We talked to Carlos Ruiz and Jonas Mueller of flatev to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on their artisan tortilla maker. Learn more about the inspiration behind the “Keurig of tortillas,” what they did leading up to their Kickstarter campaign and much more.

flatev – The Artisan Tortilla Maker

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What types of delays to expect during prototyping
  • What kinds of feedback to expect from your backers
  • Benefits of working with a marketing agency on your crowdfunding campaign
  • How to test different audiences prior to launching
  • Why it’s important to have good partnerships
  • How to find partnerships and manufacturers

Links

Connect with flatev

Sponsors

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Transcript

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Roy:

Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president of Command Partners, the top full-service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over $70 million for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by the Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more visit thegadgetflow.com. Let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart, I am honored to be joined by Carlos and Jonas with Flatev. Carlos, Jonas, thank you so much for joining us.

Carlos:

Thank you, Roy, it’s a pleasure for us to be here with you.

Jonas:

Thank you, Roy.

Roy:

Tell us all about the artisan tortilla maker you have created.

Carlos:

Sure. The tortilla maker we have created is to bring to the market for people who really are tired of poor quality of bread of tortillas that they buy in the grocery stores. This is easily if you want to have a great tortilla or bread, the only option you have until today, until Flatev, was to make it by yourself. This imposes a lot of time and effort and mess for cleaning, knowhow and experience. The second option you had was to go to a restaurant, to a place where they make them homemade fresh, and eat them straightaway before they get cold. This is a [inaudible 00:02:03] for many people to be able to consume these tortillas or bread as fresh as possible in their houses. That’s why they usually go and buy store packaged, precooked tortillas, which usually have a lot of additives, and they’re unhealthy, they are usually not organic. The other problem is they smell bad, they break very often, that’s why many people have to use two tortillas or fry them. That’s why we decided to change this and create a way to produce or to make artisan homemade tortillas in a very convenient way.

This happened some years ago when … Studying in Switzerland. I realized that tortillas abroad are very bad. I had an espresso machine with coffee pods, and even if I was a student and I was not able to afford many things, I didn’t want to save money on coffee because good quality, convenience, and not having to clean something was a great value for me. That’s why I got inspired that and I say, “How is it possible there is no solution to make a tortilla, but also other bread, roti for India, pita or piadina for Italy, and there is no solution there?”

I asked Jonas, here beside me, I knew he was building robots, with 17 years competing worldwide, and I asked him, “Hey [inaudible 00:03:43] tortilla maker.”

He said, “Yes, let’s do it, but what is a tortilla?”

Then I invited him for dinner, we made it homemade, and he realized wow this is something I have never tried before like that. Now I understand what’s the problem and what is the job to be done and to solve the pain of many people like you who are missing that.

Roy:

Incredible. Yeah, full disclosure, the team at Command Partners is obviously honored to be working on this campaign with you guys, and we had the absolute pleasure of having you guys at our offices last month, and treating the entire staff to fresh made tortillas. I will admit they were amazing and everybody left with a full stomach. It’s an amazing technology and you guys have come a long way with that. Tell our audience some of the struggles and the things that you guys have learned along the way that our listeners can learn from.

Carlos:

That’s a very good point. As an entrepreneur, we are very optimistic, we believe everything is going to get very fast, it’s going to be easy. Wow, it’s possible doing something with coffee from the technology point of view, why not with bread? It should not take that long, not that much resources. Once you create a prototype to see all the problems, technical problems, coming there, for example the dough was sticking in the pods, sometimes the dough was not landing in the right place. There were many issues that we have to solve.

Once we solved them with the prototype we have today, the next question is let’s make a product [inaudible 00:05:26]. Here’s where the problems begin because with the prototypes you just use whatever you need to make it happen. For example, the prototype we showed you … You can imagine that this would not be a good price for the total machine to introduce to market.

The next one was to find the right partners, the right partners not only for the development, for decreasing the cost of the machine, but also for the manufacturing lines of the pods, having the right people, like Command Partners, to support us, how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign. This is very important for any entrepreneur who wants to go to market. It’s about the combination, not only [inaudible 00:06:12] … There are many people involved, many companies, a lot of knowhow, and it is important that … On the other hand, that you continue with your vision.

Something else that we have learned a lot is we have to start with … I say always as an example, Jonas and I, with the iPhone 1 and the iPhone 6, today we see many people criticize why it is only possible one tortilla, why not more tortillas at once? Why don’t … It is important to really validate very quick, learn fast, fail fast, and Kickstarter is a very great platform where we can really learn about the customers. What do they care … What are they interested in when they come to a landing page? How many…an example is, the first day we were rocking, we got the 50K in less than three hours, but afterwards [inaudible 00:07:08] the conversion rate not that high. Look guys, I think the video is too long, you have to wait 40 seconds until you understand.

Advise and feedback and this feedback is so important for us because if … We see there are numbers of people backing the project is really where you see what works and what doesn’t, what really the media is talking about, what people care enough … People compare us with Keurig pots, which is at the moment negative because those are not recyclable. Now we try to really communicate in a very special way that our cups are exactly the same as yogurt cups, which are 100% recyclable. This is a learning. It’s not only about the amount you raise it’s about the validation and learning you get, how to improve or where the business has to continue and grows in the future to make your customers happy.

Roy:

Absolutely. Yeah, we’ve definitely learned along the way in terms of getting that feedback from buyers now that we’ve gotten hundreds of purchases, raised six figures for the campaign. That feedback channel is obviously the beautiful part about the community that surrounds Kickstarter. Talk about some of the marketing things that we together have been doing for our audience in terms of building a buzz and being able to raise $70,000 on the first launch day.

Carlos:

Yeah. Marketing is here very key, it’s very important, especially when we are asking ourselves, who is really our customer? It’s very fully that we have some hypotheses who we believe are our customers and many times [inaudible 00:09:00] the customer is like you, because you have this pain and you believe they have the same age, they care about the same as you. At the end, wanted to start working together with a marketing company like Command Partners, you start testing different audiences and just seeing how do they react and again what are the FAQ, what matters most to them, and then you realize this is something we have to communicate better, I never thought about this, that’s a good point.

Thanks to this marketing and this campaign, or pre-campaigns, you are able to learn and focus better where you should put more thought or research and have priority in terms of reaching the people who back your project and will help you with resources to continue validating things, financing, your startup, and helping you to find the best approach. I believe there is a huge value that we have in real life, not only in theory, to validate and find out all the things you need to improve your plan and grow your business.

Roy:

Absolutely. Yeah, you guys have had a ton of partnerships along the way given that your team is split across the world, if you will, from Switzerland to Mexico. Talk about some of those partnerships that you’ve been able to leverage in terms of the pre-campaign and then during the campaign.

Carlos:

Sure. There is one very important partner that we just have this disclosure, the campaign, and the name is Oyster [inaudible 00:10:52]. Nobody knows them, they are very always behind the scenes. Have add a lot of value to Flatev, those are the manufacturers of [crosstalk 00:11:03] machines and espresso, that was the first company that worked manufacturing machines based on a pod system, which was Nespresso in 1986, even before Keurig. I think this answer … Jonas can answer much better because he has been working together a lot with them. Probably Jonas, I should also mention, Bold design … Having the great partners, not only the team but the partners, that makes the whole difference in your business. Jonas, please just tell a little bit about your experience with our partners and how you believe they are bringing value to us.

Jonas:

I believe that our project is very big from the development standpoint. There are so many challenges involved from the technical side. For us to work with partners who have years and years of experience and they also have the needed workforce for us, what we can never achieve as a startup, that’s really what’s helping us outreach that next level. It will take very long to build up this knowledge in-house, what we are needing, to get the price down, what we are doing now with our industrial partner, Oyster, or to have a really nice design for a US market, what we are doing with Bold. That’s really key, it’s very good partners for us.

Roy:

How did you end up finding these partners? Again, one of the questions that we’re always being asked is, where do I find these partnerships, these manufacturers? Where does that search begin for an entrepreneur?

Jonas:

I think to find a partner or rethink to find a partner is like having an employee. You hire slowly and you fire fast. What does that mean to hire slowly? We took a lot of effort, we take a lot of time, to find the right partners. For example, with Oyster, it took us almost over a year to get to a contract or an agreement with them. How did we meet them? We met them at the international trade show in Las Vegas … No, Chicago. [crosstalk 00:13:19] It was in Chicago where we met them the first time and then it really needed on year working together. We were already working together, finding out if we fit together, if it is a good collaboration, and then we signed the contract. The same is for Bold. We really evaluated a lot of design companies, a lot of designers, we visited them, we really wanted to find out if we have a good personal feeling with those people we are working together. We think this is key to have a personal good understanding between each other. We always try to take a lot of time to find good partners because you will work for them for a long time. You have to see that with Bold, with Oyster, with other partners, like Command Partners, you will have to work in the future if it’s a good collaboration.

Carlos:

Exactly, that’s very important because once you start a project you see really the partner is not only a supplier for one time. If it works well it’s coming with you together with success, and they are learning each other better. It’s very good for everyone to have a successful project because the collaboration continues for your projects. As Jonas mentioned, this is important to take the time to choose the right partners because it’s like you’re getting married with someone, you have to discuss, you have to be able to put always a problem on the table and be able to solve them together in good and bad times.

Roy:

Absolutely, it’s the ups and downs of every startup. You guys have come a long way together being three co-founders of the company. Let’s talk a little bit about the product. What specifically inspired the first flavors or the first pods for the Flatev machine in terms of … Was there voting? Was there taste testing? How did you guys come up with those initial flavors?

Carlos:

Okay, this is … The most important thing at the beginning needs to have the normal tortilla which is a corn and flour tortilla. Then when you have a corn tortilla, for example, you have to decide if you want to go first for white, yellow or blue corn. We say okay, why decides for one if we are going to do the pod system? With the pods you can have a variety of them. Of course there is a constraint that when you come to market, you have to have a look at how many productions lines you will have and be able to introduce one pod to another one, two, three, five or more.

We will decide first to get the one that everyone knows, this is the most difficult one to make. A corn tortilla is more pain that wheat, the flour. 50% corn and 50% flour. We measured okay, if we do the pod system, we have … In development now we are testing the machine for many things. Every single … One example if you add one ingredient, it can be the pod reacts different or the machine needs some more force or something like this. Just imagine that today we define the force of a motor then the machine cannot press it, then it’s a problem. In this sense we have already tested different kinds of pods, different kinds … If we don’t want to increase parameters and make the machine more expensive. Today we are doing corn tortilla, flour tortillas, and a variety of flavors also of chili and cinnamon.

The last one I just have mentioned is very important because today when you go to a supermarket, you might find fresh made, they are hard or dry, they don’t smell even cinnamon. Garlic or whatever you just make it, you just want to eat it. We just realized that tortillas should not be only for lunch or only for dinners. Sometimes when you are at the office, like right now, you get hungry and sometimes you want to have something sweet when you are drinking a coffee. We said, “Yeah, why not to have something sweet that you can have a cup of coffee and then just with convenience get a fresh bread that you can eat with fruit or something else?” Very crispy, between a tortilla and a cracker, and just eat it for snack. That’s why we decided to also bring something sweet so you can use it in the office or also you can create a sweet … Flour, and at least two flavors if everything goes well with the productions lines as expected and we obtain the necessary research as well as demand.

Roy:

Absolutely. Yeah, you spoiled us when you came to our headquarters with the cinnamon tortillas and bacon tortillas, those were quite a treat at the office. Obviously that fresh smell really captivates the entire room. It was really impressive and we’re obviously looking forward to getting our products here early next year for sure. That gets us into our launch round where I rapid fire questions at you, Carlos. Are you ready?

Carlos:

Yes.

Roy:

Awesome. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Carlos:

I have always been an entrepreneur since I was a child. I don’t like … Every time I have a problem since I was a kid, I just don’t like to stay quiet and say, “Okay, I accept it.” I always say, “Why is there no solution to do this? I would like to change it.” I started very early on with some companies, already when I was 17 was my first company, and I think Jonas as well, his first patent.

Being an entrepreneur is about solving problems for something else, enjoying what you do, having a passion for building something, for growing a company or organization. This is something I’m passionate about. If I work 24 hours a day on that, that’s what makes me happy and not something different.

Roy:

If you could have a tortilla with any entrepreneur throughout history who would it be?

Carlos:

That’s a good question. I think it’s a very … I’m sure everyone probably would say, but I would like to probably do it with Steve Jobs. Having a tortilla with him would be very cool for me.

Roy:

What would have been your first question for Steve?

Carlos:

Hey Steve, when you came to the idea of iPhone, what was your inspiration and everything? What do you think about doing the same for food? What do you think about this product?

Roy:

I think he’d enjoy that conversation as well as the meal. Any business books or life books that you’d recommend to our listeners?

Carlos:

Yeah. Two books that have changed a lot my way of thinking, at least for startups, is “Business Model Generation,” and the second one is, “The Lean Startup,” from Eric Ries. Those two books for me are a must, at least to grow the business. To be honest, since I am working with Flatev I have not been able to ready many books because of the work you have to do every single day and on the weekends. Those books, the first one especially, is the one I have used the most in Flatev. What about you, Jonas?

Jonas:

That’s a good question.

Carlos:

Okay. [crosstalk 00:21:43]

Jonas:

I have to think about it.

Roy:

I think Jonas is too busy reading the cookbooks.

Carlos:

Yeah. I think Jonas is always reading a lot about food, and this is very interesting because … I think Jonas reads quite a lot. That’s why probably he has now … Can’t decide for one. Not like me that I have read less.

Jonas:

I think I read more articles online.

Roy:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Carlos:

In five years my dream is to have Flatev in at least 3 or 3…really see people so happy, enjoying different varieties of breads. That means not only tortilla, I would love to have the roti for India, have pitas, piadinas… Not only the bread but also having different complementary products like for example making gourmet sausage. Like Italians did with pesto I want to do the same with salsas, with hummus, with guacamole, but in a very premium way, by bringing also the history. How can you combine it with something else? I would be so happy if I see the product already in the United States, Mexico, Europe, European countries, and really the people who cannot afford to have these breads in their own countries like India, Mexico, and so on, to see these people happy and buying the product. I think that would make my … I would be very happy in five years knowing that people love the product.

Roy:

Excellent. World domination for the Flatev, I love that. Given that today is Cinco de Mayo, you’re making me hungry. I’m already thirsty. Last question on the rapid fire round, what do you think the future of crowdfunding looks like?

Carlos:

Yeah, I think the future of crowdfunding, I have a feeling, is going to be more … I think you will be able to screen a project and it will take you less time … Whether there is something for you or not. I have a feeling crowdfunding is going to … Imaginable and probably is not going to be only in the computer, I think people will start getting crowdfunded more in other probably not only mobile probably but new devices in the future, and more able to know demand and probably playing more with the rewards and prizes with more supply and demand. I believe that could be a way that crowdfunding could look in a couple of years.

Roy:

Excellent. Jonas, Carlos, I appreciate your time on this interview. Now is your time to give all of our listeners your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, and where people should go to go and buy the Flatev on Kickstarter.

Carlos:

Great. That’s my favorite part. Hello everyone, hello Kickstarter community, we are here very excited as we finally are bringing this product for you. Thank you for your support. In the last three days you have done something amazing, now we are almost by 95K. This is bringing us a large amount of confidence to bring you the … Go and get the research and the confidence in what you really want. We are very happy if you can send us an email, write us, what are your concerns so we can explain you better where we are.

Yeah, we want to tell you good products need time. Just imagine Nespresso took them more than … Bring this product to market. I want to tell you be patient. Think about … Yeah, we are doing all the best to bring you just the best product. The way you can help us a lot is by sharing the vision of what we want to be in the future, which is to everyone’s … People’s house in a very easy, convenient and fun way. Thank you for your support and also the way how we can support you or the community let us know, because this should be for everyone.

Roy:

Absolutely.

Carlos:

Jonas [crosstalk 00:25:59]

Jonas:

Yeah, please go on Kickstarter now and … From my side …

Carlos:

There are still 27 days and we believe that you can really decide if this is something for the world or not. Remember it’s the first product, we cannot promise today many other breads, internally we are working very hard to get all the breads and the vision is not only to get two kinds of tortillas or three, we plan to come to market with more tortillas. In our country, in the culture in Switzerland and US and Mexico, we prefer to not promise a lot and better deliver and surprise you guys.

Roy:

Awesome. Carlos and Jonas, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you everyone for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, links to the campaign, what we’ve talked about today and a full transcript.

Carlos:

Thank you, Kickstarter. Let’s enjoy fresh tortillas at the touch of a button.

Roy:

Indeed.

Carlos:

Happy Cinco de Mayo. Bye bye, thank you.

Roy:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com, and share it with your friends. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding marketing strategy, please visit our website at commandpartners.com and request a quote. Thanks for tuning in, catch you next time.