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Meet Pascal Kriesche of smoodi in Cambridge and Allston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Pascal Kriesche.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Pascal. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It all started when I was working on a different start-up idea. I was looking to build an educational cryptocurrency trading platform as part of a start-up boot-camp at Harvard Business School, where I am currently pursuing my MBA degree. Even though I was very interested, I felt I was never knowledgeable enough about the field. I reflected on how I could leverage my skill set as a Mechanical Engineer and combine it with something I was truly passionate about. My new morning routine came to my mind: smoothies.

There is actually a funny story about how I started to drink smoothies every morning: A few weeks earlier, my wife Anakaren, wanted to buy a blender for us. I told her that we would never use it and that it was a complete waste of money. She bought it anyway and once I tried it, I fell in love. I was always in a rush in the mornings and never made time for breakfast before. Now, breakfast was as simple as blending up a smoothie! Plus, drinking something I made myself felt really good.

Now, I make a different smoothie every morning, it’s almost meditative as an experience – it’s the one time a day when the world around me fades away, and it’s just me smiling and enjoying my smoothie. I then thought about ways to share this moment of happiness with more people. I started with a B2C solution but pivoted to B2B since it could have a bigger impact with changes in workplace culture. And thus smoodi was born: a robot for customized smoothies in the workplace. Imagine a coffee machine for smoothies!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I was fortunate to gather a team of seven enthusiastic team members this summer, allowing us to do extensive testing. We served fresh, personalized smoothies in different offices around Boston and for at-cost rates. Our first MVP of the machine? The team. We were able to prove several key assumptions of our business model and value proposition.

As it turns out, people love to customize their smoothies, and almost every customer felt a boost in their mood. As with any startup, we have certainly experienced many struggles along the way. Going out into the field and serving smoothies has been great for customer discovery, but also meant I had to lug a 120L cooler full of fruits, and bags of ingredients and blenders around Boston every week. Needless to say, there were a ton of logistics and the work was tiring.

When talking to potential investors I always hear, “Hardware is hard”. I agree that it is hard, but it is certainly not impossible. Once you have a product, you have a first mover advantage. And of course, there are always critics. I’ve had people make jokes like “smoothies served by a Harvard MBA, this must be the most expensive barista ever!” or advisers laughing at the idea telling me I was in a “smoothie bubble.”

As an entrepreneur, your confidence in your idea and product is often challenged and it’s important to take in feedback without taking criticism personally. Fortunately, I love challenges and I am naturally an optimistic person, otherwise, I probably would have already given up!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Our mission is to make employees happier and healthier. A recent study from the Harvard Business Review has shown that productivity and sales are 31% and 37% higher when employees are happy or satisfied, not to mention the savings associated with a healthy workforce.

US companies already spend around $30bn on office free food annually. However, most of it is unhealthy. Healthy options are often expensive and inconvenient. At the same time, employees are more and more concerned about health. We want to help office managers make their employees happier and healthier by providing the first affordable, healthy (+vegan!) and an exciting option in the workplace.

So far, we have served more than 1,000 smoothies and already signed on six clients. We are currently prototyping the smoodi machine – the first robot for customized smoothies in the workplace! In the medium term, we might expand into gyms, residential buildings, universities, restaurants, etc.

In 5 years, we want smoodi to be a synonym of affordable, convenient, fun and personalized healthy food across the U.S. We want to be the way people discover new flavors and superfoods while making them feel great.”

What were you like growing up?
I have always been an entrepreneur. I remember when I “launched” my first business: During our family vacation in Greece (I was seven years old), I saw all the vendors at the beach and decided to sell slices of watermelon. I asked my dad for some money to purchase the melons and was able to return it quickly while keeping a nice profit.

I started several similar “ventures” at a young age – I certainly leveraged the fact of being a kid to push my sales, but I guess the entrepreneurial spirit has never left me. Growing up, I dreamed of being an inventor, and that led me to study Mechanical Engineering in Germany and France and now an MBA.

Today, I’m excited to fulfill that childhood dream and build a machine that will make people healthier and happier.

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