E727: Future of Food: ROBOTS! w/Alex Garden (Zume Pizza), Henry Hu (Cafe X), Deepak Sekar (Chowbotics); bonus: Hotel Tonight’s Amanda Richardson shares how to grow revenue by giving away your product



about this episode

Filmed at LAUNCH Festival 2017, Jason sits down with Alex Garden of Zume Pizza, Henry Hu of Cafe X, and Deepak Sekar of Chowbotics to have a candid discussion about the future of robotics in the food industry—the inspiration for their companies, successes, regulation challenges, and the great debate around automation of labor. And then Amanda Richardson of HotelTonight shares her experiences of being a small company in a crowded industry, getting attacked by one of their largest competitors, and how her team went from 2-3 bookings a day to now doing tens of thousands of room nights a day, with 20m downloads, in 37 different countries. She challenges us to focus on the “superpower” of being a small company, to know your users, and to think about your differentiation in the industry.

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00:30: Jason introduces the Future of Food panel: Alex Garden (Zume Pizza), Henry Hu (Cafe X), & Deepak Sekar (Chowbotics)

01:49: Alex talks about the genesis of his idea for Zume Pizza

4:07: Zume’s goal is to have a fully automated production process

5:00: Zume is the only pizzeria concept that can put 100 catering pizzas hot on the table at an office

6:45: Henry talks about the prototype days for Cafe X and the public’s initial response

7:26: Post-LAUNCH Festival updates for Cafe X

8:02: Response from health department

12:19: Alex shares how he dealt with regulations

13:27: Deepak: Chowbotics uses robots to solve several problems in food service including compromised cleanliness and inefficiency

15:06: Deepak talks about Chowbotics’ regulation journey

20:57: The panel shares their thoughts about the threat of jobs and social responsibility

32:54: The panel shares their predictions for when menial jobs in retail/food service will be replaced by automation

34:27: Amanda gives an introduction to her talk about how to take advantage of being a small team, and how you can use that to beat out big competitors

36:35: Amanda explains HotelTonight’s approach to competing

37:37: HotelTonight Killer

38:39: Differentiate. Focus on emotions, needs and inspiration of travel

41:05: The team decided to tackle one problem really well: tipping, because it was a big friction point for customers

42:40: The team built a product called HT Pros to create a differentiated experience

43:44: Amanda shares one of her favorite customer success stories

46:13: HT Pros results

47:46: Takeaways: Focus on your superpower, know your users, and think about your differentiation

49:15: How do you think about emerging technologies and trends?

50:59: How did you decide to make the interface in the app vs. through another system like iMessage?

52:37: With conversations with various internal people and board members on charging vs. not charging

53:55: What tactics did you use to understand the emotions of your users?

55:30: What are the best re-engagement tactics that you’ve seen?

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