Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is a person who the oldest article that I read about him was written, but that included him was written by Liz Smith the gossip columnist because he was in the entertainment business for so long, but he is no longer there. He is now the creator of this magical oven called the Brava. I think by calling it magical I’ve already tipped my hand and said how much I like this business model, this business, the vision of the future. I asked John Pleasants, today’s guest, “How do I make this a win for you?”
And one of the things that he said was something about the skepticism around. I go, “Skepticism? How could people dislike this?” Here’s the idea behind Brava. You could put three different items in an oven. I watched these people on YouTube do this. This dude puts in salmon, puts in tomatoes, puts in some other thing. I guess it was potatoes. Wait seven and a half minutes. No exaggeration, the thing comes out. This is the future that I want to live in. I’m not a cook. I’m not somebody who wants to spend a lot. I never enjoyed cooking. I never understood when people enjoy cooking but good for them. I enjoy, you know, running for 26 miles, for hours and hours. So I’m not putting it down.
But I feel like I want to eat healthy. I want to make food at home but I don’t want to have to be distracted. I’d rather spend time with my kids than like have . . . spend time with cook . . . with my kids than cooking for my kids. But I do have one issue with Brava, which I will be bringing up in this interview. One big issue.
But first, before we find out how he got here, how he built up Brava and how he’s going to change the future of home cooking. My words not yours. John, you can see I’m already excited about this. I come at tech from a very optimistic place. I really feel like you are changing lives and I get the honor of doing interviews with entrepreneurs who are changing lives.
Anyway. This interview is sponsored by two phenomenal companies. The first, if you’re looking to collect leads, close sales, etc., the funnel company that will help you get it all done, it’s called ClickFunnels. And the second if you’re hiring developers, you should go check out Toptal. I’ll talk about both those later. John, good to have you here.
John: Andrew, it’s great to be here. Thank you for inviting me and thank you for your intro enthusiasm. I love it.
Andrew: All right. My one issue is I’m watching people cook. I’ve got a vegetarian house. Will this work for vegetarians? And I know I’m in the minority so you’re addressing just me and a few other people. But will this work for vegetarians?
John: Okay, it works, no kidding, so well for vegetables and vegetarians. And this is not a joke. I’m not making this up. My kids have turned vegetarian since I have brought Brava into my own household. I’m the only person now that actually eats meat in my household because Brava does such a good job with vegetables. True story.
Andrew: What do they eat beyond vegetables?
John: My daughter who’s 12 comes home from school. She will fire up sweet potato fries as a snack for herself. They eat tons of broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower. If you can even imagine this. Brussels sprouts. I mean, I remember growing up thinking brussels sprouts were the most disgusting thing on the planet.
Andrew: They’re delicious and they cost extra at San Francisco restaurants.
John: But when they’re cooked really well like in a San Francisco restaurant or, you know, actually in a Brava, they’re fantastic. So they will eat vegetables all the time. And my daughter also will roast vegetables and then put them in a Vitamix and make soup. My wife is constantly making vegetables and then putting them into a curry stew or putting them on top of pasta. For us, at least in our family, Brava is constantly being used with vegetables. I would say it’s cooking vegetables two to four times per day.
Andrew: So I have been watching a lot of videos. What I see is you can cook three things at once. And like I said, people will do vegetables as there two sides and then the meat or the fish in the center. All right, so it’s good to know that you can actually do this as a vegetarian. What’s the skepticism here? Why are people just so skeptical about everything and so bothered? What’s the issue that you’re finding that’s keeping people from getting excited?
John: Well, first of all, people are super excited when they have it. And you can see it in our Facebook community. You can talk to people who have one of them. Like, wow, this thing’s changed my life for many reasons which I can get into. The skepticism is more when someone doesn’t know what Brava is. And we’re trying to explain it to them in, say, a 10-second Facebook ad. So we sell, just back up for one second, we sell directly to consumers through our own internet site, which means most of our marketing is performance marketing through social, through search, through Facebook and things like that.
We do some TV, we do events, we do some PR, but in general, people are seeing very quick things, largely in social environments. And so you’ve got to convince someone in a very short amount of time that this thing is going to change their life. And there’s this . . . you know, first of all, it’s not cheap. So the entry price point for Brava is $1,095 if it’s not running on a, you know, a Black Friday special or something.
Andrew: That mean it’s $1,100.
John: Exactly $1,100. And so that is not a small amount of money. And so the skepticism comes in if we make a lot of claims on our site, which are true. It cooks food twice as fast as any other device out there. It provides unsupervised or hands-free cooking so you can put in the complex meal you described which was salmon and broccoli and tomatoes. Or you could just throw in a bunch of chicken nuggets, whatever it maybe. You walk away and it’s going to be fine. Breakfast on Sunday morning is just four poached eggs with toast included at the same time and you go take a shower. You come back, it’s going to be perfect. So it’s that . . .
Andrew: And the toast will be toasted to the right amount and then the eggs at different . . .
John: The toast is toasted, the cheese is melted, the eggs are done. And so it’s quite magical, but it’s the fact that it’s hand-free. So that sounds like a magic trick that probably might not be true. I mentioned twice as fast. Food tastes better. That is a true statement. And it’s because of the technology which we can talk about later. But it doesn’t sound like . . . it sounds incredible, if you will. And you add all these things up. And I guess if I had to really catch phrase it, I would say it’s the frame of reference problem. You know, if people reference it as a countertop oven or a smart countertop oven, then you’re instantly in a category that includes things like, they’re not smart, but includes things like toaster ovens and microwaves. And those things are pretty cheap, right? You can go to Walmart or Costco and get one for under $100.
But they don’t cook like this. They don’t have this kind of capability to deliver this kind of food or this kind of experience. So you have to kind of get someone’s head to go, “Okay, Brava is actually pretty cheap because it’s only $45 a month for 24 months.” And that’s the same thing as like, say, not doing Uber Eats twice per month. And it’s basically pays for itself. Or if someone is actually . . .
Andrew: But then I’d also have to pay for the food in addition to the $45.
John: Yeah, but going out or takeout can be quite expensive. And it’s not that hard to sort of save $40 and $45 over the course of a month if you were to eat in a few more times. And it’s basically it can do what a pizza oven does. It can cook pizza faster than a pizza oven from a cold start. It basically replaces things like grills and stove tops and ovens. So it’s doing so much more but that as I’ve already exemplified, it takes some explanation. And so it’s less skepticism than it is I guess education/skepticism.
Andrew: One of the things that I want understand in this interview is how you educated people. How you got to a place where your costs per acquisition got low enough that you could afford to buy ads and how you could explain in those ads what this is. Why don’t we talk a little bit about revenue? Where are you guys now?
John: So we’re doing between $400,000 and $500,000 a month right now and I’m hoping as we enter the holiday season, that’ll go up to a couple million dollars a month.
Andrew: All done direct to consumer over the internet, no stores yet?
John: That’s correct. We had one year lease in the Stanford mall down here in Palo Alto and we’ve moved that showroom into our actual headquarters now after the one year lease.
Andrew: You went to boarding school?
John: I did go to boarding school.
Andrew: What was it like? I always wanted to go to boarding school.
John: You’ve done your research.
Andrew: But I was very anal. I needed like structure. I felt like I wanted to go someplace important and boarding school felt like that was going to get me there. Let’s get into your life before Brava. What was boarding school like for you?
John: Boarding school was a tale of two cities. It was miserable on one front and fantastic on the other. So I went to boarding school when I was in sixth grade. I think that was certainly not my choice. I mean, I was sort of kicking and screaming as I put on a train and sort of shipped into the woods.
Andrew: Why did your parents want you to go there? There was an issue.
John: My parents were separated. And I think it was sort of a way of thinking of just sort of neutral territory that was sort of not living with one of the other but sort of living somewhere in a third location.
And I went to a boarding school and I really disliked it to the point where I switched in the middle part of my sixth grade year and went to a different one. And so that whole first sort of starting point, I felt very alone. I mean, missing home I guess it’s sort of a light way of saying it. I felt alone, sad and just in an environment that I didn’t want to be in. And so that was fairly traumatic there but I rapidly got into an environment that I felt really comfortable. Made friends and did okay. And I think what was important about that for me was it turned into this notion of being independent, of figuring things out, of like sort of sucking it up and getting through it. And I think some of those lessons have, you know, helped me later in life.
Andrew: Is there figuring things out in boarding school? I mean, I watched “School Ties.” It feels like everything is figured out for you. That’s one of the problems.
John: In school in general, things are kind of figured out for you, right? I mean, I’ve got a son in college now and he just sent me his like five classes he’s taking this semester and I like showed it to one of my colleagues. I’m like, “Don’t you want to go back and like take classes on thinking and innovation and like just go to class like?
Andrew: I that what he’s doing now? He’s taking a class on thinking and innovation and thinking?
John: Yeah, and energy and like all kinds of cool stuff. It’s like really cool topics in school. So, you know, school seems to me like it’s one of the best chapters of your life. But it was more about learning and how to be happy in that foreign environment, learning how to excel in that foreign environment where, you know, you have very few people to rely on other than yourself. I mean, I guess it’s kind of true whether you’re a boarding school or local, but it was overcoming that jarring experience and sort of sticking it out.
Andrew: The article that mentioned by Liz Smith was actually in “Fortune Magazine.” I didn’t even realize . . . Oh, you know what it is? No, it starts off with a quote of Liz Smith, but, boy, it feels like it’s written by Liz Smith this article. It’s from back in 2001 when you were working for I guess Ticketmaster at the time.
John: Exactly. Yeah.
Andrew: How did you end up at Ticketmaster running the company?
John: At the time it would have been a company called Ticketmaster Online Citysearch that then became Ticketmaster proper through a whole bunch of different financial dealings that occurred but the way I got there was after Business School most of my background and interested in in sort of marketing and product and business and strategy. I went and did a brand management job at PepsiCo at their Frito Lay division and I’d been there for four years. And I actually remember reading . . . it sounds so cliché but I read Bill Gates’s book, “The Road Ahead” back in the late ’90s and said, “You know what? This internet thing, I think it’s going to be a pretty big deal.”
I went to Atlanta and I visited a friend who was working with Turner and had built, you know, sort of an internet division of that and it was a bunch of people on computers, you know, doing . . . God, this sounds crazy because we all think what this the way the world is now but an open environment in a, you know, exposed brick walls in kind of a warehouse environment with 50 people creating content for the internet. In fact, we’re talking dial-in, you know, AOL era.
Andrew: This was Citysearch?
John: No that was just that was me at Frito Lay saying, “I think this internet thing is going to . . . ”
Andrew: What’s the company where you looked around and saw a bunch of . . .
John: It was Turner’s . . .
Andrew: Ted Turner had a . . . Did Turner’s company had people doing this?
John: Turner Broadcasting had people doing this back around night. This was in 1995, 1994, 1995. And my friend was kind of running that little group and I thought, you know, “This is what I want to do. I want to be a leader in something that’s new in a new medium. I want to be disruptive and I want to be part of growth and change and transformation.” I was lucky enough to be hired by guys, a very good friend of mine who were running a company called Citysearch. For those who don’t know what Citysearch is, it’s sort of like the phone book meets Yelp. Sort of like that first version of that kind of a company. And we took quick accelerations there. I was building out all the new markets everywhere from Sydney, Australia, to Copenhagen and all across the United States and sometimes we would partner with local TV stations or newspapers, but a lot of times we would go and put our own capital in.
Barry Diller deserves a lot of credit for this because he was a big investor in Citysearch. And if you can believe it, we were going to . . . this is the sort of the [’01 00:12:35] bubble leading up ’01 bubble. We were going public in the summer of 1998. And it was August. And Barry wanted to heavily invest in local and wanted to control the company. And so we ended up doing a deal with him and the asset that he had just acquired from Paul Allen, which is Ticketmaster. And the deal was take the online rights to ticketing and combine it with Citysearch to create this not very elegant name but Ticketmaster Online Citysearch. At that moment, there were no tickets sold online. It was less than 1%. And so we thought that was a huge opportunity that that would give us a big revenue piston and economic model that we could ride for a long time.
The company did go public in December of that year. And the following year 1999, I was made CEO of that company and ran it as a public company for 14 quarters. We made a ton of acquisitions. Probably over 35 acquisitions, including things like Evite, like match.com, a company called One-and-Only. We merged with match.com. And we built a . . .
Andrew: One and Only was a dating site.
John: It was a dating site, no doubt. Yeah, we moved all these things together. Got into a bunch of new verticals but all around local and transactions. And then eventually, that public company was taking private again by Barry into what people now know as Interactive Corp, along with Expedia and hotels.com and other things. And it became the information and services division of IAC. So that was my little . . .
Andrew: Were you the president of Interactive Corp at one point?
John: Can you hear that? That’s my . . .
Andrew: I can hear. Yeah.
John: I apologize. It’s my computer somebody calling me.
Andrew: The iPhone now can go to the computer instead of dialing in?
John: I really don’t like that and I forgot to anticipate that here. So, yes, I was the president of the internet information and services division of IAC. There were three groups really. Think of it as HSN travel . . .
Andrew: And Home Shopping Network, right.
John: Home Shopping Network was one. Expediahotels.com and things in the travel space. And then everything else kind of fell into the division that I ran.
Andrew: Got it. And so you were with the company when it went public and then you became the CEO afterwards?
John: Yeah, just short, maybe six months or something like that.
Andrew: What was it like to watch company go public for you?
John: It was great. I mean, I wasn’t in the exact driver’s seat on that one. I mean, I was I was one of the senior people, but I wasn’t like the CEO of the company. It was exciting. The biggest thing that was sort of interesting about that chapter is when I was fortunate enough to become CEO. Just think about this for a second, you’ve got this company Ticketmaster. That’s a really terrific company that had been around for decades and consolidated much of that industry. And it was run by people who had been there literally for many, many years and built, you know, a great company. Think about what would happen if all of a sudden the online ticketing was removed and put into a separate public company. And that . . .
Andrew: Oh, that’s what they did? They took the online ticket sales separated from the offline ticket sales that happened at local stores?
John: Yes, yes. And so you have two companies that are cooperating, but at the same time different and you’ve got young kids at the time we had, you know, the internet division sort of younger people that were new to the ticketing industry, if you will. But we were profiting on stock options as a company as employees from the public currency that was rising that sustained itself through the bubble burst. But the people on the core Ticketmaster side were not rewarded with that entity. And then we, the public company Ticketmaster Online Citysearch acquired Ticketmaster to put it back together again.
One of the things I’m hopefully if any of my colleagues are listening I’m sort of proud of but it was not easy was this idea because, you know, you’ve got 4,000 or 5,000 people in this company sort of pulling the into two things and then recombining them and not having a ton of animosity and people leaving and being upset because of, you know, the left-hand isn’t talking to the right-hand and all that kind of stuff. So that was really an interesting challenge.
Andrew: I’m looking at the for the Fortune article that I mentioned earlier. Says countless companies have bought into this concept. Barnes and Noble carved out BarnesandNoble.com. CBS spun off Marketwatch.com. FTD the flower company tried it with ftd.com. The goal was to give dotcoms breathing room putting them in a different environment where they could think outside the corporate box. I’m guessing that’s what happened with Ticketmaster Online. It was at the front of that trend according to this article.
John: You know, it felt at the time to be . . . you can argue both sides of the coin of whether it was good or not. It certainly was successful. And I think what Barry’s vision was, you got to give him credit for this, which was online ticketing was totally new. It had all different kinds of challenges, different types of competitors. And, you know, to isolate it and say, “No, we’re going to put a team,” our online team at Ticketmaster was probably 300 people or something. When you add all the product technology, marketing, product marketing people, you need a really intense effort to build up a team with very, very different skillset. And so he just wanted to drive, drive, drive, drive until it got to a point where you could combine them back together again. If you try to do something that disruptive in a system that already exists, you can get very bogged down. And so it was in that school of thought that the execution occurred.
Andrew: Look at this the future they’re painting here. They’ll print and get tickets at home and feel the instant gratification that only an impulse shopper knows. Obviously that not only happened but that actually feels antiquated right now. Printed.
John: Exactly, exactly. Nobody saw the mobile thing coming. And, you know, there’s all kinds of tales in there that are that are interesting. You know, for example, you know what? There was a company that everybody knows, StubHub, which was doing secondary ticketing. And Ticketmaster wasn’t in secondary ticket. And we had it, I won’t mention the number, but we had a an opportunity to acquire a StubHub for a very, very low price. And of course, now it’s a very, very big division. You know, of eBay. They’re a very big company in its own right.
And so, we decided to pass because of that thing you just said, which is . . . and I’m getting really in the weeds here, kind of fun. StubHub, you know, has to get a ticket from a seller and then actually, you know, mail it or deliver it to the person who’s acquiring it. Whereas we could cancel the barcode and reissue a new barcode and send it to someone’s printer. And that way, we guarantee that the ticket you’re getting is not fraudulent. So we believed it was a better way of conducting a secondary transaction and therefore we didn’t need to invest in a new company that was . . .
Andrew: Why did they succeed anyway?
John: We were part of the story. We were a little slow to roll it out. Now this was less from desire or capability but because Ticketmaster’s backbone business, which at the time was about $5 billion of annual transactions and tickets. You know, our primary clients want us to sell the original ticket not be worried about making money on the secondary sale. If you’re the New York Knicks and you sell $100 ticket in the primary market, you’re getting that money. If we sell a $200 ticket in the secondary market, it’s not going to the mix.
Andrew: And if anything, it actually hurts them from what I understand because their customers feel like they’re not being gauged, but having to pay a lot of money. Meanwhile, they’re not paying it to the performers.
John: Exactly. And you may have empty seats still there for primary seats. So it’s such an intellectually complex thing to the selling in both markets at the same time, at least early in the day. Again, this is 20 years ago, but that was complex.
Andrew: All right, I want to move on to Brava. But you know what? I’m going to do a quick ad and then I’d love for you to come back and just before we go to Brava, just if there’s a story from when you are. I guess you were a co-president at Walt Disney Company or Playdom or any of those. It just gives me a little bit of the Hollywood side of you. I’d love to hear that.
Andrew: And then we’ll continue on with where the idea for Brava came from. My first sponsor is a company called ClickFunnels. I am so excited about ClickFunnels that I keep forgetting to tell people why they should go use the URL that I’m offering here. If you use the URL, so I don’t forget the to give it to you, you will get some free access to the software so you can try it. But here’s what ClickFunnels does. We all and John, you’re somebody who’s been selling online forever. You know, a lot of times people don’t want to buy as soon as they come into the site. What they want is little information and then they disappear and maybe they never come back to the site.
So what ClickFunnels does is say we’re going to create a website, a landing page builder that makes it easy for you to communicate to people why they should give you their contact information, email address, phone number, whatever, so you can stay in touch with them. And then after they hit Submit on that, maybe they’re in there ready to do a little bit of a buy, right, maybe a small what they call a tripwire. So ClickFunnels makes it easy to add that and then they say maybe at that point, they’ve given you their credit card. You can upsell them or add an order bump or down sell. All those things used to take forever to create. Now I could create. I geek out on it. I love to spend forever creating it. But ClickFunnels said we can make it super easy.
And so I tried it and ClickFunnels made it so easy that everyone on my team now knows how to use ClickFunnels, create these landing pages, create these funnels as they’re called, where you take a stranger, get their contact information, close the sale that we have done with one of our funnels. We have many, many funnels with ClickFunnels. We might do like three or four. I like to keep things minimal. But we’ve experimented over the years with it. We have one funnel that’s done over a million dollars in sales, just with that simplicity of letting the software do the work and understand that they have all the features that we need to close sales.
One of my favorite features, by the way, John is you might have seen this too. I do geek out on this. I tend not to because it feels like it’s just selling for the sake of selling, but boy, it helps a business. The thing that I love is ClickFunnels have this one little button that you press then you can add an order bump. An order bump is underneath the place where people put their credit cards but above the button where they submit their credit cards is a checkbox that says, “Do you also want this extra thing for a few extra bucks?” I said, “Let’s try it.” We did it and people actually taking us up on it. It’s fantastic for them. It’s fantastic for us. And it all helps with our revenue, which then allows us to buy more ads, which then allows us to reach more people. Do you geek out on that stuff?
John: I have to geek out. If you’re running a business, you sell direct to consumer of the internet, you geek out about funnels all day long.
Andrew: Right. I used to think this is like I’m better than this. I should focus more on the product and the customer. But this is part of the customer experience. In fact, they’re most important because it’s the way that people get to introduce you. If you guys are out there and you’ve never tried ClickFunnels, I urge you to go to clickfunnels.com/mixergy. You will get the funnel that I use that works for me. Oh, yeah, I always forget to say that in my ads for them. And number two, you will get that free trial so you can go in and try it and get results. And if you’re happy you can pay for it. If you’re not happy, just cancel and move on. And tell me if you’re not happy. I want to know why if you’re not happy. So why don’t we do one Hollywood moment, John. And what’s like give me a taste of the life that you’ve experienced?
John: Well, you mentioned Disney, I guess I’ll just use that as an example. You know, what a great company, I would argue. You know, hands-down the best company in the entertainment space. I was fortunate enough to get there through an acquisition of a social gaming company called Playdom. We built that up. Those of you are not familiar with that, that’s kind of like a company called Zynga. It builds games that lived on Facebook and then later moved to mobile. But at the time, it really blew up on Facebook. I went to Disney. I worked directly for Bob Iger. He asked myself and a good friend of mine named Jimmy Pitaro to co-lead the interactive group at Walt Disney. And you know what a joy, you know, the amount of talented people that are there across all the divisions, whether it’s parks and release or, you know, TV.
I worked specifically and helped lead one project that was very sort of Hollywood-ish in that it incorporated a lot of the IP of Disney. It was a game called Disney Infinity, which was on console as well as mobile. And what we did is it was a mash up, if you will. It had an area that was literally kind of a free form play arena as well as structured game components, like traditional structure gaming, and it put them combine them into one. But we would launch year after year with different IP. So we started with Disney, we moved to Marvel and then to Star Wars over three successive years. And it became a big gaming platform. It only lasted for maybe about four years. But it did, you know, 10 figures of revenue . . . you know, did over a billion of revenue.
And it was a joy because you have to work with all of the storytellers and creators inside the Marvel Universe and inside the Disney Animation. We worked very closely with the leaders over at Pixar. So it was Hollywood-ish in that you’re doing content creation and you’re creating new form factors with really, really talented people across the whole suite. So that was a super fun time of my life.
Andrew: One of the cofounders of Playdom was . . . his last name pronounced it’s Dan Yue or Dan . . .
John: Dan Yue. Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: How did you connect with Dan Yue?
John: So Dan, at one point in my life I was the chief operating officer and the president of publishing Electronic Arts. It was my first job in the gaming industry. And Dan and a friend of mine who was on the board of this little company, Playdom, recruited me to come in and run that company. And so Dan became a friend of mine. This was in 2002 . . . and I’m getting my dates confused here, like around 2008 or ’09. And so I came in and, you know, we did the thing I said, we got a bunch of venture capital and bought a bunch of studios around the world and then it just became, you know, big on Facebook and sold to Disney. Dan became a very good friend of mine. Part of the deal for me going to Disney was, you know, running Disney Interactive and having a long-term contract. Dan left very early and started basically creating new startups. And so he’s been a friend of mine for about 10 years. And we’ve done lots of things together.
Andrew: I see. He went to work for Google. And then I guess he tried three different startups and then Playdom was the one that hit first was Myspace and then Facebook?
John: Playdom actually started on Myspace. Yes, it was very simple kind of, you know, things as simple as like bumper stickers up to games like Mafia Wars, spreadsheet style competition games. But, you know, it was funny because when I got there, we had to make the call, do we do we . . . and the company was doing, you know, 20 million of revenue or something on Myspace. That’s a very small company, it was like, you know, 10 people and you had to make the call, “Okay, we’re going to abandon that.” That was printing money like in terms of profitability. “We’re going to abandon that whole thing and move everything over to Flash as a coding base and everything over to Facebook,” which was totally different. So we literally took a business and just abandon it.
Andrew: Like why do you have to abandon and why not do them both in parallel?
John: I mean, effectively, we did. But over the course of three months, basically, our presence on Myspace and our attention on Myspace went from the whole company to basically the entire company pivoted to Facebook. I mean, that’s how fast that migration occurred with Facebook coming up in Myspace going down.
Andrew: How did you know that it was going to be such a big change so quickly?
John: You had to take a bet.
Andrew: That’s what it was?
John: But just sort of seeing it from user engagement. I mean, we could see what would happen with the different with games around those places and how people were treated and how fast they were churning out and what each cohort was acting like. And you could just project out long-term that the stickiness and the virality was just going to be way higher on that platform.
Andrew: And Facebook did give you a lot of tools for virality back then. Like you had access to people’s friends. Look at this, there’s a Forbes article that I’m looking at about him. It says they first flopped with an ecommerce company, then they came up with a dating app that allowed users to rate their friends cuteness and in turn tell them how high their cuteness ranks among their friends. They tried a bunch of different things and then . . .
John: That little thing was before my time.
Andrew: Yes, yeah. And then Playdom happened and that’s when he feels . . . according to this article he said, “We were lucky with gaming.” And that thing just took off. The reason that I bring him up is he is the one who, if I understand it right, his mom was cooking in the kitchen when there was an issue. What was it that he noticed when his mom was cooking in the kitchen that helped lead to Brava?
John: I think he was with his dad. And they’re a great family. He was with their dad. I think it was actually Christmas dinner. And instead of them all being present at the table, the mom was constantly going back and forth to the kitchen to make sure, you know, the proverbial sort of the food’s burning scenario. And she’s the one came out . . . And so I think Dan and his dad were talking a lot about, “How do we help mom? Okay, should we build an android or a robot that can actually walk back and forth to the kitchen and take a knife out?” And like they kind of were having, I think, a lot of fun thinking about ideas that were basically impractical.
And his mom who’s awesome, she’s a Stanford PhD and just a really terrific woman came and said, “Look, you know, if the oven knew what was in it and could adjust accordingly, and it could talk to the stovetop and it could adjust its food accordingly, so that all the proverbial planes land at the same time, that would do it. Like that’s the sort of big problem. There’s multiple things going to have to be coordinated, and every one of them can run off the runway. So solve that.” And so that was where the reason idea of a new type of cooking device. That a new smart cooking device could combine the elements of multiple traditional cooking appliances. That’s the smart cooking appliance idea right there. That’s seven years ago, by the way, that idea.
And Dan put it on the shelf because he was smart enough to realize that unless there was a fundamentally different way of cooking that was either healthier or faster or tastier or just better, it wasn’t a good enough idea. And so the idea went on the shelf until the third co-founder got involved a guy named Thomas Chang, who is the CTO in the company. And he’s done multiple things as well successfully with hardware and software exits. But he was exploring different types of feeding technology very, very deeply, especially something was very close to what we now use inside Brava. And so that was where we said, “Hey, you know what? This is a company. These two, these two ideas, mash together is actually a company that can create a differentiated device.” And that was a about four years ago.
Andrew: And it wasn’t enough to just say, “Look, you’re not going to have to get up as often to check on things?”
John: It was going to be very hard to make that occur in a traditional environment. Let me give you a quick example. A regular oven cooks with what is often called convection, which is heating the air. So if you put something in there, you’re just cooking with time and temperature. So you put the oven to 350, you put something in for half an hour and in theory, it’s done. If you turn the oven off, if it was smart enough to turn off, it’s still cooking. The air in there is hot as hell . . .
Andrew: Oh, right, right or course. And I do that all the time. And yes, you’re right. Yeah.
John: Well, I guess we’ll talk more about this in a minute. But in our Brava environment, you can go from zero to effectively what would be like 1,400 degree oven and back to zero in one second.
Andrew: And so the knock that I saw in some YouTube videos, like a I guess Engadget did a video. I’ve watched a lot of videos on Brava. Engadget’s thing was is like an Easy Bake Oven because it uses a light.
John: That’s correct.
Andrew: I don’t care if it uses a light, if it uses steam, whatever, just cook my food. But why was that the technical innovation that allowed you guys to do this?
John: Because it could be manufactured what I’m going to call reasonable cost certainly much more reasonable than other technologies that are out there, like RF technology and other things that would be many, many thousands of dollars. It was cost effective, more controllable, more precise, and more powerful. It’s all of those things. So we’re effectively cooking with infrared light. You know, you just mentioned the Easy Bake Oven, I would say the Easy Bake Oven is to a Brava as a golf cart is to a Tesla. They’re both electric cars but they’re completely different terms of power and performance. So the bulbs that we have, think of this, they go to 4,000 degrees internally in a 10th of a second. They get back to zero. They’re independently controlled. All six of them run independent of each other. And they’re all on dimmers.
So effectively, what we can do is change the frequency or think of it as color of light that’s coming out in real time to cook different foods with different colors of light. And then change those things according to feedback systems that say, “Your steak is nicely seared. But now we need to get it to medium rare.” Or, “Your . . . ”
Andrew: Because you can tell the outside using cameras and the inside because there’s the monitor that’s on the inside of the oven that people put into their meat. And that’s how you know the temperature inside and the color outside.
John: Correct. And not to get too techy of the thing, but there’s actually 10 different types of sensors in there, which includes seven temperature sensors, two different types of particle sensors, and humidity sensor and then the camera. And they all work in concert with each other to, you know, deliver a hands-free cook the way you want.
Andrew: As I understood it, you were working at Disney at the time. You couldn’t leave Disney to work on this full time because?
John: Actually, at the time I was working at Samsung.
Andrew: Samsung. Okay.
John: I was in Samsung for two and a half years after Disney before Brava. But that was all on content and services and software. So things like VR, things like music services, things like sharing content across phones and TVs and things like that. And I had an agreement to stay there for two and half years. And until I filled out that contract, I couldn’t come over. But the day that I finished my duties at Samsung, I literally that day came over to join Thomas and Dan at Brava.
Andrew: Thomas was working on it.
John: Yeah, at that time Thomas was in the garage. I mean, this was literally . . .
Andrew: Sitting in the garage, trying to figure this out and give them all. Who invested money in?
John: It could have been an episode on “Silicon Valley” the show. Rented house with the garage and got all the way up to about 24 people in that house before we actually moved into a legitimate office.
Andrew: Was it fun?
John: It didn’t smell that good to be honest.
Andrew: Right. Because you’re cooking so much.
John: No, it was great. I mean, look, it’s the biggest honor to work with smart people and try to build something that turns out to be even harder than you imagined it to be. But you kind of eventually get your arms around it and deliver a product that people love. I think it’s in business. You know, if you can make something that changes people’s lives for the better and pay people who make a living on it, to me that’s a real honor.
Andrew: I heard you felt that the first version was . . . I’m going to use the word ugly, that it was doing the job but it didn’t look great. And it’s a much smaller design than what you’ve got now. One light bulb, am I right?
John: First ones had just one bulb on the bottom. They actually were gold. And they would only go for about five or six cooks before the thing would basically disintegrate.
John: The thing is so powerful that we couldn’t really contain the heat and we couldn’t make things survive.
Andrew: So it would break the oven. It would . . .
John: The bulbs themselves would just not function.
Andrew: Oh, wow. Okay.
John: There’s, again, and I don’t want to get to . . . it’s part of you’re not actually sitting in front of one. But these bulbs are coated and have reflectors such that you can steer the light. Think of it as like spotlights. You mentioned YouTube videos. We put a fun video up from our lab about two weeks ago where we take two sticks of butter and we stand them on their heads or on their ends on a single tray and we put into the Brava and we say we’re going to melt, stick A and leave stick B standing. And boom, it just like . . . and that one thing completely melts and other one is still standing.
Andrew: Because you’ve got that kind of control of something.
John: It’s that kind of accuracy we’re doing with that light. So pinning that down to making a technically reliable and scalable, all Thomas, 100% genius to figure that out, Thomas and actually, of course, the other key people that are here that were the original core engineers. And that happened in that garage moving over into that house. And then at that point, it pretty much got pinned down. But we raised our series A financing in the spring of 2017. It started in ’16 but it rolled till the spring of 2000.
Andrew: What was it like to raise money?
John: You know, it’s such an interesting topic. First of all, I have to say we have really awesome investors. And I’m not just saying that because one of them might be listening. I mean it because it’s the truth. The first big institutional investor that came in was True Ventures. They have been so steadfast and so terrific in supporting this company. And they’re such believers in it. And they’ve been there every single round that we’ve done, led by Jon Callaghan who is a founder of that firm and just terrific. But all the people are friends of mine or people that are in my personal network, whether they’re institutional or whether they are individual friends. And it wasn’t that hard through that period of time. I’m going to call it from the garage to the spring of two 2017. I would call it not hard because we had something amazing.
We had a promise. We had a demo. We had a prototype. We had a good small team and we had a low valuation. So that made it fairly easy. And, again, a good friend of mine, Bill McGlashan, at TPG came and saw real application for this in developing world as well. So it was really good. All you needed was vision, some capital, and you can see this could be really cool.
I’m in the middle of fundraising right now and I will tell you it’s much harder because now it’s like everyone judges you like, “Oh, it’s a great product and people love it. And your numbers are getting better and better. But, you know, this is a real business and we can judge it against other real business. Where is your EBITDA? And, you know, I can I can say, oh, you’ve got milestones that I want to see you hit in the next six months.” And so it’s easy to sit back now and judge and so it’s a little harder to raise money. And we’ve also got more money in the company. So it’s a bigger company with different valuations and things like that.
Andrew: I saw the investors, Chris Anderson, now he’s a robotics guy, right?
John: No, this is Chris Anderson the owner of TED.
Andrew: Oh, you know what? Then it’s linked poorly on Crunchbase. And then the other thing that I noticed as I was looking through was CAA Ventures is in there, which is unusual for . . .
John: Because we were very interesting, right? I know many of the people at CAA and for my time when I was actually down in, you know, in Hollywood, as you say. But also, you know, they have a huge culinary and cooking team there, you know, huge repertoire of chefs that they represent.
Andrew: Okay, so here’s the part that stood out for me. It’s called Brava Home. I get the sense that you guys want to grow beyond just cooking with that name. Am I right?
John: Totally, the company was set up as a domestic automation company to work on all things IoT. And again, I want to give credit to Dan Yue and Thomas as well for that broad vision. But as we have gotten into this, this little thing that we have, this little, you know, ultimate little cooking machine sort of took everything out of us. I mean, we’ve put all of our capital into this.
And the idea that we would walk away from this, you know, think of it like there hasn’t really been innovation in the kitchen since the microwave. Yes, I know, sous vide has gotten popular again. Instant Pot is a great company that, you know, really kind of perfected pressure cooking with it. But the core way of cooking, whether it’s convection, conduction, boiling things, or microwaving, there hasn’t really been a core innovation a in a cooking platform. And I think this is it. I would call it direct energy transfer through light. I think this is the thing. It’s more like a campfire than anything else.
Andrew: You feel like it’s more than just . . . I keep coming back to the convenience. That’s what I get excited about. But you think it or you’re saying it’s more than that. You think that they’re going to be restaurants that switch away from cooking in ovens to this to Brava?
John: You know, if you were here with me right now, I would walk you back to our lab and show you our commercial prototype, which runs on 240 power. The current Brava you just plug it right into the wall, just a 110 volt. You go to 240 and it’s a completely different story. It’s 8 to 10 times as powerful as the thing that we already have. Yes. I think in 10 years, this way of cooking, which is again, sort of two things, cooking with this direct energy transfer, which is highly controllable, accurate, and better and faster and tastier combined with things that are actually smart, they can cook for you so you don’t have . . . that thing is going to be everywhere. It’s going to be commercial, it’s going to be in food service, it’s going to be in restaurants, and it’s going to be homes.
Andrew: That’s what I’m sensing from you. And that’s exciting from a company point of view. I have to say, from my personal point of view, I just love the idea that I don’t have to cook in be in the kitchen. But at the same time I get to give my family healthy food. Let’s talk about how you got customers in a moment. But first I’m going to talk about my first . . . actually, there’s something you were going to say as I said that. I kind of interrupted you.
John: No, you go. You’re on a roll, man. You go.
Andrew: All right. The second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Anyone who just heard me talk to you about how much impact Thomas had on your company has got to understand the difference between a regular engineer or a team of engineers and one really amazing person. If you’re looking to hire developers, anyone out there was listening to me, you could . . . absolutely I could give you tons of place where you can go and hire people. You want to go on the cheap. I’ll even give the name of competitor, go to Upwork. You want to go and place ads somewhere and find developers, great there are tons of places you can do it. Here’s what Toptal does that’s different, they spend time quizzing, testing, screening out people except for the top of the top people, the top of the top developer, and we’re talking about what some people call still 10X developers.
They screen them all out. If you’re looking to hire, you just go to this URL that I’m about to give you. You hit a button and you schedule a call with one of their matters. They’ll talk to you, understand what you need. In many cases, I’ll be honest with you, John, and everyone listened to me, they will turn most many people away. I don’t know if it’s most at this point, say, “Look, it’s not a good fit. We’re not here for you.” But if you’ve got a hard problem, if you’ve got a company that can handle a developer, that’s a 10X developer, they will introduce you to two or three people who are exactly what you’re looking for. You talk to them, you test them, do whatever you want. If they’re a good fit, you can get started often right away.
No endless resumes, no screening out the people who were just good. All you get is the best. All you have to do if you’re listening to me is go to toptal.com/mixergy. When you do, you’ll get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period. Really, these guys are phenomenal. It’s Top as in top of your head. Tal as in talent. Toptal.com/mixergy. And you will get that amazing offer that they’re not offering anybody else. Let’s talk about . . .
John: I’m in on that. I’m in on both your sponsors.
Andrew: Oh, good.
John: Listen the way you talk about them, seriously, you’re 100% right. You’re making funnel smoother where it’s not intuitive and getting great people, I’m all in.
Andrew: John, I’ll be honest with you, my sponsors actually said to me, “Look, it doesn’t matter if the audience doesn’t listen. It’s your guests who end up signing up for it.”
John: No, I’m taking notes over here while you’re going through your sponsors.
Andrew: Tell me about how you got customers. How did you get the first customers had? What feedback did they give you? And then we’ll talk about the latter ones.
John: Sorry. By the way, in the background, we’re right by the Caltrain so sometimes you hear . . .
Andrew: Oh, is that what it is? Because you’re in Palo Alto. I’m used to Palo Alto being my quiet place to go work.
John: It’s Redwood City. Okay, we’re sort of the maybe the lower rent district of other things. You know, we’re startup still. It gives it a little bit of that Folsom Prison blues kind of background. You know, it gives a little aesthetic there. Okay, so how did we get our first customers? Well, we started out with . . . well, first of all, before we ever sold a unit, we had our website up and we were doing all kinds of A/B testing with different messaging to figure out what would attract people to come to our site, right? So for probably three to six months, we were running all kinds of tests “getting customers” and just collecting email saying, “Sorry, it’s not ready yet but it will be soon.” So that’s one little thing.
Andrew: You were running ads to do this?
John: Yeah, yeah, yeah and building email lists and things like that. We also had a presale period. So we went into a presale mode in January of 2018 but we didn’t ship any units until the middle of November of last year. So that, you know, also gave us some time to get some noise and some hype out there and create press before we were actually shipping. So that was one thing. Really though, the thing we did most is we just we got to people we know. You know, we’ve got 40 plus people in the company. You know, they’re all know 40 plus people. So we gave a lot of units out early to people that we thought were interested in food or interested as you keep bringing up interested in not cooking so much at home having someone cook for you. And our friends and family, basically.
Andrew: And this is the 200 people who ended up having these devices in there?
John: Yeah. We probably had somewhere between 200 to 250 people that had these devices. And again, this is without getting too nerdy for a second. There’s these different waves of manufacturing. You know, there’s DVT, PVT, EVT and these different stages you go through. And so we get people units that were not final units. The software was buggy, you know, the final the door hinges were still incorrect, whatever. It didn’t really matter. We just wanted people to use it and see what they were doing.
And back in the day, I forgot, it’s really not that long ago, but it’s feels like it’s ancient times. You know, the successfulness of our cooks that were coming out, you know, it might have been even sub 50% at that point, right, as we were grinding through trying to perfect the software. Now it’s, you know, we get 4.5 and above ratings on all of our cooks. So we’re in great shape and delivering good results. But there was so much tuning that had to go back before we sold our first unit.
Andrew: What did you learn John by . . .
John: I called up the guy that I bought our first year. It was an arm wrestle between a great product lead of ours named Taylor Adams, but I kind of discounted him because he had inside line, right? It was like me getting the first ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert where I’m the CEO of Ticketmaster. It doesn’t really count. So the guy who got the first unit is actually the ex-chairman or the CEO and chairman of Ticketmaster. A guy named Terry Barnes who lives in Paso Robles, California. So he actually got unit one.
Andrew: Labeled and numbered unit one?
John: I think I just gave him a special little handwritten note, but hopefully, he framed out. I’m not sure Terry what you did with that. But, yeah.
Andrew: One of the things that I like about Jason Calacanis is he always talks and thinks big. So for some reason, I talked to him about his Tesla and he got one of the early ones. He goes, “That one is going to the Smithsonian,” because it was one of the original, right?
John: He should have had that one be the one that threw up in space.
Andrew: No, I don’t think he could let go of anything. It’s Smithsonian who is going to get it on loan. But do you feel that way too? Like do you feel like this stuff, the work that you’re doing is so dramatic that this will be in the Smithsonian one day? That this is the type of thing that we were going to study when we think about the development of cooking?
John: I absolutely do. By the way, I think that the very first Brava unit, which is the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen connected to a computer, I think it’s actually on display right now in the Los Altos tech museum?
Andrew: Really. I know the place. Yes.
John: There was an event down there and it was in a glass booth and Thomas went down and actually, I think, gave a speech about how he built the first product. So it’s already in a museum. Now we just have to get from there to I guess the science . . .
John: . . . museum up in San Francisco and from there to the Smithsonian. But yeah, it’ll be a little bit of a journey.
Andrew: But you know what? I like Jason. So I’m going to say you don’t even have to have any agreement with the Smithsonian, you just talk about it that way. That first one, we’re going to talk to the owner of it about sending it to the Smithsonian.
John: There you go. Manifested.
Andrew: We’ll send some gravitas.
Andrew: What did you learn by having people actually use the device? How did they use it different differently from what you expected?
John: God, we learned so many things. I mean, there’s not a piece of that device that we didn’t change in some material way based on all that feedback we got. I will tell you that you mentioned earlier on that there’s a temperature we call it temp sensor, but that there’s a thermometer that goes into proteins to monitor the internal temperature of the cooks. That was originally vertical for a whole bunch of different reasons. Basically, you could watch the rate of change of heat disseminating through the food, which gives you all kinds of predictive ability and capability of building more sophisticated algorithms. But in order to try to make that survive, it had to withstand the heat that could be transferred from the tray itself that was sitting on rather than coming in horizontal.
That was like almost a six month delay, doing user testing with that, lab testing, user testing how people actually would use that and where they would put these different temperature sensors. So that’s an example that changed a lot and that had huge ramifications.
Another one, you mentioned the original chamber was sort of small, we rapidly realized that people wanted to cook pizza. It’s a beast with pizza. You can cook a pizza or you can get cold dough or cold tray in a cold Brava and cook a pizza in under 10 minutes.
Andrew: How long does it take for cook pizza in general? Like if I would just put in my oven.
John: You had to preheat your oven. I don’t know which oven you have. Chalk up a good 20 minutes there or whatever it is. And then it’s probably going to take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. So you’re looking at call it 40 minutes kind of thing if you got a frozen pizza or something. So this can do it in 10 minutes. You know, there’s sort of a 4X productivity. Even if you have a pizza oven that it’s like 800 degrees, that takes like 15 minutes to heat up. And that’s not putting the wood and starting a fire. That’s not that kind of pizza, but I’m just talking to a gas lit pizza oven.
Andrew: I even watched this guy like I want to see if he tasted it and what it was like. I did see a guy stick pizza in it. It just made it into the oven.
John: You’re watching something right now?
Andrew: I watch it just before you got in and I’m 8 minutes and 11 seconds into his video and he’s about to get the pizza out. So I’m just staring at him and see what the pizza was like.
John: Feel free to interrupt when it comes out. But the main point I’m trying to say is the original unit could not take a 12-inch pizza.
Andrew: It just wasn’t big enough. Because you didn’t anticipate that people would want to put pizza in there.
John: We knew but we didn’t know how important a 12-inch pizza was. So like that’s an example of that. And that sounds like a really small thing. But when you increase the size of the chamber like an inch, it changes the way light reflects, it changes the kind of bulbs that we have to have, it changes the way they’re mounted, it creates weaker roof and so you can get all kinds of thermal defamation that can occur. So the whole internal chamber has to be rebuilt. Not just size-wise, like structurally. So these are examples where you get a little bit of user feedback, and all sudden, everything has to change. The UX was very different. The UX originally looked much more like . . . I think it was over influenced by the notion of feeds as opposed to something that looks more like the home screen of an iPhone. Now it looks much more like that, much more intuitive. So the entire UX had to change and be rebuilt.
And again, I could go on and on. But, you know, it morphed a lot in the final 9 to 12 months as it was coming into market. And, by the way, it keeps changing. You know, it updates every week. So it’s like it like a Tesla or a Peloton or anything. It’s constantly getting new content, new recipes, and recipes or recipe programs, things that control the bulbs and how they fire and all that kind of stuff.
Andrew: And so you needed to go get customers. One of the things that I understand was at one point, your cost per acquisition was $1,000. Doing what? What did you do that you would acquire customers for about $1,000?
John: Our marketing mix combines a lot of things. As I mentioned earlier, we do primarily performance-based marketing. It means you can digital spend on Instagram, Facebook, and Google and YouTube and things of the such. We also buy remnant TV ads. We’re not doing it right now. But over the course of the last nine months, we’ve had bursts of TV advertisement, mostly on cable news, by the way. We try to get broadcast events. We were on “Good Morning America” about 10 weeks ago and that was fantastic.
Andrew: That’s PR, earned media.
John: Yeah, I think of it as TV. But yes, it’s PR. That is earned media.
Andrew: So when you’re doing Instagram, you’re doing on paid, not cost per acquisition, you’re buying ads, and then you’re backing into a cost per acquisition, right?
John: That’s correct. That’s totally included. Yeah, we have our own channels. Of course, we have own granted channels, but we’re actually running ads in those things. And then we’re back into what our cost of an acquisition.
Andrew: And then you’re also working with influencers where you pay them to create content too from what I saw.
John: That’s true. We haven’t really cracked the code on that. We’ve worked with some people. But I think in terms of getting bigger names in, that’s sort of still on the road ahead.
Andrew: Because you can’t make it work financially or because you just haven’t figured out how to work with them?
John: We haven’t quite figured it out. You know, I think that what you really want, at least what I really want in what working with an influencer is somebody who really loves the product authentically. Which means, first of all, I have to get the product to them. And then they have to want to use it and then they start using it. And then if they love it, let’s figure out something we can do. But that’s a bit of a process. It’s not more like, “Hey . . . ” I don’t want to pay someone $25,000 to give me 2 tweets and they don’t even know what it is.” I mean, it just doesn’t feel authentic to me and I just I would rather be a little bit more real with it.
Andrew: I’ve noticed that that. Well, actually, there’s some people who have seen do stuff with it that would just let me show it off. But I think unlike the camera world, for example, where the influencer just need lots of different cameras and they’ll buy a bunch of they have to stop themselves. In the cooking world, they don’t want a lot of devices, they just want the simplicity. And there isn’t that geeky let’s try everything and see what we love thing. So what did you do to go from $1,000 cost per acquisition to $300? I’ve heard that that was a big move for you.
John: That is a big move. By the way, it’s ongoing. You know, if you think about the challenges of Brava I would say it came in these waves. The first was just, you know, the core tech. Can we get it to work? Then there was building a manufacturing and delivering in a way that it actually could do what we say it was going to do. Then it was marketing, which we’re talking about right now. And now it’s going to be fundraising to scale, right? Those are like the four big hurdles right now. And so we have done a really good job of getting ahead on this marketing thing. But we’re not out of the woods at all. It’s fragile. Sorry, what do we do specifically? We rely a little less on TV. We’re putting a little bit more focus on strategic PR as opposed to just kind of getting our name out there.
Mostly, we have worked with different agencies to highly tune that performance marketing. And I would say one thing I would point to because, I mean, this is every day, multiple hours of meetings around, you know, “We’re going to retarget this and we’re going to go, you know, do a different cohort of targeting with that.” And like it’s a little bit . .. it’s exciting but it’s also a little mind numbing. But the one big thing we’re doing of late is we’re moving kind of the creative of the company to be instead of it being techie and very sort of polished and professional to have it be a little bit more UGC, or basically, you know, user testimonials.
So if you go to our Instagram feed, for example, on the Brava home, and if you look over time, you’ll see a lot of recipes in the early days. And now what you’ll see is a good mix, maybe more like a 50/50 mix, where you’ll see real people talking straight into their phone about what Brava has done for them and how they’re using in their life. “Here’s my kid and he’s got nuts and he loves Brava pancake muffins.” And you know, he’s there and he’s going, “Hey, Daddy, I want to make . . . ”
Andrew: Oh, I just hit play on it. Yeah, as soon as you talk about it, I see it. And yeah, there’s this woman. I don’t know what her name is. But she’s, “So I just got home from a hard day’s work.” And then she’s, I guess, going into what . . .
John: And these are all authentic things, you know, that we see people they write and they go, “I loved it.” And would you please video yourself and tell us your story?
Andrew: And you would you post on your feed.
John: And we post I or we doctor up. But it’s like these things just flow in. And that’s the energy of the company? You know, what is the Vibranium, if you will, of Brava and of the team here? It’s watching these people’s reactions and what they’re saying about how Brava changes their life. So we’re just we’re leaning on that.
Andrew: And can you actually get sales from this? Are people actually clicking that link in your Instagram and they’re buying?
John: Yes, you can actually buy off . . .
Andrew: But that’s not you leading to a huge number of sales, right? It seems like . . .
John: No, we hope to sell this year . . . just to give you a sense of it, this year, you know, we hope to sell . . . you know, we will end the year somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000 units for this year. And I think next year, whether these are very I can’t believe I’m saying this publicly don’t say it anybody. But you know, next year, we’re going to, you know, 3X or 4X that and you know, then you’re profitable. But, you know, our big goal right now is to get more capital in the company so we can go do different skews. You know, we want to have a cheaper version, we want to have a built in version, we want a commercial version, we want to go international.
We fundamentally believe that this is a . . . I know it’s is such an overused word, but that this is a different kind of cooking solution or platform. It is. And I hope Brava you’re the one that pioneers this for a long time. But I can almost guarantee you this is you say keep saying to think big, think big. I think this core stuff that we’ve got here is going to be in every home in America and in Europe and Asia in 10 or 15 years. Like microwaves are penetrated into 90% of American homes . . .
Andrew: Instead of an oven or in addition to?
John: It’ll be a combination of both. I mean, I think a lot of people like traditional cooking and they want the ability to do it. And by the way, at Thanksgiving, when you have a huge Turkey, that’s a great thing to have. But if you can imagine this unit that we have right now and you expand the size of it so that it could do, you know, 14 hamburgers at a time or whatever the size of whatever it can accommodate in a regular oven and it’s smarter, faster, better, tastier, and healthier, why would you want the old that only can do one thing, time and temperature or air temperature? So I’m just a fundamental believer that this is a big deal. And I think that, again, fast forward 10 years looking back I think people will say, “I can’t believe we didn’t have this kind of way of cooking food at our disposal.”
Andrew: Oh, there’s a vegetarian. So I was actually looking Ahrefs to see what content you guys are doing. And it looks like your recipe articles are big for getting traffic and now that I’m on it, I see there’s one falafel recipe that I would definitely make. I didn’t realize you could do this in an oven. Oh, yeah, actually . . .
John: You can poach eggs in a Brava.
Andrew: That I saw that look good.
John: You can’t poach eggs in a regular . . . You can make crème brûlée.
Andrew: Oh really?
Andrew: Don’t you have to like fire something to get crème brûlée?
John: Because it’s like a blowtorch. You put full power on one lamp.
John: Yeah, you go to Costco, you get their little crème brûlée things. You can put them in there and boom in 60 seconds, you’ve basically got that crust from crème brûlée. It’s like it’s it can be blowtorch like.
Andrew: At one point you guys were selling this and then also having like a subscription to . . . what’s it? Like meal kits? Are you guys still doing the meal kits?
John: Not the meal kits right now. We still offer some of our proteins, but we’ve had a couple of partners that unfortunately, you know, not been able to stay in business and it’s complicated. You know, if you think of it from a business standpoint, I would say the original thought was is that the Brava would be the razor and the food would be the razor blade. And now what we think much more is that . . . you know what I mean? More like Peloton which, by the way, just you know, full disclosure, that’s my brother-in-law’s company and I’m an early investor in there and was on the board for a little while.
Andrew: You’re an early investor and a former board member of Peloton?
Andrew: Impressive. Okay,
John: All credit goes to my brother-in -aw and his team.
Andrew: So then what are you doing that’s like Peloton? What’s the connection?
John: It’s the idea of having an ongoing revenue stream for the service side of Brava. So when you buy a Brava today, you get two years of the Brava service bundled in with that price of 11 . . .
Andrew: What’s the Brava service?
John: So every week, you get 15 new recipes that come down from the cloud and update on your service. You get all of your existing recipes are constantly getting better. So we’ve got maybe 100 million photographs from the customers that we have of all the cooks that they’ve done. No joke. And they’re kind of those recipes that are the core. But like you know, we may say that the pizza is a little dark on the back crust of the pizza that you’re cooking, next week will just be automatically updated where that doesn’t occur anymore. So we’re constantly updating your existing recipes, giving you new recipes. It’s all your cloud services, think of it that way. All of your personal settings. You like your egg yolk runny, you like your toast to be quite dark. All of that is saved in terms of personal settings.
You get the ability to call our test kitchen. You can call, text, FaceTime, anything you want with our chefs anytime that they are actually, you know, awake and in the office and say, “Hey, I want to try the shrimp scampi recipe that my grandma had. You don’t exactly have that restaurant, how do I do it?” Like AAA gives you the ability to call someone to, you know, to fix your tire if you’re stuck on the road. Anytime you’re stuck about anything on cooking, Brava has a live service that we will help you. You get discounts on all of the accessories.
Andrew: I got the Beyond Meat. My kids are lifelong vegetarian. We got them the Beyond Meat last night.
John: It’s fantastic in Brava.
Andrew: I’ll be able to call you up and say, “Hey, I want to cook this. How do I make this into a sandwich that will convince their friends that it’s real meat?”
John: Except it’s already there.
Andrew: Oh, it’s already in the system.
John: We launched Beyond Burger, I don’t know, a couple months ago. I eat them all the time at home. My kids love the things. We stocked Beyond Burgers in our fridge and they’re fantastic out of a Brava.
Andrew: Let me do a search.
John: And they have it like in six minutes or something. They’re great.
Andrew: John, does that mean that the oven won’t work if people stop paying the subscription fee?
John: No, not at all. And, by the way, it’s two years bundled. And there are many exciting things coming in that service.
Andrew: But if I stop paying, I still get to keep using it and get everything else.
John: Of course. You’re just not going to get all the updates and all the new stuff that I haven’t even told you about which includes things like grocery cart integration, recipe list making, diet planning, meal planning, personal dashboards, leaderboards, competitions, all this stuff that’s coming will be part of that member service. Your oven will work fine if you don’t pay the membership, but it’s not going to have all that new kind of fun sexy stuff that’s in the software.
Andrew: Oh, it’s beyond. I’m looking at it right now. So all you’re basically saying is put it in the oven. There’s not even a recipe here. It’s just take it and actually that’s the way it is with Beyond Burger. You just put it on the stove. The problem I had was . . .
John: But you got to flip it though. You don’t flip ours.
Andrew: No, yeah, that was my problem. I actually wanted to put it on the stove and then one of my kids wanted to go in the backyard and do water playing. I can’t do water play, I have to do this. And then I didn’t have carrots and my wife does not like if we feed the kids something without vegetables. And so I said, “Okay, that’ll take it off the stove.” I said to my older, “Can I pay you to babysit the younger one so that I can go across the street,” because my kids, they want to be paid for everything. The other one say, “Then you pay me to watch him.” I paid them both a quarter. I went to the corner store. I got my carrots and I came back and I started doing it. And this is where I don’t enjoy cooking. Like I have to like an imbecile just stand there wait for the right time, flip it over, it gets no benefit.
John: You’re going to put a couple Beyond Burgers and carrots in there. And you’re going to go to the pool or go with your kids and do whatever you want to go do playing. You’re going to come back and they’re . . . It’s not even that. To be totally honest with you, how old are your kids?
Andrew: Five and three.
John: Your five-year-old is going to cook with Brava. They’re going to know how to put Beyond Burger and carrots there and they can do it themselves. And it’s completely safe. The only thing is the tray gets hot so you have to be careful about that. The outside doesn’t get hot. It can’t run away. It can’t smoke up. It can’t do anything.
Andrew: Yeah, you can’t sizzle and then splatter on your leg.
John: Five actually might be a tad young to be totally honest with you.
Andrew: But what about the bread? Can I cook the . . . this is where I get like too. What about the bread, the bun?
John: Yeah, 8, 9, 10 years old, they’re all good with Brava.
Andrew: I could put the bun in there too? I toast that?
John: You could put buns in there. Yeah. You can put two trays in at the same time for many of our cooks. Not all of our cooks. You know, I mentioned earlier you can do toast with sausage and cheese and then have four poached eggs on top and do all that simultaneously.
Andrew: Okay. So now Impossible Burger comes out with sausage tomorrow. I don’t think they have it.
John: They do. They do.
Andrew: You guys are going to update that? [inaudible 01:02:38].
John: It’s in my fridge right now. It’s called Beyond Sausage.
Andrew: So they’re competitors deciding they’re going to come out with sausage. You guys will figure out how to cook it. You’ll give me the recipe. It goes directly to the oven?
Andrew: And then does it.
John: This guy just called me the other day and he was upset because we have rack of lamb but we don’t have single lamb chop. So we said, “Just wait a couple days, we’ll have it before you.” Bang, just mailed out.
Andrew: You’re going to figure it out and then you do it.
John: But it doesn’t include him. It includes the whole fleet, everybody can do it.
Andrew: Because there’s somebody behind you in that kitchen there that figures it out. And then they added up to the system.
John: That’s exactly right.
Andrew: And then whenever that one person makes it if it comes out a little bit off, you guys adjust it based on his experience.
John: His experience but we can also see into everybody else’s experiences as well. And, by the way, we have an ability. Now we just launched a thing called custom cooking where you can build your own recipes. So every one of our user can go and take different functions and say, “I want to bake for two minutes in this zone that I want to sear over here and do this. Oh, great. I love that that’s my perfect you know pork loin recipe, the Andrew pork loin recipe.” And then you can send your pork loin recipe to your friends or up into the community. So it’s got a really natural way to create viral sharing of you utility not of just content.
Andrew: All right, let me explain why I’m so excited because I know that it takes away some of my credibility to be excited about my guests but I do this a lot and here’s why. I think we’ve gotten very cynical about tech. The idea that tech is going to change the world for the better has become, “Oh, no the tech giants are taking over and there’s no room for anyone else. And worse, the tech giants are dangerous for us.” I still believe that tech that entrepreneurs were risking so much and you’re risking a lot. You can have a nice comfortable life at this point, right? You could just go be on your Peloton bike. You can go . . . I don’t know what you’re going to . . . be on a bunch of boards.
The idea that you’re taking a risk to do this, I think it’s changing lives, makes people healthier to be able to cook at home and I actually think to be able to spend time with your family instead of cooking unless you enjoy cooking. If you enjoy, go do it. I enjoy running, like I said. The ability to go give your family healthy food or yourself healthy food and not be in the kitchen but be in there with them is dramatically transforming of the way that we live and relate to our family. In the same way that today I am going to be traveling a little bit and working remotely with my family traveling and it changed our lives that we can work remotely.
All these little things have a big difference in our relationship with our kids, big difference in our lives. I really am proud that you’re doing this. It’s good to see that you’ve done it. I’m sorry. I think you guys were going to send me an oven to try before but I was traveling too much to be to try this myself but I’ve got a sense of where you guys are going with it and I’m excited about.
John: We’re going to get you to try now that you’re going to get back home when you’re not traveling. We’ll get you the ability to try it.
Andrew: I love it.
John: And, by the way, I got to give a shout out. This is super important. When you said you think it’s cool that I’m doing this I could be riding a Peloton or sitting on some board or something. Look, there’s a lot of people, as you say, right behind me in that room and they deserve all the credit. The core team of this company that has hung in here for these years to build and deploy this thing deserves, you know, 1,000X the credit of everything that’s happened here. They’re just terrific and there’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears but, again, the thing that keeps us going is watching it do things for real people, like make real people’s lives better.
Andrew: All right, if someone out there ends up with a Brava, please hit me up. Let me know what you think about it. And also, guys, let me know. What do you think? Am I being a little too optimistic, too happy go lucky about my guests? If I am I’m not going to change but I’d like to at least hear from your perspective is different way for me to express it.
John: And tell us too. We want to know too. We want all feedback ourselves.
Andrew: All right. The website for you is Brava. You guys bough brava.com, right?
John: We did.
Andrew: Yeah, impressive. And I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first is going to be the company that you go to when you need to hire phenomenal developers. John is already excited about them. I know I am. I’ve hired from them. It’s called Toptal. Check them out a toptal.com/mixergy. And the second if you’re creating landing pages, funnels, if you’re trying to get strangers to understand what your product is, get them to have a more sticky experience with you and close sales, check out clickfunnels.com/mixergy. You’ll see the funnels that I have on that site. Clickfunnels.com/mixergy. John, thanks. Congratulations.
John: Andrew. You’re the man. Thank you for having me on. Really appreciate it.
Andrew: Thanks. Bye.