Meet The Disruptors: Roderick de Rode Of Spinn On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

‘Recruitment is everything’ is definitely one of the most important drivers for success, you need a skilled and high-performing team that understands the mission and are equally convinced to get things done. Diversity, especially, and hiring a mix of characters turned out to work in our case.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Roderick de Rode.

Roderick de Rode founded Spinn in 2015 out of his passion for excellent coffee and a disdain for the wasteful, expensive, and mediocre coffee that was produced by popular POD systems on the market. Spinn is on a mission to reimagine coffee for the connected age and the discerning coffee lover. Prior to Spinn, Roderick got his start in tech, working at Dell, Microsoft, and other startups.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I have a background working in the technology industry, and am very passionate about sustainability and, of course, coffee. Knowing that coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in the world and that consumers crave convenience and quality in their daily lives, I watched as an era of fast-brewed, yet culturally and environmentally destructive coffee, such as K-Cups, rose to the top.

My disdain for wasteful, expensive, and mediocre-tasting coffee from POD systems pushed me to create Spinn in 2015. Using its multi-patented centrifugal brewing technology, Spinn invented a new and exciting way to homebrew, which allowed the coffee to taste better, all while avoiding the use of wasteful filters and pods. We use technology to empower consumers to make a better cup of coffee in a very easy way and supported by a network of 500+ artisan coffee roasters in the USA.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Spinn is a hardware-enabled coffee marketplace redefining the home coffee experience through extraordinary craft, wireless convenience, and zero waste. Spinn is disrupting not only the at-home coffee experience but also tapping into technology to create a pod-free and first-of-its-kind digital coffee marketplace. Unlike other products on the market, the revolutionary, brilliantly connected Spinn Coffee Maker effortlessly crafts the perfect coffee, espresso, cold brew, and more all from the touch of an app.

Additionally, our brand defines a new and unique better-for-the-planet coffee maker category using whole coffee beans instead of disposable filters or pods, all while offering this unrivaled convenience. Spinn embodies the values that drove the spread of coffee from the 11th century to today, and has connected a global network of coffee roasters, tasters, makers, and consumers. By creating a platform that links growing to roasting and brewing to tasting, we are able to deliver on the promise of the highest quality coffee, every time.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Misjudging the time and effort it takes to engineer and develop great products and services.

Not hindered by any knowledge of coffee or hardware manufacturing, we started with a ten-slide pitch deck. After receiving a great first response to the idea, it turned out to be much harder to get the product to market with the big amount of pre-orders that we sold. You see similar patterns with Tesla model 3 and Cybertruck, products that take very long to actually deliver after the first hype of the announcement and pre-ordering process. In the end, it’s live and learn.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

The biggest inspiration really was the very first pre-order customers and investors that were interested in the product and proposition. When we got invited to an accelerator program in Silicon Valley, the biggest question from investors was ‘show product market fit’ — is the product this something that people actually want to buy and use? With that feedback in mind, we launched an early-stage website, explaining what the idea was and a video that showed what we had in mind. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with tens of thousands of people signing up for the product. This was the biggest driver and inspiration to continue the journey, seeing that we were not alone in our frustration with POD systems that produce mediocre coffee. Advisors come and go and they all make a smaller or bigger impact.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

The idea of disruption excites some people and terrifies others. In my opinion, disruption is always good because it creates a shift in mental models. How do we think about our existing reality and what should come next? In the end that’s where progress, innovation and evolution lives. It’s human nature to grow, evolve and improve the way we do things. POD coffee systems were revolutionary 35 years ago because they solved a convenience problem. However, our new beliefs and realities allow for newer, more modern solutions that fit the current day and age. We cannot justify polluting the world with unsustainable practices. We believe Spinn makes better coffee. Not only better tasting, but also better for the environment. Therefore, we have to disrupt the current thinking about portioned coffee and wasteful plastics for every cup of coffee made with a capsule system.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • Well number one is ‘don’t give up’. A cliche, but tenacity, drive and determination are important factors when you’re building something new on the unbeaten path with lots of competition. At times you might feel like Don Quixote holding on to faith, but faith combined with passion has created amazing things (also many terrible things, by the way).
  • ‘Recruitment is everything’ is definitely one of the most important drivers for success, you need a skilled and high-performing team that understands the mission and are equally convinced to get things done. Diversity, especially, and hiring a mix of characters turned out to work in our case.
  • ‘There is no rule book’ turned out to be true. You can read so much about all other founder stories and how companies were built and the do’s and don’ts, but every story is unique. Much like the people building these companies.
  • Philosopher Seneca once said ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’. We’ve been called lucky many times, but when we analyzed why certain favorable things happened it did come down to accumulations of circumstances that triggered a magical outcome.
  • I enjoy listening to music and it gives me a lot of inspiration. So the fifth best word of advice is found in the song ‘That’s life’ by the great Frank Sinatra. It helps when you’re down and out and need a push to get back in the saddle.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

At its core, Spinn is always growing, aiming to revolutionize the industry as a whole and reimagine coffee for the connected age. In fact, Spinn’s hardware-enabled, app-connected coffee system recently launched a first-of-its-kind cold brew feature, which enables coffee lovers to create cold brew in under 60 seconds. People love it. Spinn’s app and coffee marketplace will continue to grow, remove complications, and craft the perfect cup of coffee. Next steps will involve making things faster, better, and cheaper. We have ideas for smaller machines, commercial applications, alternative beverages, and expanding into international markets.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I would say the school of life has had a deep impact on my thinking. I believe in a decentralized way of learning and a multitude of experiences and input that shape one’s beliefs and behavior. There are so many sources of knowledge, wisdom, and learning that it’s hard to pinpoint the most important ones. From Spinoza and Socrates to Mike Tyson, Van Gogh to Bill Gates and Chuck D, they’ve all had an impact on my mental construct. I listen to the ‘standard’ Podcasts like Guy Raz ‘How I Built This’; Reid Hoffmans ‘Masters of Scale’; A16Z podcast and Lex Fridman, and try to cherry-pick from the enormous amount of information coming our way.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Fear is a bad advisor. We have taken a lot of risks that led to good outcomes. Face your fears and live your dreams is what they say. I encourage anyone to drive for progress over perfection, and start doing. The fear of imperfection can have a massive impact on progress, slowing things down.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It’s unfortunate to see the suffering, hate, and division in the world that is often driven by misunderstanding and fear. Not to sound like a hippie, but I think it’s time for more love, understanding, care, and kindness in the world. Life is just too short.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Roderick de Rode Of Spinn On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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