In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Pierre Baston, the inventor of Qterra. Qterra Craft, which is now active on Kickstarter, is more than just a travel mug. Instead, it’s a travel brewer. This environmentally friendly travel mug lets you brew fresh coffee or tea and then quickly cool it for drinking, with the twist of a dial. With less than a week left in their Kickstarter campaign, Qterra has already garnered the interest of over 110 backers and surpassed their funding goal. Learn how Baston’s trip to Argentina sparked the idea that led to the creation of Qterra Craft.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How Baston’s travel background influenced Qterra Craft
  • Advice for entrepreneurs looking to launch a new product
  • How Baston’s background led him to be an entrepreneur
  • How “Qterra” got its name
  • What the Qterra team learned from its Kickstarter campaign

Links

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Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome, entrepreneurs and startups, to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president and founder of Enventys Partners, the world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2,000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010. Each week, I interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level. This show would not be possible without our main sponsor Product Hype, a 300,000 member crowdfunding media site and newsletter that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over 1,000 top-tier projects since 2017. Check out producthype.co to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am super excited because I am speaking with Pierre Baston, the inventor of Qterra. Pierre, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Pierre Baston:
Thank you, Roy, for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, really excited to talk about this amazing innovation because you’ve packed so much into this product, right? Qterra Craft live right now on Kickstarter, so go check that out. It is truly not just a travel mug. This is the travel mug made for everyone that wants to get out there and, basically, really maximize the overall flavor, as well as all of those antioxidants that go into brewing coffee or tea. So I really have to know, what led you to creating this innovation?

Pierre Baston:
Well, I have to tell you, I used to drink coffee and tea just like many people do as an occasional thing, almost like a habit without thinking too much about it. But I love to travel. And I went to Argentina many times in order to study tango, in order to study the Argentine culture. And when I was in Argentina, I was struck by one of the most prominent cultural features of the country, and that is their love for a drink called mate. Mate is this hot herbal infusion that was first invented by the Guaraní Indians of Argentina over 500 years ago. And Argentines today love mate. Over 90% of Argentines drink this every single day. And what’s very interest thing to me, and what struck me, is that they insist on doing this in the traditional way of the Guaraní Indians 500 years ago.

Pierre Baston:
I mean, even though it would be easy for them to just drop the leaves in some hot water or in a teabag or whatever and drink it like we drink tea, they insist on getting a dried out, hollowed gord, a bamboo straw, and pouring hot water over the leaves and drinking the drink in the same way that these Indians did 500 years ago. And they do that when they’re at home, and they eat even take this kit into the street so that wherever they are, they have a thermos bottle with the water, they have the dried out gord, they have the straw, and they love that. And I said to myself, “This is incredible. These fans of this hot beverage value freshness so much that they carry with them, whatever it takes, in order to always drink fresh on the spot.”

Pierre Baston:
So at first I said, “Well, let me just see if I can invent something to make it easier so that they don’t have to carry the thermos and the gord and the straw separately,” right? But then I realized that what was good for mate would also be good for coffee and tea. And that was especially obvious to me when I realized that there’s a craft movement in tea and coffee going on in America right now. More and more, coffee and tea lovers have decided that they want to take an active part in the beverage that they drink. They want to be the ones who do everything possible to get the highest-quality flavor from their drinks. And freshness is one of the most important components of that. So I developed the Qterra Craft in order to allow coffee and tea drinkers looking for the very richest flavor and the very highest level of healthful antioxidants to do that not only when they’re at home, but also wherever they may be. And that was the inspiration.

Roy Morejon:
Amazing. So how did you come up with the product name?

Pierre Baston:
Well, Qterra, the terra part of Qterra stands for the earth because the earth, of course, provides the coffee and the tea and the environments in which they grow. And then Q represents the element of human ingenuity and the technology that we apply to these wonderful gifts from nature. So I called it Qterra for that reason.

Roy Morejon:
Impressive. So, Pierre, let’s talk a little bit about your background. What led you to being an entrepreneur?

Pierre Baston:
Well, it was actually, in this case, I wanted to impress my girlfriend’s family because my girlfriend at the time was from Argentina, and they loved mate. And I wanted to create something that would really turn their heads. And then, of course I realized that it would have application way beyond her family, that there were a lot of people around the globe who would love the opportunity to brew and drink fresh.

Roy Morejon:
So I know you’ve been on quite a journey, Pierre, obviously launching this campaign, the initial campaign, over seven years ago with an unsuccessful campaign in terms of funding goal. But obviously, you’ve had a lot of learnings over the years in terms of relaunching the next generation of this product. So if you would, bestow a little bit of the education that you’ve learned along the way in terms of bringing the Qterra Craft to market now on Kickstarter.

Pierre Baston:
Okay. Yeah, so I did launch a different version of the Qterra in 2014. It was one that was designed to mirror more closely the process of drinking mate and the Chinese form of tea drinking known as kung fu. And what I learned from the experience is that, first of all, reaching all the people who might value your product is more than anyone creator can do on his own very well. You need a team. You need a team of professionals. And the first campaign I ran totally myself.

Pierre Baston:
Secondly, it’s important, I think, before you do a crowdfunding campaign to do some kind of research to confirm that the product you’re introducing to the market is one that the market wants. And actually, the Kickstarter campaign, if you haven’t done the research before that, a Kickstarter campaign can serve the purpose of providing the marketing feedback that you need in order to tweak the design and the purpose of your product. So even though the first Kickstarter didn’t generate the funding that I was looking for, it generated a wealth of information about what people did or did not want. And I used that information to redesign my Qterra and to produce one that matched more closely the way that Americans, and people around the world, drink coffee and tea. And that’s a little bit different from the way that people drink mate. And so the product of what I learned is the Qterra Craft. This is specifically designed for coffee and tea lovers, the way they like to drink, the way they like to brew. And what it does is to provide them control over the brewing process in the way that many demanding connoisseurs of coffee and tea require these days. So a Kickstarter campaign, a crowdfunding campaign, can have more than one purpose of not just money but also product and market knowledge.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. And I think that’s such a key nugget of information for all those folks out there concerned or worried about launching their innovation out there and not hitting the funding goal that they potentially set out there in terms of what’s public facing. But the learnings and the feedback that you’re able to have with consumers, in terms of making adjustments or understanding who these customers are and the pain points that they have that may be a lot different from what you initially launched out there into the marketplace, take all of that feedback and take all of those learnings. And I know you’ve done that, obviously, now working with our engineering team in terms of designing this product with so much technology built into it. So if you would, talk to our audience a little bit about all of the amazing innovations that are inside of this product now,

Pierre Baston:
Well, this is one of the brightest spots of the entire journey of invention from 2014 and before that until now is the way that your team, the Enventys engineering and industrial design team, were able to work with me to develop a product that exceeded even my own expectations. I had an idea for what I wanted. I brought the idea to your engineering and industrial design team, but they actually made these things a reality. And it is so slick and so smooth, if I can say so, just as a lover of fine tea and coffee myself. Your team were able to understand my objectives, understand the desires of the consumer that I was trying to serve, and they were able to engineer things in this mug like, for example, the ability to start and stop brewing within a travel mug without ever having to open the mug. And that is quite an accomplishment.

Pierre Baston:
I think one of the things that keep people from brewing on the go right now is the fact that the prospect seems very messy, right? You have to carry the water, you have to carry your ground coffee or your tea leaves separately, right, and then when it’s time to do it, you have to hope that you’re in a stable environment where you can take the lid off of the water, introduce the brewing ingredients, wait your minutes, and then take them out. And how are you going to dispose of the wet coffee grounds and tea leaves now, okay? That’s a hassle. So most of us don’t do that.

Pierre Baston:
With the Qterra Craft, you can brew on the spot without ever running the risk of any dangerous or messy spills. And that’s because the engineering team devised a way that with just a twist of an external dial, the brewing basket expands two and a half times in volume, submerges the dry ingredients into the hot water, and leaves them there until you decide that the brewing time is right. And then you twist the dial again and the brewing stops. And that’s a very important part of it, being able to stop the brewing when you want, because if you brew tea and coffee too long, as I think your knowledgeable listeners know, then the degree of bitterness has increased. So you have total control over the length of time, even the amount of agitation that you give to the leaves and the grounds. And you can do all this by external control without dropping a drop, spilling a leaf. This was incredible.

Pierre Baston:
But then we confronted a second challenge. Okay, now we’ve brewed an incredible mug full of tea or coffee. I can’t drink it now though, because it’s too hot. So we devised a way to cool the hot beverage to an optimal drinking temperature of about 140 degrees in less than five minutes. And we do that by using a heat-absorbing material called PCM or phase change material. And this material is incredible because it absorbs heat until it reaches its intrinsic melting point. And at that point, it holds the temperature of the beverage right there until you’ve had enough time to finish your drink. And the phase change material that we use is made from USDA-certified 100% bio base plant material. It’s non-toxic, it’s biodegradable, and it’s a sustainable source. And that was very important to us, to the team and me, because we believe in protecting the planet at the same time as we allow coffee and tea drinkers to enjoy the beverages that they love. So the Qterra accomplishes this beverage cooling without any electricity. There’s no charger, no wires, or cords. And that’s because we use a natural plant-based material to do the magic.

Pierre Baston:
And if I can continue, Roy, with the third, I think, remarkable feature of the Qterra Craft.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely.

Pierre Baston:
Well, that is that after the Qterra cools the beverage to the perfect drinking temperature, it lets you know that so that you don’t burn your tongue, like testing the beverage to see. There’s a thermal chromic Q temp ring that appears on the exterior of the mug that changes color from yellow to black to let the user know that the beverage is safe to drink. So there’s no more guesswork, no more burnt tongue, and you don’t have to wait a long time in order to drink your fresh beverage. So if you put all those things together, I think that the Qterra Craft represents a revolution. It’s the next direction for 21st century travel mugs.

Pierre Baston:
I mean, just before this, the biggest innovation was temperature control by electronic device, right? There was a big and popular travel mug that came out a few years ago whose main feature was maintaining the drinking temperature that the user desired, using his are her smartphone. That’s well and good, but keeping coffee or tea at the same temperature for one or two or three hours is not such a great thing if you’re interested in flavor quality, because flavor and tea begin to lose their qualities the second that they’re brewed. And by 30 minutes after brewing, you can sense that the quality is fading. And the same thing is true with antioxidant levels. Their highest right at the moment of brewing, and every moment after that, there’s a loss. And you can lose up to 41% of antioxidants within the first hour after brewing. So you want to be able to brew on the spot and drink immediately and enjoy the freshest benefits. And I think members of the craft coffee and tea movement, they’re after nothing more than the very finest, richest taste. And that’s why I think they’re going to value the Qterra Craft.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Obviously, multiple feats in design and engineering. And I know the thousands of listeners out there are salivating right now. So I definitely want to make sure they go and check out the Kickstarter campaign that’s active right now for Qterra, watch the video, see all of the features that included in this absolutely amazing product. There’s still some early birds out there, so definitely go and check that out and back the campaign. Well, Pierre, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. Are you good to go?

Pierre Baston:
Yes, I’m ready.

Roy Morejon:
All right. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Pierre Baston:
Well, as I had a chance to mention a little bit earlier, it was impressing my girlfriend. Also, deep down inside, it was the desire to create something new and valuable for the world. And coffee and tea are so popular all over the world that I knew that this would be a significant contribution, and not just because people would enjoy a nice, new flavor, but today, people are interested not only in the flavor of a bean or a leaf. They want to know about where these products came from, what countries, what cultures, who were the people who crafted these teas and these coffees. And any interest like that, in other cultures and people from around the world, is good for the planet. It’s good for world peace. And that’s why I wanted to do something like Qterra.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So if you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to have a cup of coffee with?

Pierre Baston:
Hmm. Well, believe it or not, it would be Thomas Edison because as far as I know, he was one of the most prolific and important entrepreneurs in history. There are things about his personal life, like about all of our heroes, which are not exactly heroic, but as far as creativity, productivity, touching the world with genius, he’d be the first guy I’d like to talk to.

Roy Morejon:
What would be your first question for Sir Edison?

Pierre Baston:
Well, I would like to know how he organized his operation. With the inventions with which he’s credited, he couldn’t have just done it all himself. He knew how to delegate authority, the way a general has to in an army or a CEO of a large corporation. I’d like to know what his organizational principles were.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So any book that you might recommend to our listeners?

Pierre Baston:
Well, I think it’s important to read any book about the person who inspires you most in history, because whoever inspires you most is going to be a model for the kind of sacrifice that you have to make, the kind of dedication, and focus that you have to lend to whatever product or company you’re bringing to market. My personal hero in history is Martin Luther King. So for me, I mean, if I want to be inspired, if I want to get through a difficult phase of bringing a company to market, I’ll just read about the kinds of challenges he faced and how he persisted in spite of all of them and overcame them.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So in terms of advice, any advice you would give to a new inventor or entrepreneur that’s looking to launch their new product?

Pierre Baston:
Yes. I would say, keep going, keep going.

Roy Morejon:
Pierre, last question in the rapid-fire round. And I know this is your relaunch of similar technology but very interested to hear your take on what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Pierre Baston:
I think it’s going to continue to grow, even mushroom, in popularity. There are a lot of uncertainties in backing, a crowdfunding project. And I think people out there know that when they back a project, the project may not eventually come to fruition, but in spite of those uncertainties, I think people are going to continue to back crowdfunding because they know that, in the end, innovative products, great products are the result, products that change their lives that would not come to light any other way. So I think we’re going to see crowdfunding continue to be a greater and greater part of our economic lives.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Pierre, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to say what you didn’t say, give our audience the pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check out Qterra.

Pierre Baston:
Well, thank you again, Roy, for having me here it today. Yes, I have been lucky, with the help of a lot of great people, to offer a product that allows lovers of coffee and tea to enjoy their favorite beverage wherever they may be, in places where they never thought possible before, brewing right on the spot and drinking their drink just moments after brewing. There’s just no better way to enjoy coffee or tea. So if you like that prospect, then please take a look at how easy Qterra Craft makes it to do that. And at the same time, I think it’ll increase your pleasure in the drink that you like and will cause you to research more and explore more different ways that you can make coffee and tea drinking a part of your life.

Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. Well, audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign that’s active over on Kickstarter right now. And of course, I got to thank crowdfunding podcast sponsors at the Gadget Flow and Product Hype. Pierre, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Pierre Baston:
Thank you, Roy.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing 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, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes. And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you on the next episode.