1:00 - From the US to Engelberg
14:30 - The vending machine market
20:56 - A disruptive business model
32:51 - Who stands in the way of disruption?
44:45 - Thinking about the exit
Jon Brezinski is the co-founder and CEO at Invenda, a company disrupting the machine industry with connected smart technology. Invenda offers smart vending machines, digital signage and smart fridges, as well as business intelligence, customization and integration services. Their partners include Microsoft and Intel. Jon comes originally from the U.S., having studied Information Systems at the University of North Carolina.
His first job after college was at a startup. Experiencing a work environment where everybody had a fixed job but also evolving responsibilities showed Jon that this was the path for him.
In 2016 he founded Invenda, having originally been inspired by a trip to Philadelphia, where he had been working on a ticket machine project. Their MVP provided clients with a 20-80% sales increase, which is no wonder: Invenda machines have shopping carts, allowing customers to buy several products at a time, which means that for every product sold by traditional vending machines, Invenda sells 4. In the first 3 years, Invenda only invested 3% of its budget on sales and marketing, which means they ended up with a pretty solid and attractive product — but they are now ready to start shifting their budget priorities.
Even though the vending machine market is quite large (with over 15m of these machines all over the world), Jon is interested in a accessing markets whose products have not traditionally been sold by vending machines, like socks or luxury chocolate.
Jon thinks one of the biggest challenges startups face is knowing which opportunities are worth pursuing, since there's no shortage of them. But how do you maintain the right focus?
- Try to keep things fun. Choose things that your team would find interesting;
- Use market research from your core customers;
- Consult your partners.
Jon is also a big proponent of hiring for culture and not skills. People can learn almost anything, and having someone "rock the boat" is dangerous. Don't get blindsided by someone's beautiful CV. He also tells his employees that every conversation they have should be a job interview, since finding the right people is an ongoing process that everyone can participate in.
Invenda has had a couple of companies approach them about exit scenarios but thus far none seemed like the right fit. Jon also doesn't feel like Invenda is done with its journey yet.
"One of our main challenges as a startup is to figure out which opportunities are worth pursuing."
"As a founder I have a lot of weird problems I never expected to have and which none of my friends can relate to."
"I think I'm the only person I know who goes to board meetings and has fun."