.99

App Store Github

Projectpegasus.io | Recycling rejected YCombinator applications

With Can Olcer and Dorena Nagel. Connecting hand-picked startups with hand-picked angels, double-blind opt-in intros, investor pays $99 per intro. Startups can re-use their YCombinator application to apply to other angel investors.

* Dorena (idea, ops)
* Can (idea, product, tech)
* Niko (idea, product, tech)

* Hugo Static Site, loads of email.

* 52 startups applied with old YC applications
* 7 investors applied for insights into the startups
* 4 rounds sent, suggesting 48 startups in total.


Free marketing copy review. Jump the queue for $49

* Niko
* Suhas

* Static page with formspree

* Revenue: $140
* User acquisition: Product Hunt


Misc Hardware Projects

Juicebar – (hardware concept)

Juicebar was a windowsill energy generator meant to ehlp urbanites be energy independent without access to their rooftops.

The pitch was that as an increasing part of the world’s population lives in dense cities, solar rooftops, which are designed primarily for suburbs, become hard to install. Renting an apartment means you mostly don’t have access to the roof. What you do have power over is your own windowsill. This was inspired by Rob Rhineharts blog-post “How I gave up alternating current”. The project turned into solar for apartment-owners so they could charge their devices off a dedicated DC battery, and create their own energy.

Customers objected that the device was too expensive vs. what money they could save. They also objected that the embodied energy was so high, it would take years to pay off and be “greener” than before. Finally, they objected that the IoT features were useless.

The juicebar project originally came about in the dying days of Paper Inc.: I started playing around with added electrical components to differentiate the tables and chairs we’d already bought and hope to liquidate them on Kickstarter (below). Eventually I dropped the tables completely and went on with a pure window-sill design above. I also added an Arduino for good measure so I could track electrical production during the day (and because IoT funding was readily available…). I also got sucked up in the IoT craze (since this was technically an IoT product), and spent a lot of time pitching and filming, instead of improving the product. This was my first project where coding was involved, so I’m thankful for that. Many Alibaba-sourced 12V lithium batteries & panels were thrashed at this stage.

LUNCH | A CNC-carved chair project

LUNCH, a digitally carved dining chair. Made on a 5-axis CNC in portugal, only 20 were ever made. Very expensive. I learned that making your own goods is a whole different operation from selling them.

Student project, Thomas Meyer and I put in many man-hours into the leather-, copper- and woodwork necessary for this project.

Other web tech demos

Focuswriter – VR productivity app for distraction-free writing, written in reactVR. Look around and type away as the text wraps itself around you. Be sure to click on the moon above your head to switch to GALAXYMODE.

* ReactVR

CollaborativeToDo was a React & Firebase to-do list app w/ full Drag n drop, CRUD. This was chiefly to solve a to-do list excel and email overload we were all suffering from at the office, and let these lists be easily shared and collaborated on between team members.

* React
* Firebase

Solar Summon – Solar search for iOS drawing from MapKit, and Solar Summon – Later Rebuilt in React Native. These were my first iOS projects in Swift and React Native.

Sustainable Cosmetic Price Tracker, if you will. GoodGood, a software project to help families find skinsafe products for their loved ones. Scrapes EWGs database and and finds their certified products on Amazon, to make it easier to find EWG’s safe skincare products on Amazon.

* Angular 2 app
* Viglink API
* APIfier scraping ewg.org
* Firebase NoSQL database

⚡️ Superjuice | Kayak for Energy

Price comparison for sustainable energy – The initial version of the above projects (and my first software project!) revolved around price comparison for energy. The US had a solution for apartment renters to go solar easily: You can “virtually” buy energy from renewable farms upstate or out in the ocean. The energy you buy is credited to your electric bill every month. Comparing prices is extremely difficult though. The initial project pitch was this. Superjuice was an energy price search engine that helps apartment owners find the best rates. It does this by indexing all power provider prices in the NY area in real-time. My first online project.

* Angular 2 App
* My first software project

Insureum | Insurance with smart contracts – 2nd place Angelhack SF 2018 (Consensys prize)

Ethereum smart contract to make insurance cheaper, easier and less fraud-prone. We built a smart contract that you can pay in to every month, and then vetted hospitals (and only they!) can directly withdraw reimbursements for your treatment from the contract, once they’ve verified that you’ve paid up.

* Two guys from the hackathon (idea)
* Niko (Tech, product)

* Ethereum Dapp written with Truffle and Infura
* Frontend in Vanilla Javascript/Web3/Webpack (Truffle)
* Contract in Solidity, deployed on Rinkeby with Infura

* Coming Soon

Insureum Web App (note: requires Metamask on desktop or Toshi on mobile) to view)

Sensorcoin | Google Contacts on the blockchain

From November to January Phil Chacko and I worked on various other projects. All the following require Metamask on desktop or Toshi on mobile).

So far we haven’t been able to find a business case with these Dapps, and as described here, the development of the ecosystem is so fast-paced (read: everything is still unfinished) – most of these projects are already easier to do as when we built them.


Building a startup accelerator at swissnexSF

Next to my learnings described here, and numerous lessons in marketing, project management, team, networks, et al, I’d like to hold on to one quote from a superior that will stick with me for a while:

The degree to which you can deploy a digital solution is limited by the network in which you can deploy it.


  • https://www.swissnexsf.org/startups

media coverage:

  • https://www.startupticker.ch/en/news/february-2018/swiss-startups-join-innosuisse-market-entry-camp-in-san-francisco
  • https://www.startupticker.ch/en/news/may-2018/applications-open-for-startup-camp-in-san-francisco
  • https://www.startupticker.ch/en/news/june-2018/what-swiss-start-ups-learned-in-san-francisco


  • https://nextrends.swissnexsanfrancisco.org/back-to-the-city/
  • https://nikodunk.github.io/accelerator

Eponym – Business Development and Software Development (work)

Coming soon

Employment at Herzog & de Meuron

When working professionally, designed facades and interiors mostly for competition work. This facade was designed by the team I was on at a large architecture firm in Basel, Switzerland. We won that competition.

Architecture/Engineering at ETH Zurich

Architecture school project, inspired by Tanizaki’s “In Praise of Shadows”. This project reflected the poetic side of architecture – most of the school was engineering.

UX/UI contracting in SF

I learned a huge amount about dealing with clients, together with my friend Zebulon Reynolds in San Francisco. The game was an iOS Flight Simulator.

* Zebulon
* Niko

The beginning of time.

You made it this far!