What’s the inspiration behind GoBe?
The inspiration for GoBe came from MANY different experiences that all converged into a single idea.
The most distinct moment for me was during a drive with my family (Solanda, me, and our toddler). During our drive, Solanda offered a snack to our hungry toddler. Instead of giving the toddler the entire container of strawberries, she handed her one bite at a time so the toddler wouldn’t spill the container all over the back seat.
I remember having this distinct thought- “What if there was a Snack Dispenser (like those old PEZ Dispensers from the 90’s)? A snack dispenser you could load with any food, including fresh strawberries, and the toddler could use it by herself to dispense one bite at a time.”
The idea for the Snack Spinner was born. It took several iterations to get it where it is today, but that was the seed that started it all!
This is not your first foray into kitchen innovation— what drew you to this field?
Honestly, I’m not really into the kitchen per se. I have always been more into cars, and I wanted to become a great car designer.
That being said, I’m lucky that my career has led me to spend so much time in the kitchen. It’s a great place to be and I love the design challenges it provides.
How do you work with your co-founder?
My co-founder is my lovely wife. We met in college and fell in love in the library where we studied together for hours every day. But before we were lovers, we were just friends for a long, long time. I gave her dating advice and she gave me dating advice. Then, one day, we realized that there was no one that we wanted to be with but each other.
She’s a great partner in crime! We have really loved the time we’ve spent together building a family and a business.
You are both leading a business and are busy parents. How has founding a company influenced your parenting style?
We like to say that the business is our 3rd child. Both are a lot of painstaking work but also hugely fulfilling and rewarding.
Yes, GoBe has definitely changed the way we parent. Our first product, the Snack Spinner, is a great way to offer variety and give autonomy and choice to a growing toddler. I’m better at offering that variety than I used to be. We use our Snack Spinners almost every day and ultimately GoBe has been a great lifestyle for our family.
How do you handle risk and competition?
People like to say that entrepreneurs are risk-takers, but I don’t think that’s really true. Entrepreneurs don’t like risk very much. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be entrepreneurs for very long because they’d risk too much, too often and eventually those risks would catch up with them. Entrepreneurs always think about how to limit their downside. So they are always taking risks, but they're taking calculated risks.
Experimentation is my modus operandi. I try to run little experiments on everything. It’s my way of de-risking a new idea.
As for how I handle competition—I dislike competing head-to-head very much. I usually aim to avoid direct competition. So for example, if I see everybody lined up at the front door trying to get into the building, I ignore the front door and look for another way in.
That’s usually how I think about competition. I always want to rewrite the rules. If I find myself in a red ocean, where there’s lots of sharks in the water, then I leave and go look for a blue ocean to swim in. I guess you could say that I’m not competitive in the classic sense.
What’s been the top challenge you’ve faced while launching your company?
My number one challenge has been myself. The battle with one’s self is real. It’s one of the most rewarding challenges you can face though.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Oh yeah! I always thought that I was a masterful implementer. It turns out that I’m mediocre in many ways at executing ideas. Rather, I’m the ideas guy and I’m a strong visionary. This was a big surprise to me when I realized it and it’s really changed the way I work.
I still have to execute on a lot of things, but I also lean on my team that is better than me at a lot of things. I’ve really learned to surround myself with great people.
What’s your team culture like?
In our company, we all have a lot of flexibility and autonomy which helps everyone balance career with family. Family first is core to our culture.
Additionally, we strive for a culture of candidness. One way we do this is to randomly assign someone to play devil's advocate during meetings. That person’s job is to poke holes and push back on new ideas. This helps our team flex their candidness muscle and rewards team members for expressing dissenting opinions. We believe we can only be smart as a team if everyone feels free to disagree openly. That being said, we also value respect and kindness in our culture. We believe in being candid and kind simultaneously.
What is your superpower?
My superpower is focus. I try to always work alone in the mornings. I turn off my phone and don’t check email until noon most days so I can focus with no distractions for deep focus on my most important projects.
Afternoons are for meetings, collaborations, phone calls, distractions, and all the other little things that have to be done to run a business.
Having strong team focus and purpose is equally important. I try to find time every day to communicate with the whole team regarding the vision and strategic goals for GoBe.
What’s your kryptonite?
Mental health and depression. I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager. So, even though I have many good tools to deal with it, occasionally I have to take a mental health day.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I open all my mail from the short side instead of from the top.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Besides taking care of toddlers and trying to be an involved father, I pretty much spend the rest of my time working. It’s a little embarrassing to say that I don’t have any hobbies outside of work, but honestly that’s the way I like it. My work is my hobby.
Actually, I do love to read. That’s the only other thing I make time for on a regular basis. For the past 5 years, I’ve read at least 2 books a month.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Always be strengthening the ties in your network.
Spend just 5 minutes a day reaching out to 3 people in your network to touch base and get updated on their life and projects. Find every opportunity to connect people to each other in ways that add value to each person’s goals. This habit doesn’t have to take much time, and if you do it consistently it will be a blast!
This one habit will open hundreds of doors for you every year; doors you couldn’t even imagine!