“I hate ambiguity and uncertainty when cooking a steak,” says Ben Harris. “We wanted to find a way for the ingredients and recipes to talk to each other and help people make the best food they can.”
Cooking great food can be a challenge even for the most experienced chef – the perfect balance of ingredients and timing is vital to get the best results. But can the Internet of Things (IoT) make cooking great food easier?
In 2014, Harris launched Drop to be the answer. One of the first smart IoT kitchen tools, it is designed to help even the least talented amateur chefs to cook perfect dishes by allowing the ingredients and recipes to talk to each other.
The app features video demonstrations, and connects wirelessly to a smart set of scales, which sense the weight of the ingredients added, and continually recalculate quantities needed as cooking progresses. If you’re missing certain ingredients the app can also suggest substitutions.
Ben’s new kitchen tool has been a hit with customers in the US, and with an international rollout now underway, Drop is on its way to revolutionizing the way people cook around the world.
Successes like Drop don’t happen in a vacuum. They call for a range of skills that only start with technology and analytics. They also require customer focus, strong partnerships, superior financial and risk management, and enterprising people.
Drop encountered seven key challenges while evolving from a start-up to sustainable, scalable business. Their experiences and responses may help you to identify new ways to adapt your operations to drive and support rapid growth.
- Harnessing digital technology and analytics
The combination of the Drop smart scale, app and powerful analytics tools allows them a detailed insight into exactly how and when the product is being used, which helps the team at Drop to optimize it for a better customer experience.
- Focusing on customer needs
Drop is fundamentally about solving its customers’ problems – all of which will be different from person to person, depending on the food they’re cooking, their skill levels, and the recipes they are adapting as they go. To do this, it tracks a range of user data to understand both what they are making and how. With this data, Drop can understand how people cook (their habits and preferences), and where they are having difficulty, enabling them to update their services and recipes to anticipate and address individual needs. This personalized insight is the main driver of their long-term customer retention strategy.
- Building alliances
Like most tech start-ups, Drop could not continue to grow without tapping in to expertise from outside the organization. Drop partnered with another firm to handle hardware, shipping and logistics. They also negotiated a retail partnership with Apple, launching the Drop scale in Apple stores in the US, Canada and the UK.
- Securing funding
Rapid expansion requires funding and targeted investment. In late 2014, Drop secured US$2 million in seed funding and additional investment, and focused this on growing the capabilities of their engineering, customer support and community teams to improve their customer experience, boosting long-term loyalty as well as their reputation through reviews and word of mouth.
- Building the right team
Harris comes from an entrepreneurial family and so knew that finance, data and analytics cannot be successfully deployed without the right people, with the right mixture of expertise and experience. He teamed up with his co-founders, whose collective backgrounds brought the necessary skills from digital media, technology and software design and development, and hired tactically to fill knowledge gaps as needed.
- Embracing yet minimizing risk
When entering new business areas, there will always be unforeseen risks. This is why it is important to seek advice early, as Drop found. “We had been focused on prototypes and not on the back end of the organization such as sales, marketing, shipping and inventory management,” says Harris. “We had designers covering these areas until we could get the necessary experts on board.” Drop were able to cope, but the key to successful risk mitigation is to identify potential issues as early as possible.
- Evolving effective operations
Harris soon realized that he had to build the foundations of his organization in a way that would allow it to scale up quickly – taking it from concept to success in only 18 months. By keeping its core operations small, growing internal capabilities while acquiring deeper expertise through targeted hiring, it has retained an agility that has enabled it to grow strategically and deliver efficiently.
EY has developed a framework to help identify the Seven Drivers of Growth organizations need to balance and grow a business quickly and sustainably. “No company needs to be at the leading edge for all seven to accelerate growth,” says EY’s Annette Kimmit. “But like a recipe, the key to success is finding the right mix of investment across all Drivers, based on the business’ ambition, strategy and level of maturity.”