Meet NEXT Client SueChef and STOP Cooking!
About Us: 17 days a year: an average person’s time spent on meal preparation. That’s time that we don’t have. Our options? Eat out – too expensive, the microwave – low quality, skip meals – not an option. Every alternative at-home cooking solution requires the user to physically be present at some stage of food prep. The Solution? The automated Keurig of Food – SueChef, a patented kitchen robot with an AI named Sue, which stores multiple premade meals in a freezer and autonomously puts them in the oven without human participation.
What do you love about being an entrepreneur? The best part of being an entrepreneur is the ability to be your own boss and follow your own passion. Coming from the space-based aerospace engineering industry, being an entrepreneur is truly night and day. I love what I do for my current job, but there is something fundamentally different when it comes to taking an idea you created from scratch and pursuing it through to reality. It is an indescribable feeling. That is what I love about being an entrepreneur and can’t wait for the day it can be my full time job.
What makes your business unique? Our business is truly the first of its kind. While there are a lot of smart kitchen appliances and new features within the existing kitchen appliances(wifi, apps, scanners), all of them are essentially iterations on the current status quo in the kitchen; the need for you to be physically present to make a meal. What makes us unique is the fundamental shift in how you approach cooking. No longer do you need to sacrifice time, money on eating out, and flavor/nutrition to fit meal preparation around your schedule. Instead you can have the brands you like, at an affordable price, and on your schedule; all from your phone or a connected smart home device. With our built in AI and smart scheduling, you can have meals ready exactly when you want them without having to worry about them taking too long or getting cold. We are the first of its kind, kitchen robot that gives you multiple meal options, from multiple brands, without having to decide that day what you want. The cold storage of our device allows you to load meals and make a decision days to months later on what you want to cook. The convection oven portion allows you to get the tenderness of slow cooking and crispy crust of baking and broiling without the time commitment of preheating and waiting. To make things even better for the users, our device will also sync to fitbit and myfitnesspal to allow the user to automatically track their meals, something that isn’t currently available. Now your diet and exercise can be tracked completely passively. That is what makes our business unique.
How do you create great company culture? We create a great company culture by being a results-oriented rather than hours-oriented business. We live by the motto work to live vs. live to work. We feel that this provides a better work-life balance. Coming from jobs where there is a significant disconnect between hours worked and productivity, we understand this mentality better than most. Sometimes you have an 80 hour work week and that is fine, but that can’t be the status quo – it is unsustainable. We like to take time to celebrate victories and we understand that the perpetual grind can actually decrease our effectiveness. That is how you create a great company culture.
What is the best advice you ever received? The best advice I have received was, “Never be afraid to ask for help”. I can’t emphasize enough how important this advice was and how far it has allowed me to come.
What is the hardest lesson you ever learned? The hardest lesson we’ve learned is to do due diligence on who you are going to work with. Recommendations from people you trust goes a long way, but if you don’t do the research yourself, it can come back to bite you.
What is an important trend you are watching? The most important trends we are watching is the increase in people trying to save time and use integrated IOT, smart-home devices, smart home spending, smart kitchen spending, disposable income, and food spending on groceries vs. eating out. We also like to watch for competitor growth and acquisitions.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur starting out? The advice I would provide is focused on hardware. If you are going to try to do hardware, people will tell you it’s hard. That is very misleading to engineers who think, “no, I know this product, it isn’t hard to do.” The hard part of hardware is the significant upfront capital requirements. Make sure your business model supports those investments and plan significantly extra time to acquire it. That is my advice.
What are the best things about the DMV ecosystem and how would you improve it? The best thing about the DMV is the number of people willing to help you get launched, but with that comes the improvements the DMV needs. The biggest improvement needed is more investors, especially in the HW space. There is no DMV pipeline to help launch HW startups in the area. Additionally, there are a lot of VC groups, but the early stage investment area is very limited and thus difficult to get. Those are the pros and cons of the current ecosystem.