What a great conversation we had on Clubhouse, hearing advice from groundbreaking inventors in the fields of skincare and food waste reduction. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Nicole Scott, Founder & CEO of Cybele Microbiome; Moody Soliman, Founder of Ryp Labs; and Bill Birgen, Chief Tech Officer at SavrPak.
Bill Birgen has startup experience in a wide range of fields, but a soggy salad led him to his eureka moment. Let us explain…
With 30 years of corporate experience in aerospace engineering and rocket science under his belt, Bill’s great idea came to him on a whim and was manufactured in his kitchen in just about ten minutes. Exhibiting world-class humility, Bill spoke casually about his invention and recalled being its sole user, quietly carrying SavrPak in his lunch bag to work for 15 years before bringing it to market.
Bill attributes his success partly to confidence in himself and his product and knowing he had a great idea, but also his heavy reliance on networking and building strong business relationships. It’s his personal network and their connections that have helped his company grow and get funding.
Dr. Nicole Scott said her invention of microbiome-based skincare has been a long time coming and wasn’t even what she initially set out to create! Skilled in genetics and the metagenome, she pivoted in her career but she remained encouraged by her professional knowledge and personal curiosity.
On her long journey to production, Nicole said, “the invention started a long time ago, but only crystallized recently.” She started Cybele Microbiome to change the way people looked at skincare and challenge the existing “personalized” lines. A first-of-its-kind approach to skincare, Cybele takes personalization to a whole new level.
StixFresh by Ryp Labs was invented by Moody Soliman in an effort to eliminate food waste in the home kitchen beginning at any point in the supply chain. Gone are the days of opening the fridge to limp, browning fruit– StixFresh extends the freshness of produce by up to two weeks by applying a safe, all-natural sticker to fruit peels.
Speaking of his brand’s early days, Moody said,
“We had to come up with something we could show people to get us moving in the right direction.”Moody Soliman
After hundreds of hours tinkering in the garage, he finally created something that sometimes worked and that bit of success was enough for him to push the product out there.
These entrepreneurs’ own experiences in life and business have influenced the choices they’ve made along the way but there certainly seemed to be common threads among the conversations. When asked about the lessons they’ve learned throughout their entrepreneurial journeys and their advice for aspiring inventors, all three speakers interestingly had different approaches to providing similar solutions.
On protecting their inventions and assets, the speakers pushed the importance of yes, sitting on your idea until it’s ready to be shared, but also finding a team you can trust to help you in those early days.
Nicole had experience in intellectual property strategizing and urged inventors to “file early, as early as you can” and ensure you have an IP lawyer or expert on your side. Currently, her company utilizes an umbrella strategy to protect future innovations and products to come.
Similarly, Moody said his best advice is to find an expert early to consult throughout the entire process of patenting and early branding. Putting together a great brand at the company level and corporate level, and bringing on investors that know where you’re going and understand the risks provides essential support to early-stage companies.
Bill signed off on the team-building advice and added that he didn’t move forward with his product until his patent was in his hand!
We had such an awesome session and learned so much– if you missed it, check out the full replay above!
What it Takes To Succeed
This is, going to be a very interesting show because we have partnered with P and G ventures to bring to you some of the top inventors who have gone through the program with P and G ventures, , P and G ventures. In fact, they’re serial entrepreneurs.
, before we jump into that though, let me just start, Rachel. I’ll just become a moderator before we jump into it, into our special guests. , I just want to say that we’re proud to announce that we have now taken the show into a podcast. So you can now go to your apple, , iTunes and look at, , the podcast it’s called a serial entrepreneur club.
If you search that term, you’ll be able to find it. , we do the show every week and we do it because what we’re trying to figure out [00:01:00] is a formula. We’re trying to understand what it is that serial entrepreneurs do over and over again, to start scale, exit, and repeat. And, uh, let me tell you this, um, startups genomes 2019 report found that 11 out of 12 startups failed the Shikhar Ghosh.
His analysis found that 7.5 at a 10 venture backed startups face. And then I have one more study from the Harvard business school, which talks about your increases, your chances of succeeding. If you are a serial entrepreneur on a new business venture is 30% versus 18%. Um, I’m jumps going, going high level here, but the fact is we can learn a formula.
We can try to understand and decode what these serial entrepreneurs do now today. Uh, we [00:02:00] have, again, I mentioned earlier, um, some serial entrepreneurs who’ve gone through the P and G venture process. I guess all of them have made the pitch. And, uh, we have with us today, uh, bill Bergen. And I’m going to let you introduce yourselves as well.
We’ve got moody Solomon and Dr. Nicole Scott. I think we could, uh, Uh, ping her in. That would be great. Rachel or Michelle, and it was the moderator today’s moderator, uh, will be Jeffrey sass. So I’m going to pass it to you Jeffrey, and I know we’re getting organized here, but, uh, we’ll get all the, all of our speakers on stage in a minute, but, uh, take it away, Jeffrey.
Uh, no worries. Thank you, Colin. And thank you everyone for joining us and especially thank you, bill and moody for joining us and also, uh, Dr. Nicole, I’ll welcome Dr. Nicole. So we’ve got, uh, everyone here. This is really exciting. We [00:03:00] have three inventors founders, um, with some really interesting stuff. Two of you are actually in, in similar spaces, which will be interesting to hear about, but all three of you are doing some really innovative things.
Um, leveraging technology in ways that really haven’t been done before. So I’m very excited for you to tell us a little bit more and why don’t we start out with each of you just introducing yourself briefly and tell us what your invention is. And let’s start with Dr. Nicole, and then we’ll go to bill and then moody.
Hi there. Thanks for having me. Um, so my name is Nicole Scott. I’m the CEO and co-founder of a company called Sibley microbiome. We’re actually an AI microbiome platform to create products and diagnostics. And we recently launched our brand reload to showcase our first products and assessments and these products, but people with eczema, psoriasis, atopic [00:04:00] dermatitis, and acne, it’s really about, you know, rebuilding your skin health.
Bill you’re muted. If you unmute yourself and introduce yourself, that’d be great. Oh, okay. Sure. I was waiting for a cue. I didn’t want to talk over, um, uh, Rachel, but, um, or Michelle? Um, yes, so I’m bill Bergen, uh, co-founder of saver pack and a number of other startups as well. Um, I’m chief technology officer technology is really, um, I mean, that’s just what I do.
I’ve had 30 years as a kind of corporate, a rocket scientist, a aerospace engineer, uh, doing a lot of, well, I was a systems guy, so, uh, everything that that might entail. Um, so I filed a lot of patents, won a lot of awards for, uh, not just did PG ventures, but also the X prize and, [00:05:00] uh, other other categories as well with other startups.
So, um, you know,
Thank you, bill and bill. What is the product? What is your, oh, I’m sorry. Yeah. Yeah. Saver pack is, uh, uh, Sachit. That goes into a hot food delivery to keep French fries. Crispy will all food crunchy and crispy. It preserves a texture by removing moisture from inside food containers. Uh, very quickly. Uh, this has application was not just for, for delivery like Uber eats and grub hub, but also in agriculture, keeping food fresher longer.
Thank you. And moody. Welcome introducing. Yeah, thank you so much, Jeffrey, thank you, Colin. And the startup club and for all the listeners that are joining, it’s a great opportunity to be here, to share whatever value of experience I can. I can bring to the table. I’m a, an experienced entrepreneur and startup founder with a little over 16 years experience.
I am an engineer by training and I [00:06:00] started my, uh, my career actually in the medical device and biotech industries, and slowly made my way over to the ACTech industries, which is a really interesting from an entrepreneur standpoint, because a lot of the verticals are more or less the same when you look at these businesses.
Um, but we really moved into the tech industry because we realized that there was. A massive problem. That’s not just an economical one, but a social environmental one as well. And that is food waste. And that we waste up to 50% of the food we produce and that waste is experienced all across the supply chain.
So we want it to come up with a solution that was not only going to be applicable anywhere along that supply chain, but it had to be easy to use safe and sustainable and economical. And so what we developed was essentially a formulation that can be applied to almost any surface, including stickers, which are really our flagship product.
And you simply peel the sticker, apply to the fresh produce or the packaging in which the fresh produce [00:07:00] is stored, and it can extend the shelf life, um, by actually doubling the shelf life up to up to 14 days. That’s that’s great. Um, so it’s really interesting. So before we open it up to questions, I want to ask a couple of questions and I think Michelle has some questions too, but if you’re in the audience listening and want to ask a question to one of our inventors today, uh, do raise your hand and Rachel, we’ll start to bring people up and we’ll get to some questions later, but it’s very interesting.
So two of you have focused on inventions in, I guess, the ag tech space, um, and Nicole you’re in the skincare space, but leveraging technology in interesting way. I’m curious to know it’s kind of like a chicken and egg question, but what came first? Did you have a desire to do something in that particular space?
So it was skincare have interest in ag tech of interest, uh, and then set out to invent something in that space. Or was it the opposite? Did you just [00:08:00] have this great idea for your invention? And it happened to be. In that particular vertical, I’d love to hear each of you, um, speak to that sort of chicken and egg question and we can go in the water you’re onstage.
So bill, if you want to go first. Sure, sure. Yeah. Well, it’s sort of funny. I told you I have a history as a, kind of a corporate, uh, aerospace, rocket science, uh, job. I was going to, my cubicle just had my lunch. Uh, I changed my lunch up one day. I saw there was condensation on my lunch and I had to throw it away.
My spinach was just slimy and gross, but I recognized, uh, the condensation had formed on my food and this is what caused it to get so gross and wet and inevitable. Um, but being, uh, you know, he transferred thermodynamicists, uh, I recognized the problem immediately. Ponder or prototype. I just thought to myself, oh, you know what, tonight’s all do this thing.
And my saddle will be fine tomorrow. And, um, and what I made [00:09:00] that night in like five minutes was a kind of a prototype for very nearly exactly what’s the saver pack is selling now. And so, um, it was, and I used it every day for my lunch for, uh, nearly 15 years. Never thinking there was a, you know, a market.
I didn’t think it was a great invention. I just thought I saw my lunch problem. My lunch is great. Uh, you know, victory, you know, I didn’t need to do anything else. Um, but then, um, food delivery kind of caught up, you know, it’s, uh, it’s definitely a real thing now. And, uh, you know, people were complaining about the quality of the food delivery and I thought I’ve, I’ve already solved this problem.
Um, let me just file this patent and we’ll see what comes from that. And it’s basically exploded into this. You know, this, this company saver pack is a real company with real products, with a, you know, it’s with real impact, reducing food waste, uh, in agriculture, but also, uh, for food delivery. So in your case [00:10:00] build the, the idea for the invention came up first and it just happened to be in that space.
Now I understand too, that saber pack was not the original name. Right, right, right, right. So, so look, I’m not an MBA marketing genius. I’m a, you know, super nerd I’m, you know, and so I, I just, I couldn’t come up with a name that I liked. I’m like, no name seems correct. And so, but, uh, soggy food sucks, LLC. That was, uh, uh, the first name of the company.
And, uh, it’s yeah. You know what I mean? It’s funny because people that know the history will come up to me, he’s like, oh, I missed the old name. And, um, you know, they’re, you know, get this dodgy for how, you know, basically, and you don’t need to describe your products when the name of the company is soggy food sucks.
It’s like the name of the company is the name of the, what you do, you know? Um, and so I did have investors oftentimes tell me in those early days, um, I understand everything, you know, uh, [00:11:00] you know, for, yeah, no I’m stocking food socks. You definitely made it very clear what the problem, which is, which is great.
Uh, but thank you bill. I just want to mention, before we go to moody to answer the same question is Rachel is also available. If you have questions, you can send them to Rachel on the back, uh, back channel. If you’re listening and have a question you want to ask as well, you can back channel Rachel. Um, so moody for you.
What came first? The idea or the vertical in this space, you wanted to say. Yeah, no great question, Jeffrey and very, very similar story to bill. I would have to say, um, we, we, the founders recognized that we had actually had some friends that had some fruit stalls and their fruit was just going bad, uh, far too much and far too early once it’s been harvested from the farm.
So we wanted to come up with the simplest solution possible. So we thought, okay, every fruit already has a sticker on it. Why not just apply our formulation to the surface or a, for a formulation to the surface of that sticker [00:12:00] that can extend the shelf life. Right. So, um, you know, we joke around about the fact that we, we weren’t, um, you know, material scientists or microbiologists by training.
So in this case, it’s, it was, it was really interesting. Perhaps ignorance was bliss because, um, you know, we thought, how hard can it be? Right. And it’s, uh, um, and of course it turned out to be a huge challenge, but at the same time, once we were able to solve it, um, it, uh, it, it has really been disruptive and revolutionary in a lot of ways.
So perhaps because we didn’t think of the hurdles on the front end, but just wanted to come up with a solution that was really easy and simple is what allowed us to be here today because maybe had, we had the training, you know, the material science and microbiology training and all the other experience necessary.
We would have thought of all of the hurdles or all of the roadblocks ahead of time and just gave up on that idea. But, um, it actually turned out to, uh, uh, to be what got us here today. So, uh, [00:13:00] yeah, in summary, we started by really identifying a problem and trying to come up with a solution for that probably.
That’s great. Um, Nicole, how about yourself? Was, was the skincare space of interest to you or was it from the technology and the, the idea of the invention? Well, the invention was like a long time coming because I, so, you know, I’m steeped in my space. I’m an expert in the microbiome, which means basically a lot of, uh, computational genetics.
So I did a lot of programming, a lot of statistics. And, um, so I had actually been working on a, a project where I was modeling the microbial remediation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. If you guys remember that. And, um, one of the things I came across in my research was, uh, if you remember back further, the Exxon Valdez.[00:14:00]
And Alaska, um, decades earlier, um, what they did and at the time they were sequencing organisms. I mean, it was, it was a lot, a lot simpler back then. Um, but they, they basically threw nitrogen and phosphorus on the oil spill with the idea that they could get the microbes to help eat the oil, um, faster. And this really impacted me this idea where you could take simple, um, nutrients and affect the community that existed there.
And these little organisms are insanely powerful. Right. And so that, that thought had always influenced me. And I was always like, okay. And I, and I happened to be doing some work at the time that was looking at, you know, what the functions of what these organisms were doing in place during, uh, oil remediation.
And, [00:15:00] um, basically breaking down the oil. And so, you know, it always occurred to me that we could use this in a health context. If we could identify what kind of, um, mid-stage metabolites or pre metabolites we could use to feed specific functions, perhaps we could get the community to do things that we wanted.
And, you know, as we move forward, Uh, you know, we’ve seen over and over again that the, this community is so important in human health. And, and my own mission has always been to make products that affect human health. So I kind of, um, the, the company civilly really started out. Actually, we were working on a, um, inducing your skin microbiome to make a natural insect repellent for you.
So we knew that the microbiome influenced your, your attractiveness to things like mosquitoes. [00:16:00] And I bet a lot of us have this experience where, um, you know, you’re you, you, or, you know, someone who’s like just, you know, so, so attractive to insects and they’re constantly being bitten and everybody looks at them and they’re like, I don’t know what’s going on with you.
Well, a lot of that is these compounds actually made on the surface of your skin. And so, yeah, so we use the, the, the, the platform technology originally to, um, to create compounds that, um, would make you less attractive, uh, to insects. And so we ended up, you know, we, we, we were in that skin space and we knew that there were a lot of problems to be solved there and some personal problems that my co-founder and I had, um, And so we, we we’ve moved more into the, um, skin condition space with eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, [00:17:00] acne, but really it’s the same.
Um, we’ve used the same platform, um, that we originally developed the same computational platform. Um, To create our current products that we have, um, that we’ve launched. So it’s been a journey for sure. Um, but that invention started a long time ago with, with some ideas and, and it crystallized sort of more recently, I would say, so, so one could say you pivoted from oily water to oily skin.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I think that next time I have mosquitoes, I realized that I just need some microbial remediation and I should be better on your skin right on exactly. Well, that’s great. I mean really wonderful stories and really interesting uses of technology really? In all three cases, Michelle, I think you had a question you wanted to ask.
Yes, I do. So, [00:18:00] you know, I’m so impressed how technical and scientific each one of you are. So you’re making it actually sound kind of easy. To have this like amazing idea and get it to market. But you know, like bill said, I think you said bell, it was over 10 years. You’re just, you know, going along my lunch was great.
Loved it. That was victory. Happy camper. I have fresh lunch. So I’m just, you know, I’m wondering like how, you know, how did you actually take this invention and actually get it to market? I mean, even in a product that’s easy to understand. Right. That’s not an easy task. Like, you know, what did you actually go through?
Like, what were the obstacles you encountered and what is some advice that you can give here to the members of startup [00:19:00] club bill? Oh, sure. Well, um, I’ll tell you, I was not in the food space or food tech. I had no idea if this invention would resonate. I didn’t know. You know, I, I pitched at smart kitchen summit for the very first time not knowing anything.
Um, and, and my technology is surprisingly, or deceivingly complicated. It looks simple, but there’s a lot going on, uh, bouncing exothermic and endothermic and LPs, uh, while also leveraging the dewpoint temperature. So, so it looks simple, but there’s a lot happening there. Um, but, but getting validation from the market.
Uh, so that was, I didn’t know if anybody would care about, you know, soggy fries or, or crispy, you know, salads. Um, after the fact I’ve had so much rescue I one, that’s working to summit the very first time, got a big check. Great validation. These are the people that, you know, the [00:20:00] space. And so I had a green line basically to move forward after I won, it was like, well, I guess now I have to pursue this.
Um, was one thing to write the patent. I write patents all the time. Uh, so I mean, you know, that really wasn’t as big a deal. I think nine out of 10 patents never get realigned to kind of meaningful way. Uh, but getting validation. Then I, then I pushed forward. I needed the right partners. Prototyping is easy.
Uh, testing is easy scaling. Um, that’s, that’s, that’s building anything at scale. That’s the real, uh, obstacle. Um, and I just had to shop around for the right partners. Um, I’ve had bad partners in other startups, but I, I was fortunate. I got some great guys behind me. I’ve got a great team. Um,
You find these folks? Uh, so yeah, so I shopped around, I been involved in a lot of failed startups and, uh, you know, I had this in and not [00:21:00] everybody just cause it startup failed. It doesn’t mean that everything was wrong, you know? Um, so, so I had a network in place and uh, um, it’s, you have to give up some control and that that’s, that takes some, some trust.
Um, but, um, yeah, I mean, you know, LinkedIn is, is one way to go, but, uh, that’s a little bit of a shot in the dark approach, but I have met so many meaningful relationships through, through LinkedIn. Um, but, um, you know, using your, your personal network, personal network is really best. Even if it’s second person, a friend of a friend kind of deal.
Um, you know, people said about. You had other start-ups you had failures as well. And that’s really what I’m hearing you say is, you know, you really had that faith, right. That you could do something. Let’s just say that you [00:22:00] could be a successful inventor and bring these cool products to market, but you really savored let’s say and held onto those relationships.
If I’m understanding you, correct. That is one of the keys to your current success. Michelle. You’re absolutely right. I love it. And it’s something we hear at startup club. You know, we hope that others are connecting. You know, you can always connect with people on the stage, uh, via back channel or people, you know, that you see in the audience that you’re looking at.
The bios is a great way to network and bill, you really show the power of holding those, um, relationships and savoring them. Okay. Awesome. Thank you. Oh, you’re welcome. So moody, you know, we were fortunate enough to be able to be on the, you know, on the feed yesterday and see your pitch. It was phenomenal. I mean, [00:23:00] I was sitting there thinking, wow, why wasn’t this invented before?
You know, you made it sound so easy. So we’re dying to know, like, how did you get to this point and how are you going to get this product to the broad mass market? Yeah. Yeah, no, it’s, it’s a really good question, Michelle, and yeah, obviously it’s been far from easy, right. Um, but really where, where we started is, um, we had one goal from the get-go, uh, from day one, which is, you know, something, um, everyone in this call is probably familiar with, which is the MVP, right.
A minimally viable product. We had to come up with something that we can show people to really get us going and to get us moving in the right direction. Um, so we, we literally, you know, and for a, as cliche as it is, you know, and, and in the garage tinkered with hundreds of formulations, until we came with a formulation that seemed to work seem to be relatively [00:24:00] effective.
And I say that because it wasn’t always working and it wasn’t working on all fruits and it wasn’t working consistently the same, but nevertheless, it showed us that we have something here worth pursuing. So once we had that in hand, um, it was really a lot of, uh, You know what I think all entrepreneurs have to do at some point or another, which is just hustle and try to get your way, um, you know, try to get your product out there and, uh, and see what kind of traction it can get.
Um, and so what we did was we started really attending any conference that would, um, allow us to come in as a, as an early stage startup and set up a booth and talk about our idea. Or even if it’s, you know, if, if the conference would give us a, a free ticket to attend and we could walk around and chat with people, that’s really what we started doing.
And eventually we came across this one conference in Missouri, in 2018. Now the technology had been under development then for about three years. So in 2018, [00:25:00] uh, I presented, um, showed what the technology was about and. Someone came out of the, of the audience to us and said, Hey, you know, it’s really interesting what you guys are doing.
You’re working with volatile compounds. And I said, yep. She said, well, we have a, uh, a professor that’s been working with these compounds for the last 15, 20 years, but on the human application side of things. So I was instantly hooked and I had to find out who that was and see if there’s a synergy there, if we could work together.
Um, so it turns out to be a professor, the head of microbiology at KU Leuven, which is one of the top research universities in Europe. I get on the phone with him and, uh, I described the technology to him. I say, yeah, you know, we, we developed, we came up with this formulation. We can apply to the sticker, you apply the sticker to the fruit and it will extend the shelf life by inhibiting fungal growth.
And up to that point, the interesting thing. Everyone that would see this technology would say, yeah, there’s no way. There’s no way you could put a sticker on a fruit and protect the entire food and extend the shelf life. He was the [00:26:00] first person, um, you know, that had, had really the credentials that looked at this and said, oh, absolutely.
That’s exactly what would happen. Right. And so at that point we knew we had the right person. So it was a matter of bringing him on board as our chief scientific officer. And next thing you know, we have our R and D lab up and running and in Belgium. And that was absolutely key because we knew that, okay, we don’t have the background, the right background to really bring this technology to where it needs to be.
And the core of this technology has to be in the R and D you know, we didn’t have the bill. Bill was fortunate. Cause it sounds like bill was, you know, bill had the, the technical expertise we did not. Um, and so we built that team really from the, from the ground. Um, it’s, uh, it’s, it’s a team that was absolutely critical to optimizing the technology, improving its performance, identifying all the different variables that we can control eventually expanded to a materials engineering team, uh, and then started to put the product out there with our customers.
From there, we really started to listen to our [00:27:00] customers to see who was in most need of this technology. And, you know, though, we came up, for example, with the stickers that could be placed on fruits. What we found out pretty quickly after listening to the customers is that strawberries and berries in general are actually most in need of a technology like this because outside of refrigeration, post packaging, there is nothing that really is out there today that extends the shelf life of berries.
Um, they don’t ripen after they’re picked, so they’re not very sensitive to ethylene or a lot of the other technologies that can control that on the market today. Um, and so we started to expand our product. Pipeline to include solutions, uh, to the products in the market that were in most need of our technology today.
That’s fascinating. So, you know, just to, to summarize what you’re saying, you really had to hustle, right? It’s [00:28:00] so interesting. Here we are. We’re thinking the world is so global the internet, so easy to find information, but I’m hearing from you moody. Like you literally had to go hit the road, go on this massive search to find people that could really move your invention to this next.
Let’s say production. You know, minimal viable product to the next level. That’s fascinating. Absolutely. And I mean, I can’t emphasize that enough, that just as a, as an entrepreneur, you’re, you’re doing something that’s disruptive, that’s new. Um, you know, do not leave any stone unturned. I mean, that conference in Missouri, we weren’t even supposed to be there.
We literally got invited like two days before. Um, you know, I had other other plans canceled them, went to the conference, not making much of it. And, um, perhaps if it wasn’t for this conference, we would have never been here today because we would have never met that chief scientific officer. Right. And, and that’s just one example of [00:29:00] many that have been consistently happening over the last three or four years.
I mean, many calls that I’m thinking, okay, there’s nothing that’s going to come out of this call. And next thing you know, we’re talking to Walmart, right? So, um, that’s, that’s one thing that I can’t emphasize enough for, for entrepreneurs that are trying to bring their idea to carry out. And then secondly, something that really stuck with me that you said is you realize that you needed to build the team out to get the right knowledge and experience set.
I think that’s amazing, right? That you, you know, obviously you must be feeling, you know, very elated that you’ve made this discovery and now you can formulate it, but that you actually, you know, step back and said, okay, this team is not rounded out. Like who do I need to bring on? Like, I think that’s something that we all need to think about and all phases of our life.
Like when do we need to bring [00:30:00] somebody in to help us and just be brutally honest with ourself so that we can succeed. Absolutely. Yeah. Recognizing your blind spots is. Just as important as knowing what your strengths are awesome or we’re rooting for you. And it helps us see these patches in the grocery store soon and build packets in order to go food.
All right. Next is Nicole. Now of all the folks that talked, I think I have the least knowledge, you know, I never really had been aware of this, you know, idea that you could, I guess, customize the skin products. Like tell us a little bit more about it. Is it a highly personalized formulation or is it something that works for everyone and just, how do you, you know, get something like that to the market?
Yeah. Thanks, [00:31:00] Michelle. Um, so, so it’s personalized in that your own, we call it kind of the. True personalization, because really your organisms are making this for you. And so the way we’ve gone about doing that really comes from the technology and the platform. And, um, we get it to work on every one because we’ve focused in, on things that are common in your microbiome.
And because there’s all this functional commonalities, we can, we can induce those functions across individuals and through, through the brand we’ve really brought in even more personalization and that we can, um, not only point you to the right doses, uh, within the product. But we can also, um, personalize the point of the experience and the routine.
So we can actually tell you [00:32:00] about what are the best things for you. Some people like over scrub their skin, um, or overuse products, believe it or not. And it actually messes up their, their microbiome. And so those are things we can also help out with by looking at the microbiome that, that exists on your skin.
So, so there’s a lot of, a lot of pieces to it. And just as bill was mentioning, it there’s a lot of technology behind it, even though what, what, what sort of the, the product itself seems really simple. Um, and also the skin assessment seems simple, but there there’s a lot behind it and yeah, I mean, it’s a, it’s definitely.
Has been an incredible journey. And I sorta echo what, what moody mentioned, which is, um, for us, we built a sort of computational bioinformatic platform and we really had to go from proving a proof of concept of that, that we [00:33:00] could use this thing to make products and formulations. Um, and at the same time had to in parallel, you know, we were doing all the science.
Um, both in silico and in the lab at, at the same time, we were trying to go to conferences, talk to everybody. We could, you know, talk to everyone from people, you know, in the academic and science community, to people in marketing, in business strategy, um, in IP. And I was super lucky coming out of my, my last company, because I had met so many amazing people.
And that point where, you know, con you really, you’re looking for people that you really connect with that are see your vision. Um, you you’re, you always want to be looking for that, um, that that really are going to support you. And, and I [00:34:00] think we’ve had that piece as we move forward through discussions and things, you know, you find those people that would really, um, Really really understood where you were coming from and where you wanted to go.
And, you know, those people have become advisers and, um, you know, and, and again, I was lucky to have a lot of mentors, I think, starting civilly, but, um, yeah, I mean, the, the journey from idea to product has, I mean, we literally have went from an idea in silico to all the way to product, um, And the point where we can make our formulations understanding that my using knowledge from the microbiome, you know, it is a, it’s a crazy, it’s hard for me to think about sometimes because it’s been such literally going from that beginning stage to having a physical product that I even use every day.
It’s like pretty amazing. Um, and I think a lot of it came about [00:35:00] because of those discussions. Like you have to get to know people that have been through getting a product, a physical product to market in your space. Um, just so much knowledge there at every, at every point, if we came into a new area, you know, we wanted to meet people in that space and talk with them, hear about their experience.
Um, you know, for instance, when we were, when we were. Looking at the skincare space and, um, skin conditions. You know, we were, we’re talking to reaching out to people who were dermatologists in the space and knew the sensitive skin space and we’re experts in regulatory. And, you know, for, for every little piece, you want to just suck in as much knowledge as you can go to conferences in that space, um, learn how those things happen and, and try to bring again, bring those people in to help you, and, you know, maybe they become advisors to, um, to your company or [00:36:00] mentors for you.
How, however, however you see that. And we’ve been lucky to even have some mentors and advisors. I know become angel investors, um, and what we’re doing. So those pieces are both. Really necessary. You’ve got the science going on kind of in parallel as you’re doing these other things and continuing to communicate with people and trying to really move everything forward on both fronts.
Um, and it is it’s challenging. Um, and it’s a lot to do because a lot of times from day one, you don’t, you can’t form a team. You might not have the money from the get-go to form that amazing team that you want. Um, so really leaning on a lot of mentors and advisors and people that just will, will have conversations with you.
Um, you know, and maybe they, you have a conversation with someone. And they say, Hey, I know, I know this, this, this woman, you should talk to her. She’s launched a ton of products. She knows the process. She knows a bunch of manufacturers you [00:37:00] should chat with. Um, you know, or people that do formulation, get some input on that.
I mean, those, those conversations that I think moody mentioned this, you just, sometimes you don’t know what will happen. You might get this great insight or, or connection to someone who just unlocks this whole area for you. So, yeah, that’s amazing. Thank you really hearing from you, you know, just like moody, um, dead.
It’s you, you really have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable and be transparent. And I think that’s quite often times can be hard for entrepreneurs because they’re afraid, they’re afraid somebody’s going to steal their idea. They’re afraid people just don’t understand. But I think both of you have pointed to, you know, associate with the people that you can talk to that do have [00:38:00] that subject matter expertise that have more than you actually.
So I think that’s really, you know, a credit to the way the, both of you have been able to move forward. So thank you all three of you for sharing those tips to us. And, um, I’ll look forward to the next question I think from Colin. Yeah. And I, I can definitely attest to the fact that when you see your product in the wild, when I see a.club domain being used in the wild, or I see a pod.com bed, um, and I’ve seen, you know, I’ve seen.
I’ve seen that when I’ve traveled and looked at different real estate, um, I’ve actually seen some of our products in use and I get very excited about that. Um, I get such an elation, I think all entrepreneurs do. So I think Michelle, you talked a lot about go to market scaling, you know, let’s try the other side of the equation here, which is defending, building a moat, [00:39:00] protecting your assets.
What is it that you’ve done so far? You know, from a legal perspective, maybe from a branding perspective, from a distribution perspective, what is it that you’ve done to protect your ass, to protect the invention? Um, we’re going to start with you, Nicole. We’re gonna go backwards this time. Bill you’re last.
So go ahead, Nicole. Sure thing. So we’ve been really lucky in a couple of respects. So I did a lot of IP and IP strategy at my last startup and I was mentored by an amazing man named the crop. Who was the former CTO of Halliburton. And, um, he’s been an incredible mentor to me. Um, and so really learning from an expert on how you do things, and it is a changing environment on the IP side.
And you have to be aware of that, that there’s precedence in cases that happened, happened that [00:40:00] sort of changed the way things are viewed. And you, you kind of have to sit, stay a bit up-to-date on that. Um, but I will say in order to protect, um, you know, from the get go at civilly, we knew we want to, you know, file early, um, file as early as you can.
I think that’s, um, probably something that you’re going to hear from the other entrepreneurs. Um, and you also really want to find a good IP attorney or, you know, advisor that can help you and talk you through things. Um, Oh, as Michelle just mentioned, you know, a lot of people are very afraid to share their, you know, what they’re working on with other people, but I will S you know, and, and to, and to, to that point, I will say that, you know, when a defense, a good defensible patent has to have something called the speck in it, which, you know, really gives the details on how something is done.
Um, and so it [00:41:00] would be hard for someone to just take your idea, know exactly how that was put together or done, and be able to file and have a really good patent out of it. So, you know, the, the, the reality is, is that that’s really, really, really an educator. Um, and that, you know, talking with people about what you’re doing and when you, you know, finding someone good, um, an IP attorney and you can work with you don’t have to work with a, a giant expensive firm.
There’s, there’s tons of, um, consultants and freelance IP attorneys, um, that, uh, you know, we’ll, we’ll help you put together things to file, um, you know, at a more reasonable rate. And so the way we have thought just to get back to is already to get back to the, the main question here that we, we thought about, um, IP from the very get-go, um, at [00:42:00] Sibley, and we’ve had a strategy very early, um, that might be unusual if you’re, you know, this is your first startup or something.
So again, I would point you towards, you know, talking to some attorneys, talking to people that have gone through it, maybe some other founders, um, uh, Technical or non-technical that, that have had put together an IP strategy to get a sense of what that means. Um, but for civilly, you know, we filed really early.
We’ve had a strategy of, um, you know, since again, we have that bioinformatics platform, we thought early about protecting that and protecting this. That we would discover from it. So we’ve had what we, what we call a, an umbrella strategy, um, to protect, uh, the, the inventions as we go forward. So there’s a lot of discoveries being made and continue to be made.
So you’ll keep, keep filing on new things that you’ll find. Um, in addition to the IP piece, of course, as was mentioned from Collin, you [00:43:00] know, there’s, there’s other forms of protection and, um, we’ve enacted these, uh, both civilly and our brand route low. So, you know, trademarking and branding are also great ways to, um, to really create moats around what you’re doing.
Um, but I, I could keep going for a long time on this because it’s a favorite area of mine, but, um, you know, again, I would, I would say if you’re inexperienced in the space, you know, go talk to some other, um, some other founders talk to, um, You know, get connections to people that, that have experience with, with this.
Um, if you are forming your own company or you’re in the process of, you know, launching something you think is new, um, to get, to get input on it. Yeah. Appreciate that. And I firstname.lastname@example.org, we filed patents before the products came to market, which our attorney told us, gave us global patent rights. Um, there are some [00:44:00] products where we actually launched and then filed for the patent.
And then we were limited only to the United States. I’m not a lawyer, but I do think your idea about file file early is probably one of the best recommendations anyone here in the audience can receive. All right. Great moody. Yeah. So I, I agree with everything Nicole said, I guess to two things really, to highlight from my end and yeah.
Defending your technology and building that mode is. From day one, absolutely critical. And it’s going to last throughout the lifetime of the company. It’s never going to end. So I’ll start by saying that, um, uh, I think what’s important to highlight is when people hear IP or intellectual property, their mind goes right away to patents and trademarks, but it’s also just as important to recognize that IP is a lot more than just that, right.
There is the trade secrets, which are absolutely critical when you’re developing a technology like this, because [00:45:00] essentially when you’re developing a patent, if you put everything about the technology and the patent, um, now you could have some regions that don’t even care about the patent. Just write out infringe on your patent or work around.
You’re actually allowing your. Competitors to find out exactly what you’re doing and have some workarounds. So that’s where trade secrets become a supplemental, um, strengthening strategy to your patents that are absolutely critical to look into, um, as well as the third vertical. So the first vertical would be of course, patents and trademarks.
The second would be trade secrets. And the third would be know-how the expertise that you bring in-house that becomes, um, also quite important now, perhaps that’s, that may be the weakest arm because that person can always leave or that expertise can always leave, but there are methods of, of building into your quality management system and the way that you’re, um, you know, in your SLPs and everything else that supports your technology to bring in that expertise and that know-how into your company and make it unique to your [00:46:00] company.
Um, the second point, uh, to, to highlight regarding, uh, patents and Nicole touched on that really nicely is, um, Don’t underestimate the importance of bringing on an expert, someone that has deep expertise into that field, because it’s, it is, it is almost, uh, an entirely different, um, challenge from everything else that you’re, that you’re going to be, um, challenged with in that company.
And so really bring someone on board, um, or consult with someone that has a lot of experience in that area, because it’s an art as much as it is a science. And I mean, you know, just the freedom to operate question, for example, I’ve literally. Talk to one attorney who said, you know, completely useless waste of money and gave me really good reasons as to why.
And talk to another IP attorney that said, no, absolutely. You must do it. Um, you know, and then everything in between. [00:47:00] So, um, you know, ma make sure you do consult and bring on experts. If you don’t already have someone within your team that has that expertise, like, like Nicole would have had and moody. Do you also, um, sign contracts with your employees?
Like a confidentiality agreement, a non-competition a non-solicitation is that part of the, is that part of the process to protect the secret? Because if your secret formula gets out, I mean, You’re done potentially. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, it’s spot on. Exactly. But even with that in mind, calling that, you know, there are nuances to it because you know, more and more, uh, different laws in different regions won’t even allow you to do that with your employees anymore.
Um, so it’s really building in, um, and you know, I refer to the quality management system. So we, which is basically for those not familiar with it, it’s, it’s a system that we’ve built, uh, within the company managers, obviously the quality of the product, uh, but also, um, a lot of different other, a lot of other areas within the, [00:48:00] um, uh, the technology, like our proprietary library, for example.
So to elaborate on this a little bit more, we have our formulations, we have our patents that we filed, you know, Both you and Nicole mentioned early, um, and that really makes up our core patent strategy. But for our trade secrets, we have been now working with our clients over the last two and a half years.
Uh, the likes of, you know, um, all the and Walmart and, um, mission produce a lot of the distributors out there. And what we’ve done is we’ve collected these questionnaires from them that give us a very detailed account of what their produce, uh, Looks like traveling from the farm all the way down to their distribution center, down to the consumer.
It has a lot of details in there that are absolutely critical for us as a company to put out a successful product that can address the problem that they’re having. Right? So you look at something like this and you may think, oh, it’s just the questionnaire I sent to my customer. And, you know, you throw it in a drawer [00:49:00] somewhere, but when you start compiling this information and you start putting together this database and you start to realize that, Hey, I know how strawberries from all these different regions, um, all of the different nuances and all of the different.
Steps and processes that they’re going through that are absolutely critical for us to develop a technology. And all of a sudden you realize that even if someone had access to our patents, even if someone knew how to develop our technology or one of our product lines, they still don’t have all the information necessary from the customers to be able to deploy that technology correctly.
So you realize that that in of itself is, um, is important and is important to protect, but you can’t patent it. You’re not going to patent a questionnaire. Right. So then you start building this system in house that can, um, you know, give only certain employees access to it so that you could limit the risk of exposure if it goes out there.
Um, and, um, yeah, and you know, and again, it all comes back to really bringing [00:50:00] in someone in house that is, has done this before. Uh, you don’t want to, uh, you know, just, um, you know, there’s a lot of things that you could try for the first time. That’s not one of them. You really want to bring in someone that’s been doing this before.
That’s awesome. Thank you. All right.
Yup. Yup. Yup. Yeah. Phone fell asleep. So I filed a patent early. Um, I actually, I, as I said before, I didn’t pursue this product as a company until after the patent was approved because I understood the science and the product. And I had the MVP prototype by. Put it together. Uh, you, you really, without any Fox, uh, just because of my depth of knowledge and in some dynamics, uh, and environmental control.
Uh, so I filed the patent and then just waited to see if the patent would be approved because I thought the, um, the innovation was pretty straightforward, but I [00:51:00] mean, I see thermal dynamics all around me everywhere, but most people don’t. And so, uh, the patent did come through and then, uh, only, you know, after that, did I really pursue this as a, as a company?
Uh, I already had a patent attorney that, uh, I had a great relationship with, uh, um, you know, just smart guy, competitive pricing, um, very practical. Uh, one of the things that, uh, you know, uh, you know, was something to consider for me, was you filing international or not international? The U S market is the biggest market.
You know, for consumers, you know, really, and the patent process in the U S is pretty, um, affordable, you know, so, um, you know, I, I, you do have some international patents in this space, uh, but the first patents, um, that didn’t get filed internationally as well, but that’s a coin toss. I think, uh, anybody, any, any startup entrepreneur is going to have to consider the [00:52:00] merits and the cost of filing the international patent versus the U S patents.
Are you going to get economy of scale, making a product for the U S markets? Uh, that’ll give you an advantage, you know, from somebody who comes along later to try and copy you. Um, now I’m also, you know, in the food space, I feel like, you know what? This is food that people are feeding their families. Uh, they’re going to want transparent.
So, so the fact that I can say there’s no chemistry, I, my secret ingredient is temperature. You know, which, you know, if you’ve got allergies or anything like that, you know, you’re not going to, um, you know, you know, harm your family or your children by using this product, uh, around food. Um, so, and, and again, had had experience in patents from, you know, my professional career, uh, you know, rockets and missiles, um, you know, development and systems.
Um, so I was already familiar with, you know, picket fence approach to defending your patents. You know, you, you have a lot of patents that [00:53:00] are similar, but different. And then, uh, trap doors is another kind of, uh, kind of misleading patent that you file. Uh, you know, so people think they might do, they waste money researching something that’s not, you know, uh, meaningful that’s, um, uh, kind of another level of, uh, patent defense and strategy, but, um, And that the other two, uh, speakers did not mention, but, um, yeah, there’s, you know, a lot of classic, you know, patent, uh, defenses and strategies for protecting your, your IP.
Um, yeah. Yeah. Awesome. I’ve never heard of the trap door. All right, Jeff. Yeah. Great, great question calling and thank you for bringing up and great answers and different approaches and journeys. And I think it’s interesting, you know, patenting early, protecting your product early. And Nicole brought that up and bill really took that to an extreme by not even going through.
Um, with his product until he knew he had the patent in hand. And I also think it’s interesting when you think about protecting your invention, [00:54:00] patents probably is the first thing that comes to mind, but listening to Nicole and moody speak, there’s some other things that were brought up that I think are also really important around creating that moat.
You know, you talked about trade secrets and most of us think of, you know, Coca-Cola’s formula and things like that when we hear about trade secrets, but that’s an important piece. And the other two things I thought that were brought up that were interesting was Nicole, you mentioned branding, you know, developing a strong brand is part of building, building that moat.
And then moody, you talked about the data that you were able to accumulate and data is something that’s definitely part of protecting your invention, especially if that’s proprietary data that you’ve put the effort into collecting, that would be hard for someone else. To replicate. So I thought those were all great examples and great answers to your question, Colin.
So that’s terrific. We’re coming up close to the top of the hour, but I see we have Lauren on stage. Lauren, did you have a question for any of our inventors? Yes. I was just interested as what was your biggest [00:55:00] learning between the first time you tried and the second, you know, like what was that offer that made this woman that much more successful than the first try either your first business, try your first try on this current technology or business.
So any of our inventors want to answer Lauren’s question just giant? Uh, sure. Well, you know, I’ve, you know, smart, successful investors. VC people have have said this before. Uh, the biggest factor when it comes to success is timing and, uh, you know what, you can’t really do anything to control timing. Um, you know, I had early startups that were great, great IOT tech, but I was too early.
And, uh, you know, this, the saver pack product it’s the right time food delivery, uh, is, is massive food waste is now on everyone’s radar. Um, so, you know, I would say timing is something you can’t control and probably the biggest factor with regards to success or failure. [00:56:00] Um, I’ll, I’ll follow up and say, I couldn’t couldn’t agree more with bill.
Uh, what I’ll add then is, uh, the team, um, my, my biggest learning from the. Part of that I was involved with before was to really put together the right team and not just at the company level, but at the board level as well. Um, you’d be surprised at how detrimental a board can be to the success of the company, if they’re not aligned with the founders and with the direction that the company is going.
So be very careful about who you pick for your board. Um, and even at an extension of that, who you pick as an investor. So even if the investor is not part of the board doesn’t necessarily have a voting, right? You still want investors that really understand where you’re going, understand the risk and also understand the vision, um, behind the decisions, the decisions that you’re making.
So you can, um, maintain that support and sustain that momentum.
I’m going to add a bit of a [00:57:00] radical piece, this totally agree with what bill and moody just mentioned, but I think, um, and I, those are definitely. Points that I would emphasize too, but I, another big lesson that I had was really, um, the culture piece, uh, which is the, and I think this, this comes out of the team piece, but you know, so startups are really hard, especially early stage startups and, um, having, uh, support outside of work and having an N founders in the, in the early team, really having, um, I want to say like almost psychological support, um, is really important and, um, Uh, having, uh, being able to keep moving forward when you know, new [00:58:00] challenges pop up.
Um, so, so figuring, and, and, um, that for me has been such an important part of, of Sibley really realizing that, um, that, that, um, you know, growth being able to keep working, just keep, keep your mental health at a good place, I guess, for, for that early team. Um, and, and, you know, ways that you can work on that together.
And also as individuals. What a, what a great way to kind of wrap up and come to the top of the hour. You know, we’ve been talking to three inventors with very technical products, but I think everything that was discussed and the points that you all raised apply to truly any entrepreneur, you know, we talked about culture, just now building a team, timing, you, putting yourself out there, um, protecting, you know, building a moat around your company, your idea, these are [00:59:00] things that are not only true for inventors of highly technical products, but really for any entrepreneur in any startup.
So what a great discussion here on startup club today as part of the P and G ventures events we’ve been having going on all week. And with that, I want to hand it off to Michelle to kind of bring us home and wrap it up. This has been another phenomenal session with our P and G Procter and gamble studio ventures challenge.
Candidates finalists, and we’re going to get some past winners as well. So please stay tuned for our next panel. Our next panel is at 6:00 PM Eastern time, and it is our final panel. It is titled get funding for personal or taboo products. Um, in the session, we’ll also have the winner of this year’s challenge.
Um, this lady, Cindy Santa Cruz invented an amazing [01:00:00] non-drug non-pharmaceutical, um, device, so to speak, to help folks control bladder leaks. So we’re really looking forward to hearing her and her counterpart on the next session. You know, that’s a hard subject, right? Like how in the world you go and you try to explain to investors and people and try to get them excited about products that, you know, people just generally don’t want to talk about.
So that will be our next session with the focus on funding. But first, please make sure that you go to our website, www.startup.club. You can join our email list. And also we are recording and writing blog posts on all these amazing sessions. So we have a ton of content that we’ve been building out over the last few months.
We have well over a hundred blog posts and they’re all there for your resource. Um, you know, it’s just [01:01:00] phenomenal amount of diverse advice that you’ll get across verticals. So we strongly encourage you to check it out. So on that note, everyone, please stay safe and we’ll see you at 6:00 PM. Calling bill and Mooney and Nicole, of course, for joining us and sharing your stories and, and really your journeys, um, from idea to success.
So congratulations to all three of you. Absolutely. If you are, if you are on next week, uh, at two o’clock Eastern Friday, Geoffrey Moore’s coming on one of the top business authors we’re looking forward to seeing you then. And of course, uh, bill and Nicole and moody, and Laura, you’re always welcome back on the serial entrepreneur club.
Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you so much for having us.[01:02:00]