In this episode, we’re joined by Dr. Glenn Mathijssen, Founder and CEO of Alberts. Glenn tells us about his journey from a university project to getting his first investment and launching his own company, ”Alberts Smoothie Station and Soup Station”.
Glenn’s an outstanding European entrepreneur who is very driven and definitely knows his stuff.
In this interview, he shares some lessons he’s learned about the similarities and differences between producing a physical machine and producing a packaged product.
Ken: Welcome to the Physical Product Movement, a podcast by Fiddle, we share stories of the world’s most ambitious and exciting physical product brands to help you capitalize on the monumental change in how, why and where consumers buy. I’m your host, Ken Ojuka.
In this episode of the Physical Product Movement podcast. I speak with Dr. Glenn Mathijssen, Founder and CEO of Alberts. Alberts is a company that makes smoothie and soup vending machines. These machines can be placed in offices, in schools and hospitals, in gyms for a convenient and healthy alternative to package product.
Glenn tells us about his journey from university project to seeking and getting his first investment and launching and scaling his company. Glenn is a wonderful European entrepreneur who was very driven, definitely knows his stuff. And he’s a wide open book. He shares some lessons on the similarities and differences between producing a physical machine and producing a package product.
He is a great guest with tons to share. We hope you enjoy.
All right. Hey Glen. Thanks for joining me. How are you doing?
Glenn: Hey, Ken. Yes, I’m doing fine. Thank you very much. , thank you. Thank you. It’s the last mission of the day here today? It’s late over in Europe.
Ken: That’s right. You’re in Brussels. Is that correct?
Glenn:Yes. Correct. Correct. Brussels Belgium. I come from the north of the country and in the last 13, 14 years, I’m making breasts.
Ken: Well, Hey, thanks for jumping on. I know it’s, it’s, it’s just a little after 10:00 PM there. And so thanks for making time. No problem, man. We’d like to kick this off by just going over a quote, ,that that’s impactful to you and, you know, maybe something that, that you like to live by.
Um, do you, do you have one in mind?
Glenn: Yes. Um, so I thought about it last week and actually the quote that, um, It’s not really a quote, but it’s, um, my dad used to whistle every time when he came home. So I remember as a kid, I was in the sofa or I don’t know what playing around in the house. And when my dad opens the door to the car after work and he was just whistling while walking through the door.
And that impacted me big time, I guess, genetics also play a role. Uh, but I do have to admit that serotonin levels in my head, or in a general day on the high side, resulting in a positive mindset. And I think it comes from that. Yeah. So that has always stuck with me. Uh, and still today.
Ken: Yeah. So, so the whistling, I mean, what, what did that mean to you?
I mean, uh, just, you know, that he’s in a good mood, is it, is it, is that what you mean?
Glenn: So, yeah, I guess what it meant for me or what I, what I took away from it, um, is that with a positive attitude, life is, , it’s really on the brighter side itself already. And of course that’s not always easy and some people are in a very painful position.
Most definitely but I think in general trying to look positive on every side of life. It’s something I took from from my dad. And, that wrestling somehow for me was like coming home probably also not always feeling great, but just that attitude of saying, Hey, how’s it all going? That always stuck.
Ken: That’s great. That’s great. so for, for those who don’t know you, and haven’t heard of you, do you mind explaining a little bit about your background and then, and then, you know, just tell us a little bit about what your company does.
Glenn: Yeah, sure. No problem. So, my background I, I come from a small village, a small village in the north of Belgium.
And, I grew up really with a, let’s say youth or years, which were kind of without any worries. Anything on that side, I grew up in a nice atmosphere, playing soccer, loves going to a Latin school at that time. I was pretty strong in mathematics and learning for me was pretty natural or like, yeah.
Kind of always relatively smooth. So in a little village, they said smart kids. They go to the Latin school. So I ended up in Latin school, doing the maximum hours of mathematics. I could take within that environment very quickly, new to hold that wasn’t anything really, but, but it learned me how to study.
And then I quickly after, was really sure that I wanted to do science, mathematics and everything. So then I ended up studying engineering and mechanical engineering. I headed off to Brussels, which is not the typical choice, although it is the capital of the country. It’s not the typical course choice to go study.
There are other study cities, but somehow I also discovered now after 32 years, I always tend to do things a little different or my tendency or preference goes in that direction. So I really wants to go. So the Capitol, I have two days introduction here at university and, I went the first day. Then I had a big party with the only person I know in old Brussels.
And then I said, yeah, this is a great city. I want to be here. Um, and then I thought after university, I thought I have to go out here as soon as possible and go work in real life. But I actually ended up staying here. Of course, uh, I did a PhD there. Pursued the PhD in robotics. And then that became a double PhD also at the university of PISA and their research center as Genova, which are both in Italy.
So that was super interesting, really amazing researchers I’ve met. Um, and, uh, my tendency always goes towards new things and new challenges. And that was the same at a PhD, relatively young professor at the time today still. But, he came to me and he said, okay, Glenn, I have the small cities in mind.
Don’t you want to do as it’s a total new topic and, yeah, I said, okay, let’s give it a go. And that worked out that became then a topic for for the PhD. And then, he got a really big grant on that topic, which allowed us to add a lot of resources, more researchers. I got a personal grant and, everything kicked off from there.
And then, yeah, so then the entrepreneurial path came rather soon. I called it always the night job, uh, to get her with, we got a first startup, uh, that was, uh, was photo booths connected to the web pictures on Facebook, Instagram for like corporate purposes in the beginning, weddings for friends and then corporate purpose, like marketing.
That evolved from day jobs to Niger to day job. Like it was kind of fuzzy at a certain point. Then we started today. What is today? Now Elbert’s maybe some more about that later, but that started really a lot of time, a lot of energy already at the beginning because it was kind of a big mission. And at a certain point I decided, okay, I need to stop doing everything at the same time.
Because that is my biggest. Strength maybe, but also my biggest weakness that I tried to do a lot of things. So then I finalized the PhD. I also started the master in business in parallel. So also finalize that, then the first startup was sold and then also focused and got to Alberta, all, do I still hold a 10% small position as a post-doc at the university of Brussels.
So that’s kind of a journey. I’d say. Two elders.
Ken: So, so, Albert’s, you know, I know there’s smoothie machines. You also are releasing as a soup machine do you mind explaining a little bit about how, how they work and what, what they actually are?
Glenn: Yeah, no problem. I think most people are familiar with vending machines.
You know, the vending machines, they distribute a Coca-Cola or they distribute a Mars bar or something like a snack. Uh, the last five to six years, it kind of kicked off in 2015. Um, just at the same time that we were kicking off with Albert’s a new kid was on the block, let’s say, and it was a space space called food robotics.
No, what’s, what’s in a name, basically comes down to that these vending machines that are all there, they kind of start, they start preparing fresh meals. They start preparing fresh snacks, starting from fresh ingredients, frozen ingredients, and a whole variety of concepts actually came out of there. And so we had no idea that this was becoming in tech space or whatever.
No. Anything about it. We just had the did, can we eat. Produce a fresh and healthy from a kind of vending machine. And can we apply the robotics technology that we have learned and the principles that we have scattered over the years? Can we apply to this? Which is. And so what we do is we, our mission is to make a healthy life easiest option.
And so we do that by having a machine and the machine a bit wider and independent machines, pure fruit and vegetables. So you see blueberries, strawberries, chunks of pineapple mango, and we turn within two minutes, we turn these raw ingredients. We turned them into a personalized smoothie or soup personalized.
It means that we start from your choice in the app. You can even up to the gram, decide what you want. So let’s say that is the rough framework. You know, you, you see your foods being gathered, you see them blended in your cup and it gets out. Thanks for the soups there. Of course we tried to make fruit and vegetables.
Ken: I like that. Yeah. I was really excited to talk to you actually, because, you know, first of all, I, I, you know, I’m, I’m into manufacturing and, I like the space a lot. And, the question I’m always asking is. You know, who is it? That’s actually making these machines that then makes all the products.
Right. And so for me, I’ve always had a long, long running interest in these machines. I think your business is interesting because it’s almost like you’re taking some of those machines, you know, from the manufacturing, floor, uh, or a facility and, uh, you’re shrinking it. And then you’re taking it directly to the consumer, uh, in the space where they are.
Yeah, exactly. And so I guess if we were to think about it that way, um, a lot of the guests that have been on this podcast are CPG brands or manufacturers. Um, you know, what, what do you think are some of the differences of, of, um, distributing your product in the way that you do it? Right? Like through a vending machine versus, uh, you know, one of the options I’m sure that was on the table is you can make all of this, these fruits.
You know, the, these fruit smoothies or the soups, you can make them in a factory setting and then distribute them through retail. but you guys kind of took a different route, you know, what do you, what do you think are some of the advantages? What were you trying to accomplish? You know, when you, when you chose this route,
Glenn: Yep. No, that’s a great question because it gets actually to the core of like, why did we do it? Why did we do this machine? So for me, it starts from the very fundamentals at the start when we started Albert. So we said, okay, what do we really want this machine to do nothing engineering? But like, what do we want from the values?
And the first thing was that whatever needs to come out to be really helpful. And the second thing was that whatever needs to come out needs to be transparent so that people can really trust the product. And dad both touches the core. So I believe that a lot of the food we eat is actually not so nutritious.
And that doesn’t only mean that it can be full of sugar or fat or salt,
but that can also mean that you lose a lot of your minerals in your vitamins, in all the manufacturing steps, it’s not really normal that your fruit in your smoothies for like two years, you know, that you lose a lot of nutritional value there. So. I think where we are different is that we try to take the raw ingredients and that we basically try to have zero food waste and we try to have a minimum of nutrients lost zero food waste.
We reached by having frozen products. So the full strawberries are frozen when they’re visible. There is as well. So we don’t need to throw anything away. It’s non-perishable. And then secondly, in a frozen state, these ingredients, they tend to keep the nutrient levels. So that is very favorable to serve a drink in two minutes that has all the nutrients inside, I think the last commercial site and more, so this is more like on the health side and what is inside, but then on the commercial side, if you still need to make your products, you have the opportunity to personalize it.
You personalize it, you trigger a, what I’ve been referring to 60 on your trigger, an interesting point for the consumer and that opens the relationship and direct to consumer relationship. I always say it a little bit challenging, not that many people, because like, if I just sort of a cool guy, I buy it.
But, at Albert’s we see at certain locations over half of the people going through the app to order why, because they make their own recipes and they like it. And they save these recipes and that opens the DTC direct to consumer communication channel, which is pretty hard to get. If you’re just, if you’re a CPG product, it’s pretty hard to get that.
Relationship starting. So, I think these are like the core elements, why I think we’re different. And luckily that’s just a little bit on the value side, but also on the commercial.
Ken: Right. It does touch on the unique value that you guys bring. Yeah. So, so I’m interested in, in these recipes, right? So can you give us an example of a recipe?
Somebody might sit, might save on their phone and then, you know, reuse later.
Glenn: Yeah. I’ll give you, like in the beginning we were testing big retailers. And so we were literally impossible because you had no experience with the machines, no experience in the field. We didn’t know anything. It was really rough time because we were basically repairing machines.
I always had a t-shirt full of blueberries in the car and a shirt, which was supposed to stay wide for the meetings during the day. During these tests, we really got like crazy feedback. So for example, you mentioned a, with somebody who was working, uh, who was working in supermarket and it’s, um, it was, let’s say, uh, kind of a masculine, um, person, and yet that’s, who’s all over his body, all over his face.
It was like a, you know, a rough guy, uh, or at least in my perception. Um, and, uh, he came to me and he said, you know what, dude? I made this amazing recipe today.
And then he added, and I showed the recipe four of the girls that came into the store and they fucking loved it. Sorry for the effort. They really loved it. And now I saved it and now I’m always making, so what I mean is that. People tend to love things that they create themselves, where they can put a little bit of that passion inside and whatever way it is.
And then of course you can go for what you like. So for example, I feel like more sour stuff. You can go for more pineapple. Just people who like a lot of berries, berries, if other people who really like spinach or celery, you know, more to the people. May God save that. And then. We can, we can communicate back to you.
Like we can say, Hey, we know you like yellow fruits. Why don’t you try this new yellow? Um, we know you like a really sweet flavor. So, um, yeah, I think that opens a lot of possibilities. Marketing-wise um, where you can get that relationship growing with the consumer, but also offer value back, you know, like not just blindly saying, Hey, try this in the store. Or something like that.
Ken: So how many different raw ingredients do you have in the, in the smoothie machine? And then how many in the, in the suit machine?
Glenn: So, uh, both of the machines have, uh, 10 ingredients, uh, as their base ingredients. So these ingredients are in cartridges. So you see them right in front of you.
Uh, and each cartridge is approximately like five milligrams. So you’ve got 52 rounds of fruits and veggies in there. And then, um, people can make the recipes based on also have a stock in there. So one of the ingredients is a stock that we add.
Ken: Yeah. And we’ve talked a lot about the smoothie machine.
Um, you know what, what’s the difference, um, with the, with the suit machine, what did you have to change in the machines in order to make that work?
Glenn: Good question. In the beginning, it was a mystery. So during our journey, we really started off. As in the beginning, I would go find their Phillip also, you know, we were, you know, we have this manual, the art that we’ve made, and then we were just making, we were the robots.
And then of course that took a long time to get to the technology and they are right. But, we then gathered a lot of investors like Peter, Sophie, many of the business angels here in Belgium, who said, we believe at a certain day, we meet a new potential investor. Christian, the Wolf is his name.
And he said, okay, I have this other efficient, I want to go towards soups. And we said, you know, we’ve been thinking about soups a lot, but the problem is that how to make a soup in two minutes, we all know she cooks at home. It’s not done. It takes time to cook your soup. And he said, look, I’m a food technologist.
He’s a fairly experienced entrepreneur in the food industry as well. Like he had so many ventures difficult to count and he said, let me solve that together with you. And so what happened is that we basically. Like I would even say literally, at least from my side, that the reason is different than I thought.
So I thought it was necessary to me, but it’s actually not true. It’s used to become a habit to cook our suits sometimes even a very long time, because of two reasons. Firstly ingredients back in the days, you know, when they were at the farm, they tend to be not that perfect as we buy them. Now they tended to be like huge.
Fibery and an older or, and so you need to cook it to get the fiber a little bit, a little bit true. So you could digest. And the second reason is that they were cooking the soup back in the days, because then they could last for a day, but there’s no bacteria right now. If you look at all the veggies that come directly from the fields and are being frozen, waiting for hours, you know, there’s so fine. There’s still perfect. Like all the technology in the agriculture. So develop that these ingredients are really beautiful. And then secondly, since the machine makes it direct to consume and actually keeps us frozen all the way, these bacterias are enough that they cause an issue, keeping it at room temperature.
So basically now we don’t cook our soup. So that for me was like, It’s not possible, but it is, you actually get a way richer flavor. The feedback we got from consumers was, oh, your PC actually really tastes like peace. And we were like, yeah, it’s like certain Debby logic. And then the gentleman said he was like 15 years old.
He said, you know, I’m drinking superior at work every day, but honestly tastes more like Oprah and soul than anything else. And that’s true because we kind of cook it through a lot. So the taste flattens, and then we spice it up. But the nice thing now is that with the technology, you can actually, we do steam technology to eat the same time.
We have four bars of 10,000 RPM blending. So the cups are being treated a little alert roughly, but we need two minutes to have that heated soup. Then the taste is in your face. Real fresh. and I think that is in the end, what you want. You don’t want it. You want to eat carrots too, because it’s Garrett. Right.
Ken: And not because it’s just salt and pepper. Right?
Glenn: Exactly. Exactly. So super pleased with that. It was very unexpected.
Ken: I’m curious about the name, right? So Albert’s, what’s, what’s the story behind the name?
Glenn: So, yeah, the story goes that, we’re sure we’re not Einstein, but we do believe we can be Albert.
And it kind of relates to of course, Albert Einstein, then let’s say one of the most intelligent persons that at least if you dive into the imagination, the guy must have had to think about. Everything he came up and then the mathematical intelligence or translated how we look, how we look at ourselves.
What we try to look at ourselves is this picture of Einstein where he sticks his tongue out. Yes, it is that person who has a certain capacity to, to make things move. But he’s also the guy we felt at the time. We really felt relating to that. Uh, yes, we work very hard and we try to do smart things and different combining different technologies. But at the same time, it’s still us. We want to make fun of me. We’re still, maybe you’re a little bit sweaty guys so that we related. Uh, also we like it that the machine has a name, very personal, to, to get to a machine so I can relate more.
Yeah. That’s, that’s a bit Howard kind of stuck with us.
Ken: Yeah, I like it. I like it. so you mentioned, you mentioned investors, so just switching gears a little bit, you mentioned investors when you first approached them with this idea. What do you think it was that got them excited about investing in your business?
Glenn: That’s a very good question. I have no idea. The first investors was business angels. They were known in the industry. Okay. So they did have experience in short and one also had some experience in vending. So it was not out of the blue, but I think what got them excited is that. we were like at the time, but now still like very, we were very fresh on the block.
We, we dare to dream big at the same time we are raising the right nails, the time, you know, healthy, fresh, personalized, like it’s all buzzwords actually, but it’s all literally inside the concept almost literally translated into the concept. So I think that is what that should have been. But, it’s funny, you asked actually today because I was today, still with an investor who came with us in the third round.
I need today. That’s a third round, you know, that’s that’s first one. And he told me today, you know what, actually, when I was only about two people, you know, it was only because I believed that you guys can make something happen. That that makes sense. but it’s always in the beginning, what is there?
There’s the ID and there’s the people. So it’s people. So I think they, they choose based on energy. They choose based on determination and I think that is in the end, makes the choice. Yeah. What makes the choice, it gut feeling? I would say I would need to ask them, but I’m pretty convinced they would, they would point in that direction.
Ken: Okay. Yeah, it makes sense. Well, I mean, it definitely with you, with your background, with double PhDs and, and all your experience, um, even in the, I’m sure the experience building machines for photographs, you know, I’m sure that that, that was a factor as well. You know, you knew what you were doing.
Glenn: Yeah, definitely. But yeah, this was just in the time when I was still doing everything, but definitely there were definitely some things on our side. We were very lucky to meet these people, you know, it’s, sometimes I was looking back last time, like I think six months ago we were looking back on the trajectory at a certain board and we really discovered that every super-important encounter, we went through.
Almost all started based on a small piece of luck, you know? So you need a lot of luck to meet these super friendly people in the end to say, I believe in you, you know, you can make it, like do it. And, and often it’s a little lucky on a new fence. You meet somebody and then actually you didn’t even want to go to the events, but you then still wins.
And then somehow one year later it’s an investor in your company. So, Yeah. Sometimes they call me the preacher man, because I’m always just preaching the vision or the ideas I have. But yeah, after awhile it sticks with the right people. And then when you’re lucky enough, it hits the right person and things start moving.
Ken: So, that’s my takeaway. Yeah, a couple more, more business questions. Um, let’s talk a little bit about your sales process and who you actually sell this machine to, you know, so, you know, who’s your typical customer and how do you find them?
Glenn: Yeah, that’s also a very good question. So in this food robotics world, there are, you see everybody trying to, you know, there are sort of all kinds of products.
Can you see everybody kind of searching that way? So we have been revising this, but the typical let’s start with the typical location. So the typical location we aim for. It’s a location where our device from it’s value that it brings has some added failures. So that results in companies that really want to show, you know, where.
We’re innovative, even when we want to invest in the health of our employees, in gyms where AGM wants to stand out compared to others and say, Hey, here, you can get your fresh ingredients, but in order to do your sports schools, higher education universities. and then on the other side, that’s more the food service spectrum.
On the other side, you have the retailers, there is a big added value for our devices for retailers because they all want things freshly made on the location while not spending an FTE on it all day. Because then quickly, it becomes impossible for them to have somebody there all day for that job. They want somebody that can work flexible on all the different things and in our machine to refill whenever you want.
So people take care of it. And then, so these are the two locations, but the actual clients we then go for, so we try to sell the machine. So we have offered for a model where we want to scale true master franchises. So that basically means that you cannot ring me up and say,
we will try to get in your city or in your country or one. Partner that has access to market. That is the first criteria that how he has 2000 customers, for example, and can say, look 50 customers, 40 out of 60, because I’m sure you know, that kind of attitude. And it’s like a fleet that has the operations on site as well. Because it remains offending. yes, you need the operations to take care of it. So th that’s the kind of, it’s a little scoopy actually, but we are now launching in two weeks with a first partner in the UK. So that is super exciting.
Glenn: Yeah. It’s the first time that we’re actually, so, so far, I always say we have been so far, we have been our own master franchising.
We would just be learning how to do it. So we started contracting directly with hospitals. I African hospitals, by the way. So we started contracting directly with hospitals, James, et cetera, you know? Good machines out there through the operations and ourselves and learn everything, how it needs to be done.
And then now we will be on the experience of that local partner to get us operations efficient and to get his go to market efficient, we will then sell to devices to the is returning on their sales.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. are you guys in the U S at all?
Glenn: No, not focused on Europe here. I guess we will start to bring 20, 22 minutes.
Ken: Okay, great. Well, you know, we, we could probably talk forever about this, but you know, I’ve got a bunch of questions about, you know, how the, the, the actual machine works but I know we’re running up against time here. And so I want to be respectful of your time. And especially since you’re, you’re doing this for us late at night, over there, Just, just kind of a final question about manufacturing, you know, how do you guys actually produce the machines right now?
Let’s say that you, you get a big order, you know, this, this order that’s, in the UK. And you’ve got to ship some machines. I, I assume you, you, you have to manufacture those machines, to get them, before you get them over there. What does that process look like for you guys?
Glenn: Yeah. So, you know, it’s a little bit like a friend on the us side, Elon Musk, you know, it’s a production house, so, um, that’s exactly what we’re running at now.
So we’re now, we didn’t match productions now.
Everything from revise in your bill. She really trying to a single suppliers
while still staying control on it, on the essence. So what we did is we’ve partnered with two, uh, production partners here locally. A new one that came in second one is the newest. And so both of them are very close to term. We actually produce in Belgium, we produce local for local. And what we do is we try to go for eight.
The raw materials literally are ordered. This is the basic working. That’s what I’m aiming to experience. This is the basic working on the factory that makes all the framework and the thing. So they have a system where they only. Everything goes right to the factory. So they only order metal once it flows from the factory directly to the finished product.
So it’s really a factory of the future as they call it. So everything’s digital everything’s optimized. So that means that we have no stock on the side frames or anything. It gets through the factory. Then of course, on the more fine mechanics side, robotic side, let’s say we do have some set modules that we prepare France.
And then once that draw frameworks, that’s 30 kilometers. Once they’ve arrived there, we instill, all the fine mechanics, all the hydraulics freezer. And then that gets all connected, tested out and then basically ready and ready to go. So. Sounds easy.
Ken: It doesn’t actually sound so easy to me. So that’s pretty impressive.
Glenn: Yeah. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace. So we now have a company here in Belgium as well, and also look up our, no dad has to work construction platform. So the beauties that are both, both factories and us. You know, tree party, collaboration, we all will be live in the same work construction, so something changes on some side, it will be directly uploaded and ready for all partners.
And try to start producing. Of course, if this, was bigger, we will, at some point need to move to a central location where rather than building a factory, we tried to work with partners that already has their business and we call it the Microsoft.
But there’s still a lot of work on that front as well. So it’s far from done, um, a lot of, a lot of testing, frankly, to, to start that first serious production. So, I mean, we’re far from there really, but, um, we’ve got know support. Also. One of the two is widows already short two and a half years. Uh, I still remember I arrived and I said, okay, look, we will be working here. Like the last.
Okay. And you said like, what do you mean? That’s okay. I was like, no, but I mean, we will be here until two o’clock like probably for the next and he’s like, he’s like, oh, oh, okay. Yeah, we can make that work. He said.
We literally, when we were running against deadlines, their team came back to close the factory and put the alarm on. So we owed them X more. They’re called me. Oh, big time. Just this hour, a technology, a supporter. Foxdale. Same there, man. We have been using there. I sit the first meeting. Is it okay if we have an officer and I’m frankly, we never had another office.
We just stayed there and we just damned there for four years saving costs by sharing the office was we owed them big time on their commitment to say, yeah, sure. You’re welcome. Know, join us. Um, uh, without that we wish it would just be very hard for us. To move step-by-step because that’s really what we did.
We drew step-by-step. We had so many people that. That was so much energy already into this project from, from our team side. And then we have these partners, social technology providers towards the manufacturer, but also on the ingredient side, people that would have been helping us long time on the supplier side.
I still remember one supplier who was there with the first, when we were still the robots, you know, and then he’s leaving, but that’s a really long time ago. You know, it takes a lot of science, a hundred products. so there was so many people that in the concept in the project, so we owed them big, big time, for always staying there with us. Definitely.
Ken: Yeah. Yeah. And I think you’re touching on a point that, that, you know, we see often in our businesses, you know, this, isn’t just your, your manufacturer, you know, this is a partner, you know, and, and your success is really, really, you know, dependent on them doing what they say that they’re going to do, for them w being flexible with you as your product changes as your process changes, changes.
So, uh, just, just a quick question, maybe you could give us some tips on, you know, What, what you look for in a manufacturer, right. You know, this is often a very hard part, of, producing a physical product for people. You know, what, what are some of the things that, you know, you’d look for, or maybe what are some of the red flags that you know, would cause you to, to not go with, with a certain manufacturer?
Glenn: Beautiful. Beautiful question, really, because it is firstly, not easy. And secondly, it usually is quite an enforcement choice where you cannot run away from that. You know, it’s not like, ah, just buy it somewhere else. It usually involves speed changes. I have, of course, when you start doing this hardware projects, you meet a lot of startups that then are doing similar projects in different fields or same fields as food doesn’t matter.
And I have heard all the stories, so ranging from, you know, what, I just went for the best in class worldwide that makes machines, which are for consumer based. And this was then so far the best of the best. Started working with them. They are the leaders, and then it went horribly wrong up until five patents up until 3 million.
Then all of a sudden you are received email box. You know what? I stopped breaking up. so all the lawyers court cases like you cannot imagine, but then at the same side, for example, we went in 15. Firstly, we said, you know what? We need a flexible partner that is near to us that has high experts in this.
Into the general technology field hearing, which is more refined mechanics, you know? but at the same time, it also needs to be still endorsement for it. You know, we, we should just a small number, small, small part in the corners. So what I’ve learned from my side, but I find it, I find it dangerous tips there because my main learning is that if you find a partner where.
You clearly see that person or the owner is the real decision maker, you know, and the guy who really makes the trust, if he or she is really believing in what you do and has somehow a connection. I think that is already a plus because it will get shitty and they will pull you true. But if there’s no connection, Whatsoever.
And it’s very hard to make things move and you don’t have the money. Usually, as I started to say, okay, I’ll just write a check and I want everybody to move in my direction. It’s usually not possible. And so that is one thing. I think you need that passion. And then secondly, you need to make sure that it is for them.
Also in their lineup, they can keep on defending it. If it’s too far away from what they actually are doing at a certain point, they will say, you know, we wanted that last part. Maybe I think it’s still an advantage for themselves, a lot of different skills under one roof. So what I mean is that if their standard business, for example, is actually 90%.
Producing one type of machine, which one type of technology, which they actually own the screw it together because most of the bars come from the supplier. They will probably lack a lot of knowledge that is required to fill your gaps with their flexibility so they can have the mood or the, let’s say the passion to be flexible for you if under that roof, if you’re a manufacturer and there are different skills missing, they will very quickly have to insource that.
And that will just cost hard cash while if they can do it with their team, they can say, okay, let’s cover this up a bit. You know, this will take us a month, but okay. It’s okay. We’ll take care of it. Let’s meet each other in two weeks and we can advance it. But if they need to hire in-source engineers or I don’t know what process, it will cost them hard cash and you will quickly run up in trouble.
So all in all, I think these three things were for me, the deciding factor, but. Well, maybe this circles, the meeting, the, or the podcast, then I think, like I said, in the beginning, just like that investor in the end also has partly, it gets feeling to say, okay, let’s just do it. I think with the first manufacturing you go with, I think it’s a little bit, same.
I just believe in the, I believe the word of the owner of company who sold me. I’ll take care of you and I’ll try to really do my best in every way to be a good. Good supplier for you. And I know your weak points, you were honest to me, and I’ll always be trying to get honest to you and we’ll try to get through stuff like that.
That’s really important. Every startup is different if you’re a startup raised 25 million. So the next consumer at-home device. You may be still end up better with that. Best-in-class worldwide. See, so I think it’s very diverse and maybe Alaska and sorry for Dr. Long about this, but all the memories come back.
I’ve also heard horror stories of going far from home. So, uh, not far from home, I’ve met my girlfriend in China, so it’s okay. But, but what I mean is that like, If you’re still in the uncertainty zone where really our product is super uncertain, everything’s changing almost like every day. It really helps if it’s close to your home.
You know, like the way your team is. I don’t know. I mean, your home that’s close. It’s really helps because you can be fast. You can drive there, you can solve problems on the spot. If you then have everything over internet or everything over long road trips are expensive. It’s very hard to move fast forward, but again, they’re maybe not super complex and you find the produce of somewhere else and then suddenly find what my experience was.
You had a pretty bulky machine? I mean, they’re not a smartphone or not a kind of a machine. It weighs a lot. It has a volume. There is a level of complexity. Do it at home, do it at home. The first volumes will be relatively small. We’re not making 10 million iPhone. So, you know, do it close. And I’m super happy that we did that.
And we had an advisor back in the time and he also told me, look, she said, I swamped 25 million into a project, big one of the big food companies. It was also defending projects totally. At the end. After five years of work, when the production lines with the best manufacturer of Euro, I was do it then totally at the end, we somehow discovered, oh, you know what, actually, the concept is not working so well.
Well, let’s just stop the project. And I had this advice, exact same advice with the exact same number only once in 25 million, 28 million of another really big brand that everybody knows also, which having the exact same experience, but just not a manufacturer probably, but I mean, it’s the same mindset.
So that guy told me, you know, what, whatever you gotta do, you gotta do it. Step-by-step and if somebody tells you you’re slow, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to go step by step, and you’re going to try to always make the next level up and always change again, what you need to change. And I’m not saying we couldn’t ask nice, faster, because definitely what we do is faster now, but I think that’s the best approach and not thinking we need this, or we need this or that.
I think that was still a very good choice, but again, I find it dangerous to really just hard. Hard advice, like always do like that, but I hope the finer inside skin out, maybe mixtures.
Ken: Yeah, no, no. I think that those are really good. good tips. And not only in the, in the, you know, vending machine or electronic space, I think that, uh, those, those principles also apply, you know, for the, the average, you know, CPG brand that’s out there just looking for, for a manufacturer.
You hear a lot of the same horror stories. You hear a lot of the same challenges with, with working with somebody. And so I think those tips make sense.
Glenn: Yup. Yup. Okay. It’s a special world, you know, once things have to be made, it’s full of so many people, different technologies, timelines, pricing kind of encompasses. It’s like a baby, you know? Yeah. it involves a lot of aspects.
I think really depends on, do you find people that are passionate to do that with you and that will respect your situation? And do you have a clear view on their interests and is already like so much that’s already like, because it’s not so easy to get the real interest of the company, because of course they will say, Hey, we will do this job for you.
Let’s do business. Of course, they all want to do business. But, yeah, getting to the core and I think there, it does help being a starter because you can ask in your naive, let’s say, or in your, in your, sweetness even, or your cuteness, you can ask any blood question, which is, which has made me a bit harsher, professional, a big thing, and you’re there.
I started pretty much just say, dude, I want to know this and that. And will you be there for me in that?
Because they will appreciate it.
Ken: Let’s let’s wrap this up we have a quick fire round. I got four questions for you and just, just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. what’s one tool or resource that you feel like, that’s been very valuable to you that you couldn’t live without.
Glenn: First thing to my mind is, the teams, it’s not a tool, but it’s like the essence of it all is if the team is not moving, then it’s super hard to get anything done.
You’re, you’re more, I’m guessing you’re leaning more towards the material products.
Ken: It’s all good. I think teams are great answer, but, but yeah, go ahead and finish your sentence.
Glenn: No. I just want to say I’m super. My only position is, so I, I, if we looked at a guy, but of course, yeah, the phone and the laptop these days, if you don’t ask,
Ken: what is one book that you could recommend, that’s helped you a lot.
Glenn: That is also a very good question. Last decade, I didn’t went into reading a lot anymore. I went into sourcing a lot from the web articles, so, no, I don’t have any French book for you, man. when I would recommend this for people to, they go on the web a little bit deeper than the traditional news source, there are many dangerous news websites as they call it.
Well, I really recommend reading this the normal news because it’s not because I don’t want to go on, but I just want to say that it’s super interesting. There are so many research journalists out there, which is so rare to get in touch with these. They are, it feels so rare, you know, because everything goes headlights, flashlights, but there’s so many research.
I’m a research journalist that write beautiful stories, almost literally like story where they, they were digging into something and they want to tell you all about what they discovered in XYZ. And I feel that almost got out of the general spectrum. Like, it feels like it’s not. Not mentioned anymore, but these research journalists are so important because they are the ones with freedom to dig, or at least, you know, freedom to start digging.
So I think that that to me is a huge source of information, almost stories, because I feel like I read a story. They went through, you know, to get to know that’s okay.
Ken: And what’s the one piece of advice that you’d give to your 21 year old self
Glenn: to my 20 year old self. It is also choosing, yeah, I’m good saying so recently I got a baby. and I always thought I was always the one you’re always busy. I’m still, I still am today, but, There was one person that gave me a it’s an entrepreneur, actually, that I know.
And he, at a certain point, I knew we were baby. We were super happy with Sarah and everybody gave me the reaction like, oh man, everything’s going to change now. You know, you’re always busy, right. This will be hard. And I was like, oh shit. I was actually happy. You know? And then there was one guy and he told me, he said it was super hasty in the hallway, by the way.
If everybody tells you that things will change and you can all turn to drains anymore. Fuck it. It’s not true. They also told me and I discovered this and then it was just gone again. And you know what? That is so true. Like of course you need to have enough luck, let’s say to get along well with your partner and as well to do the job as to a few, because I think it’s really a challenge, but.
But what I really want to say is that I always thought like, oh no, I have to wait for that because that will ruin everything. But it inspires super supernatural, super emotional. And also, it opens so many conversations with people in a spectrum in which I was never in. Really babies. They don’t ruin the fun.
That’s what I would say. So could be early, but at least at 21, I would say it to myself and then start considering
Ken: last question, who is one person in your field of work that you would love to take the lunch?
Glenn: In my field of work, well, I already mentioned his name. It’s cheesy and typical, but, uh, I really like Elon Musk. It’s the guy who mentioned many things about on the negative or on the crazy side. But dude, I just like him.
I think he’s doing amazing stuff. I think it is, the word that he always used. Things need to be exciting and inspiring, inspiring, the story you always use for spacings, but I think it’s true. I think in many ways, he is very inspiring for somebody who is doing today, Hartford or anything that links from hardware to software.
And I just want him, I think he’s doing cool stuff. I also have many doubts about some stuff is it all that dude, but that is another part. I think at the minimum is extremely inspiring. And I would like to share that meal in order to yeah.
Ken: Yeah, no, that would definitely be an interesting conversation with it.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, just wrapping up here. Do you have any final pieces of advice that you’d give to those that are in the world of physical products? They’re making something, you know, what would you say to somebody else that’s out there doing that?
Glenn: So I would say do it, that is the Nike slogan, of course, but no, I think really, my main message would be, Yeah.
And just try to basically, sorry, I’m stumbling upon the words because I think am I old enough to give that advice, but, I guess looking back, looking back for me right now, my, my main advice and it reminds me of the class I gave a month ago was with students who were in their first pasture. So I think my main advice would be people tell you that focus is everything, and that is true.
You know, and definitely in the hardware world because everything takes time. So she started doing time combined. but I think in the beginning, and certainly when you’re, you know, when you’re younger, I think there was a lot of time to do a lot of stuff. In parallel to learn a lot of stuff, to experience a lot of stuff because the hardware world today, there’s never only hardware, it gets linked to software.
So you need to know stuff about that. You know, you need to learn stuff about consumers. You need to learn stuff about business. So there’s so much to learn. So doing a lot of parallel stuff at the same time, I think it’s necessary to get that more holistic picture, but it is true that at a certain point.
You really need to say, okay, now I’m almost totally messing up everything in parallel. Now I need to focus and then you need to grab one thing and go for that. But, but what I gave to the students at that point, and I saw them smiling behind the zoom, they could appreciate it. It’s really that you can do for a long time, a lot of stuff in parallel and experience and learn.
And then at a certain point, grab something by the balls, go for it. And that for me was that in the beginning, so interesting in everything to get her. I was so lucky that my professor let me do, because she wouldn’t have been able to be very difficult. So, yeah, that would be, you can do parallel and I even think it’s necessary, but at a certain point you need to grab something and then go for it for me that’s today. Albert’s yep. That will be that.
Ken: Well, Glenn, I, I appreciate it. That’s a, that’s a great note to end on. You’ve been an awesome guest and I appreciate your advice and just sharing your journey with us. Thank you so much.
Glenn: Thank you very much and good luck to everybody and, hope to speak to some again.
Ken: Okay. Yep. We’ll see ya. Bye.
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