Michael McAfee is our man on the ground at this year’s IoT World Event in California and gives us the inside scoop.
The cup of Joe is as much a part of American culture as hotdogs and baseball. Michael McAfee is no exception in his love of a good brew! As an early backer of Bonaverde, Michael waved the Bonaverde flag at the 2018 Internet of Things conference in Santa Clara. He spoke with us after the event, and shed some light on possible futures of IoT consumer technology, its use in business, coffee in America, and where he sees Bonaverde fitting into the big picture.
First, a bit of background: Having been inspired by the original coffee renaissance of 90s Seattle, and dreaming of starting his own little roasting company, a chance encounter with Bonaverde’s Hans Stier at a CES event in our fledgling days prompted Michael to change tack, so since 2014 he has been one of our early backers and biggest supporters.
Rise of the Coffee Oligarchs
He’s observed change in consumer trends for a while now: In a world previously dominated by percolators, Michael witnessed that Big Bang of modern coffee drinking — the rise of Starbucks, and the Seattle coffee scene — and a burgeoning espresso culture starkly different from the American coffee palate that had preceded it. Here was a renaissance, and triumph of the cafe over the diner. The first hint that the experience was just as desired as the drink.
More recently, Nescafe took that evolution a step further and brought consumer electronics en mass to households with single portion capsules, offering a variety of roast profiles and simplifying the single batch at-home coffee preparation process. Here however, Michael feels there was a massive missed opportunity in truly engaging coffee drinkers in the whole experience. It had focused on the product, not on the emotive connection.
There is an entire market of people clearly interested in the variety of different provenances and flavours permeating the coffee world, but who weren’t being given access to the story of the coffee; no opportunity to understand these differences in greater detail, or to tailor to their own, unique taste preferences — where was that engagement? Likening it to Uber vs driving yourself, Michael’s metaphor hits on the benchmark standard of the current coffee industry: a sole focus on the destination, rather than the joy in experiencing in the journey itself.
The New Coffee Drinker
Michael is one of an emerging group of new global coffee consumers: a perfect storm of being conscientious, tech interested and quality driven. He noted that the IoT 2018 conference really highlights the contrast where the bulk of the bench-top coffee machine makers are headed versus what the market is waiting for. Armed with feedback from some of the 12,000 attendees at the event, to Michael the Bonaverde roast, grind and brew integrated system really sets it apart from the rest — after all, IoT in addition to inter-connectivity of appliances and lifestyle, it in essence centres on combining more congruent technologies together.
To him, having that roast capability as a key point of difference is only the tip of the iceberg. The future of consumerism lies in those peripheral service elements which ultimately serve to create a better customer experience. An example might be our Coffee Concierge — which in the spirit of foresight harnesses an already widely used tool (Facebook Messenger) rather than developing a proprietary system (which would render it more challenging to integrate Bonaverde products with other manufacturers’ IoT devices).
Letting IoT Work for Everyone
The interaction and customizable properties which IoT offers is still a core feature for the Bonaverde Berlin. IoT not only improves the customer experience via the service element of a product (as for instance, with Bonaverde’s new subscription-based, automatic reorder Coffee as a Service function), but additionally creates that extra intimacy with their suppliers, engagement with and putting a face to those artisans, communities and farmers which have always worked so hard to craft fine green coffee beans. So harkening back to that metaphor: the appeal is in driving the car, not getting from point A to point B — and this is what Bonaverde is offering the next generation of coffee consumers: a story with every cup.
Sustainability and IoT
IoT World Santa Clara was a mix of platform builders in technology, and manufacturers of finished products. Michael noted a desire from consumers, but a lack of conversation surrounding sustainability from suppliers, and something which needs to be discussed more.
Nescafe disrupted the industry with their capsules, but at the same time generated a lot of negative publicity with plastic polluting the environment. Conversely, Bonaverde in addition to their multi-purpose biodegradable pouches is uniquely positioned to answer this question: “How does IoT, not just a product, greater help the environment?”
How Does IoT Help Make Better Businesses?
The Efficiencies of IoT pervade all levels of business. For instance, the benefits are obvious for a consumer, in having integrated, connected technology — and the major impact this has on improving both consumer’s and farmer’s lives alike — but from a business operations perspective, IoT can also provide great insights and educate us how to be a leaner company (particularly for Bonaverde, in our critical start-up phase of our growth). As an example, it could be used to give us an accurate idea of product demand, consumer preference, or consumption frequency, so as to guide JIT stock management, minimise waste and carbon footprint, inform product development and ultimately make us or our distributors more responsive and nimble. Most importantly, it makes us more reliable, and provide better service to our customers and stakeholders alike.
It was interesting to understand where Michael’s evangelism has come from. What was initially intended to be a brief phone conversation to get feedback on the IoT World Santa Clara event, quickly become a really valuable window into where Bonaverde fits into the big picture bridging that yawning gap between technology, consumerism and a humanitarian & environmental cause. And further, where we are as a small startup company now, what we should be doing, and where we’re going in the future.
Just now rising from our crowdsourced origins, the road has been a fun but rocky ride of course for Bonaverde. This journey, and our vision is perhaps best captured by his parting wisdom: “You’re a kickstarter. Yeah there’s rough edges. But they’re not insurmountable. In the end, the tech is out there, the world is heading there and people are waiting for something exactly like this and be open about how you want to get there.”
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