Michael Mayer is the co-founder and CEO of Bottomless, a company that uses wifi connected weight sensors to do automatic home restocking. Their first, and only, offering is fresh roasted coffee.
Every customer pays an annual fee (like an Amazon Prime membership) and receives a coffee scale. The scale measures the amount of coffee remaining in your bag and automatically sends you the next one when you’re running low.
Over time, Bottomless learns your coffee preferences and sends you personalized selections.
This is not a paid endorsement.
Bottomless was founded by Seattle-based by Mayer and his wife Liana Herrera in 2016. In 2018, they were admitted into the Y Combinator accelerator program.
In this episode, Aaron and Michael discuss the constraints Bottomless has had to overcome, the future products that Bottomless might sell, and what he learned at Y Combinator.
Sign up for a Weekly Email that will Expand Your Mind.
Michael Mayer’s Challenge; Curate your inputs. Unfollow anything in your information diet that is not a building block for good thought.
Connect with Michael Mayer
Get a Free Bag from Bottomless
If you liked this interview, check out this interview with Dr. Timothy Wong where we discuss reducing the cost of visiting a doctor and fundamentally rethinking medical care.
Underwritten by Piper Creative
Piper Creative makes creating podcasts, vlogs, and videos easy.
How? Click here and Learn more.
We work with Fortune 500s, medium-sized companies, and entrepreneurs.
Follow Piper as we grow
Subscribe on iTunes | Stitcher | Overcast | Spotify
Mayer: In the long run, you're going to see people reinventing, essentially every single grocery vertical for the people that happens really care about that vertical. And so that's, that's sort of like our long-term vision is we're going to be sort of connecting those sellers to you in a way that is a lot more durable and consistent than a subscription.
Watson: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to going deep with Aaron Watson. I am really excited about today's episode with Michael Mayer. Michael is the co-founder and CEO of a company called Bottomless. I've been a customer of bottomless and think that it is both a fascinating company, an interesting product, and a very likely revolutionary model for thinking about commerce.
As you'll hear in this interview, Michael has been tinkering with the company idea for more than four years. He has taken it through Y Combinator and has seen some really exciting growth over the last year as it starts to catch on. But in this conversation, we also talked about the business strategy.
His lessons learned from Y Combinator and Y a slower form of e-commerce is crucial, not only for lowering the price of the goods that we buy every single day, week, and month, but also for reducing the environmental impact of those things on our world. This is a powerful idea. Pay close attention. Here is Michael Mayer.
Watson: Mike, thanks for coming on the podcast, man. I'm excited to be talking with you.
Mayer: I am excited to be on.
Watson: This is perfect timing alignment of the stars. I got an email this morning, 5:03 AM. Your fresh coffee has been ordered Ethiopia Costa gate. I'm going to say around Costa geish is going to be coming to my house here in the next couple of days.
And the reason that that's occurring is I have a wifi connected scale in my kitchen and on it sits my bag of coffee, and it is being monitored so that when it hits some threshold for a low weight, it triggers an automatic order of my coffee to be delivered here. You are the man, the founder, the CEO behind the firm that makes that happen.
So maybe we can start off by just, what did I miss out of the explanation of the service offering and where did the initial ideas started to come from?
Mayer: Okay. So, I mean, it is fairly simple. You set up this wifi scale once. It lasts for a year on a single charge and you just start your coffee on top and then you just get more coffee in the mail whenever you need it.
Basically, we just fixed the e-commerce subscription, starting with coffee. I guess another piece of the puzzle for the listening audiences that we don't try to market this scale device. So you, we essentially market you coffee, we sell you coffee and the scale just sort of comes with the coffee. So we're taking a different approach than the few other sort of like automatic reordering concepts that have been tried in the past.
Where did the idea come from? My co-founder and I, we definitely did not sit there thinking how can we make the most kick ass coffee subscription ever like that, that was not the Genesis. We basically were sitting there and every time we went to the grocery store, we would forget something important.
So it started with this German of an idea of like, why am I buying the same stuff over and over from my house manually? If the seller knew how much I had and how fast I was going through it, like they could just ship it to me, and at the same time I had signed up for a subscription.
I don't know if everyone knows what swelling is. It's basically like you can think of it as like a protein powder thing. And like, I had so much piled up that I could have survived an apocalypse and I canceled it and then eventually I ran out of it after like six months later, sort of like realizing, okay, well, the reason why I don't have everything set up automatically shipped to me is like the best service model for that right now, the subscription, it doesn't work at all.
So we sort of just had this thought experiment. What would it look like? What would a service look like that actually sent to me at the right time? And we sort of had an epiphany one day that weight is a really good source of truth and you could sort of over time figure out consumption patterns.
It was such a crazy concept to be perfectly honest. And I really wondered if there was a good reason why nobody had tried this before. But we just went ahead and tried it anyway. It seemed to work. And here we are.
Watson: And if we talk about those subscriptions, there's been some subscriptions forever people that subscribe to the news, a newspaper, and it was a novel piece of paper delivered to your doorstep every single day.
But in the digital age, there was this new idea. I don't even know if it's necessarily connected to that, but there was either the Harry's razor subscription or there was like the box, like your quarterly box, or your monthly box and suffice to say that those were relative to this arrangement dumb because they don't have that actual feedback in any real way once the box gets in your home or, well, once the package gets in your home, other than that, it's been delivered, like that's where the kind of a wall of data stops being collected. And so the fact that you can establish a beachhead effectively in your customer's homes collecting this data, and that's a brand positioning thing. That there's a lot that kind of goes into that. That's a hardware device. There's so many different things is really, from my vantage point, that kind of core insight, and the primary proposition where eventually this isn't just a coffee company. This is another company that kind of, as you're talking about, like, forgetting things at the grocery stores, replacing these disposable goods, that to some degree, rely on freshness that people order with regularly.
Mayer: Yeah. I mean, the general concept is there's a lot of stuff that you have in your house. You might be like in particular, we're starting with coffee because it's something that's not very good from the grocery store, right.So the best products for bottomless in the future are going to be the type of products that you really want to get straight from the producer. Right.
And we have this whole grocery store supply chain just to get things really close to you. And it's very limiting in terms of freshness, but also selection, quality, there's many, many things that are limited by that sort of gating factor. If only having a couple of slots on a shelf and also needing products to be able to last for a long time and also really address a large market.
So right now you see in the DTC e-commerce play, space, like a lot of different companies popping up out of nowhere, selling all kinds of different things. You never would have imagined. Like when I started this business, I never thought anyone would buy cereal DTC because it costs like $3 a box.
Like how are you going to get that shipped to you? And since we started bottom line, we're seeing all these companies doing these like specialty cereal concepts. And so my theory is that in the long run, you're going to see people reinventing essentially every single grocery vertical for the people that happen to really care about that vertical.
And so that's, that's sort of like our longterm vision is we're going to be sort of connecting those sellers to you in a way that is a lot more durable and consistent than a subscription.
Watson: And it also, you're not necessarily holding inventory, you need inventory of the scales, but really you're the connective tissue between these specialty coffee roasters.
Like you don't need to build the expertise in roasting. You need to build the stable of demand for the coffee or whatever the future product might be. And then basically play that connective tissue, almost like a drop shipper of coffee, so to speak.
Mayer: Yeah, exactly. And the interesting, we sort of flattened the world of coffee, right.
It used to be, if you were a small roaster in the middle of nowhere, you could not address the whole United States market. I mean, you could do a really good job of marketing and get your subscription going, but subscriptions really do not retain people very well. And so you're really stuck to your like local grocery stores are opening coffee shops and this is a real world example right now.
Our number one, roaster by volume is out of billings Montana. And he's a one man operation. And he's beating out these huge companies and San Francisco and New York, that have a huge staff on and she just has better coffee and is more consistent at shipping. So, it definitely flattens the world.
There's a story here about being able to address a bigger market from a smaller sort of like existing footprint.
Watson: Right on. So let's talk about that monitoring and the algorithms. So like, another thing I can do is I can go to your website and it has this like data screen of my weight day by day of the coffee grounds and two.
So we're not giving a ton of thought, never having to actually get hands on with it. It seems relatively like, okay, we know that below six ounces is time to ship, but like, I'm sure there's a lot more complexity to it than that. Can you talk a little bit about outside of just the monitoring of the weight, like what else is going on behind the scenes that informs when that coffee gets shipped?
Mayer: Yeah, I mean, like, as a company, we're kind of like a dock, everything looks really simple and smooth above the surface, but underneath we're paddling, like hell to figure it all out. Like all the restaurants have their own sort of fulfillment performances, there's the postal service has different performance for different parts of the country for distances.
And then every user has their own sort of consumption pattern. And so we do a lot to sort of combine all of that information to get you your coffee at the right time. It's definitely not like if you hit six ounces, we're going to order for you. You can imagine that you might drink a bag every month in which case that'd be really early when you're halfway through. And your next door neighbor might drink a bag every week. In which case we need to be ordering fairly quickly, probably earlier than six ounces. So yeah, we have a lot of sort of like magic hidden behind the scenes.
Watson: And that gets easier as you guys get more customers and more data feeding into kind of see what works for them.
Mayer: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the more cases we have us ordering and seeing if the coffee arrives at the right time, the better we can get, the more we can improve our algorithms and also just sort of, what would you call like anecdotal improvements from customers reaching out and saying, hey, this isn't really working for me.
So we really are discovering all of these sharp edges all the time and continuously improving.
Watson: So one of, I think that that causes all sorts of headaches that you do have to kind of solve these problems from the ground up. And you can't go to some repository, but at the same time, it's your edge and that you don't have a ton of competition and you are getting to learn this stuff right on the ground.
I'm curious about how you got from 750 customers to 6,000 customers in a single year. Because one end of the spectrum, I love this. Like, I'm not someone I'm relatively minimalist. I don't spend a lot of money. I kinda got my routines and all this stuff. And I found myself talking to friends about my coffee subscription service.
And I'm like I never spend time talking with them about things that I buy. So on one end of the spectrum, it seems highly referrable. But at the same time, there's probably concerns about like who's monitoring me. Like, I, we don't have Amazon echoes. We don't have like big tech cameras set up in my home so they can watch me.
So there is like the other end of the spectrum that might make people uneasy having this type of stuff monitored.
Mayer: Yeah. It's really interesting. I mean a lot of the state-of-the-art right now for automatic restocking is vision-based, you see Amazon go and you see that there's a YC company I think standard cognition. And very early on, I said, this started from this concept of how do you do reordering? We thought about all these different form factors of cameras originally of how to mount cameras in home. And we would not have been comfortable with that ourselves. I don't want a camera in the home. I don't really trust the company to tell me that they're not actually looking at the cameras.
And so one of the beauties of what we're doing is honestly, like, do you really care if the whole world knows your coffee level? It's like, I mean, I personally don't like if my coffee level, God forbid, if there was some sort of horrible leak, somebody could figure out my coffee level.
I probably wouldn't lose very much sleep over it. So, people's addresses are probably a lot more sensitive than even the coffee level. That's just like traditional normal e-commerce. So that's kind of cool. I mean, people do have to trust that we don't have anything else in the little black box than a weight sensor, but people can take those things apart if they want.
And if we had a secret listening device, people would know by now. So, essentially it's like a really low invasion way to figure out when to reorder for you, in my opinion, I believe there was a second part of your question, not focused on the monitoring aspect.
Watson: Yeah, just the growth and the fact that like the way it was perfectly framed up. You've referenced Y Combinator here, Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator retweeted the whatever public disclosure of going from 750 to 6,000 customers. And these are recurring customers. That's kind of the presumption baked into the business model. And he goes, I previously would've went, met 6,000 customers, but this is an eight X in one year, which is when people talk about growth rates. Pretty exciting if you extrapolate a deep deepen a little bit. So, what is, how is that occurring? What is the driver or the impetus behind that from your vantage point.
Mayer: Yeah, we got to meet Paul, actually. We went through Y Combinator. In a certain number of companies, have office hours with him. And he was one of the fastest people to sort of into it what we were doing.
Well, he said like immediately was like, wow, this is streaming for stuff. Which I think is such a great way to conceptualize what we're doing, but in terms of the growth, our retention is dramatically better than a normal subscription. And so when you play that out, each person is a potential promoter, right.
And if you have five times as many customers after nine months or whatever, you really have five times as many promoters. And if it's something fundamentally unique in somebody's lives, it's not very often, you get a new product that really feels magical. And so it really is something that prompts a lot of word of mouth, even though I do think in the future, this is going to be a utility, right?
So like, right now, if you order something online from Amazon and it shows up at your house, You're not going to tell all your friends, holy crap, I've made an order on the internet and it just showed up. But originally, you order a book and it shows up you're going to be telling everybody you ever met.
Cause it feels like magic. So I think there's definitely a similar thing here, where this is just a fundamentally new service. And since so many people seek, there's more promoters. And since it's something magical, they tell their friends about it. So that's really been driving a lot of our growth.
We do a little bit of paid ads on top, but probably fewer than a typical like subscription company that has grown this much, just because, we really don't have to acquire so many customers to keep our customer base consistent and growing it.
Watson: Yeah. And there's also a degree to which this is any product, but particularly something like coffee, it's very hard to be able to make like a broad statement or proclamation about the purchase that you're making.
I mean, maybe you're holding the Starbucks cup or maybe you're holding the Dunkin cup and that tells other people something about you and how you want to be understood. But otherwise you're making at home, in your kitchen, away from other people and unless someone is visiting and you're like making coffee for them and you're showing them like, I, this is a special blend and a grounded being and blah, blah, blah.
It's very hard to like get the status games that we all want to play as human injected into it. And so by being, and I'm just being transparent, my own experience that we've talked about this, but it is this way of like, Hey, I found this new thing. I'm a very discerning consumer. Like, let me tell you something about myself and simultaneously something about the product.
Mayer: Yeah, for sure. I think that's a good insight. And that's something that frankly, if you have any ideas of how to make bottomless something more of a signaling good. I'm all ears. Right now we basically just focus on delivering the product as best we can. And then a couple of ways, like customers that have been with us for awhile have a heat map that they can share stuff like that.
But right now we're just sort of banking on the concept itself to carry us, which it seems to be doing an okay job.
Watson: Yeah. I'd imagine that at the very least, like some sort of reward program for your 20th bag or what have you, that's like a bottomless mug that would remind me a lot of the morning brew cause they have their referral system and it's probably also be tied into the referral system that you guys have, but the ability to get something for referring, like small and tangible.
It could just be sent any ways in the box or the shipment that you already making. But doing that in forms of swag that other people would be like, proud, represent, like I have a little sticker on my laptop, but other things that like the new thing came in and here's my bottomless mug with my new bag of coffee.
Seems like a relative no-brainer.
Mayer: Yeah, no, I love that. We do have these mugs by the way.
Watson: I haven't seen those yet. Very nice.
Mayer: Yeah. This is not going to translate on audio, but, yeah, I mean, it's definitely a good idea right now we basically have like shirts or mugs that we give out as referral bonuses.
So we're doing a little bit of that, but I sort of wonder what else we can do, free coffee forever. If you get a bottom most. Maybe.
Watson: Yeah we'll see how many of those convert
The going deep podcast is underwritten by Piper, creative shooting, editing and publishing quality content is overwhelming.
We make it easy. So you can save time, build your brand and grow faster, say email@example.com.
Watson: So let's talk about the future of something like this. Because to even get into Y Combinator, but also candidly from the way that you've talked about this company in the past, or even comparing yourself to an Amazon versus comparing yourself to Joe's diner down the street implies an audaciousness, implies a potentiality that frankly, most people don't even bake into their company or spend the time to pursue.
So when you look further, years down the line. What do you see if you're talking about it being utility? Like what kind of world do you envision this being underpinning.
Mayer: There's this interesting thing where I feel like building a multi-billion dollar company is only like five times harder than building a successful restaurant down the street.
So, being crazily ambitious actually has really high ROY. It's better in a sense to be a tech investor because you get to diversify, I'm meant to actually be the entrepreneur. But, it's definitely fun. One thing is like I feel a lot of people, they get into the VC backed startup industry without fully understanding and internalizing what it means to do a VC back startup, right? Like when you take Venture Capital money. They're banking on one company having like a 30 X return. So you kind of have to be terrifyingly ambitious by definition.
If this is the type of the way you want to fund your company and the way you want to grow your company. So I would just say that from the baseline that's we almost are terrifyingly ambitious as a result of the way in which we're building this company. But we are also sort of like were terrifyingly ambitious from the beginning and that sort of like, so there's sort of like a co-evolutionary thing about ambition and way of building a company that can sort of like build off of itself. But I think from the beginning, we've sort of recognized that when you make a whole new service model, there really is a lot of explosive potential.
And the reason why we picked this idea amongst like dozens of other startup ideas that we had, whether it's just that there's really no limiting factor to growing a company like this. It's something brand new. It's kind of hard to do. It's going to be a little bit hard to copy, at least in the beginning.
And a huge portion of the global economy is like repeatedly purchased goods. So it would be crazy for us to not be insanely ambitious with this sort of this sort of solution that we're working on it, I guess.
Watson: Yeah, I think what would be super educational, but also just like kind of an insight into how you think about building something like this is maybe over the last two years, or maybe just from the inception of the company, if you could like almost sequentially go through the different constraints that you've faced.
So like one of the presumptions is, there's never enough time to do all the things that you want to do if you're that really audacious, have that audacious ambition, but otherwise. You run to the constraint of capital. Sometimes you run into the constraint of people or technical expertise what have you. So can you kind of like talk through those sequence of obstacles and constraints and kind of maybe a little bit of how you came them? Sometimes it's going to be obvious that it's just like the check from Y Combinator.
Mayer: Okay. So before even starting the company, the biggest constraint was probably ego and fear.
Nobody really talks about this. They sort of assume that it's a high status thing to do a company, but it absolutely was not. I was working as a developer, making a good salary and to sort of quit that and starting a company with no track record, doing companies. Sort of automatically put me into a much lower status level.
When you have no customers, no funding and you're a single person doing, you know, the only full-time person working on a company. People sort of put you in the same bucket as somebody who's unemployed. So first of all, you have to be willing to take the status hits and not really care about what people think about you.
So I would say that was the initial constraints. I was lucky enough to have my co-founder who funded the company, from her salary and also sort of was involved from the beginning. Definitely helped make it easier to start the company. And frankly, if it was just me by myself, maybe I would have never done it.
So that sort of removed some of the very initial funding constraints. Although, I would say, I lived on less than a minimum wage salary for the first, at least year of doing the company. And so that's another thing that a lot of people may find to be a constraint in the beginning Then, in the very beginning, the biggest constraint was can I even build an initial pilot for this?
And, nobody's going to give you money. If you go in and say, Hey, I have this genius idea to put coffee on scales and reorder. Like, you really have to prove that it works and you can build it. So definitely, just that was sort of a deficit that we had, but I was able to figure it out and build out the initial pilot.
Okay. So then we had the initial pilot running, we got like 15 customers using the device. A lot of people also don't know this part of the story. After that, when I had 15 customers, I felt that, I had proved that it was working like of those 15 using very janky stuff that I had had together out of a apartment.
You know, 10 of those people bought coffee for like a very long time. And like we're buying almost as much coffee in like month 12 as they were buying in month one. And so, I thought, Hey, we've really proved this out now. Like this actually does work. If you actually look at the sample size, like 10 out of 15, and look at like the confidence in our poll, like, you know hat there's like a 99.9% chance.
This is better than a subscription, which would be like two or three people out of 15. So then I went out and tried to fundraise and nobody wanted to give me money. So that was a lesson that I had to learn, which is that investors do not see the same thing that you see everyday. All they see is you talking to them for an hour or more honestly like 30 minutes twice, if you, if you're lucky to impress them enough in the first call.
So, you can tell them that, Hey, these 15 customers are all real and all this data is real. And this thing really works. But, that isn't enough, you actually have to prove it. And so there was a little bit of like a gut wrenching period of bottomless his life, where I had quit my job.
I sort of bootstrap this with my partner funding it. And then I had proven that it would work sort of like beyond all odds, building out the first version, and then nobody gave us money. Yeah, I was sitting there and I knew that this worked really well. Because I knew that all the customers were real and I hadn't like pressured them to use the product. And they weren't like secretly my friends or you know what I mean?
Watson: Your mom and your aunts or something like that.
Mayer: Yeah, exactly. What I got like five people that were my friends originally, but I didn't even include them in the data. And then I got 15 people that I didn't know online, but so there was this gut wrenching moment.
It's like, do I keep doing this? This thing that appears to be extremely low status and feels extremely low status and low pay. And do we keep, does my partner keep funding this? So also like a big decision for her to really get this to the point where investors are going to actually take this seriously.
I remember going on several long walks and just discussing like, Hey, this works so well. Do we keep doing this? We just did it. We decided to do it. It took us another, I think year after that failed initial fundraising to get up to something like 150 customers. And we did all kinds of crazy stuff. Like we bought two 3d printers and put them in a closet and just had them running constantly to crank out like 3d prints of the scale and like turns the apartment into like an assembly line factory.
And I listened to the entire history of her own podcast, which is like 150 episodes, like three times just building scales and just doing all this crazy unscalable stuff. But then once we had about 150 customers, we went out to fundraise again and the evidence was just undeniable and we were able to get our first pre-seed funding.
So up until that point, manpower and funding was the biggest constraint, right. So this is kind of a good question. I'm sorry, I'm going on, but I can continue. So after
Watson: No, I love it. That's it. That's exactly what we're looking for is, is the way this stuff pieces together. Cause people who I've never done something like this never built something like this.
There's the like the mistake of what did this one breakthrough and then it'll go. Or like this one, there isn't one. There are moments. But they have to be strung together over a long period of time with each little breakthrough, kind of giving you the, the key to unlock the door, which takes you into the next room, which has another lock door.
And so that's kind of, it, it's a really helpful model to hear you talk through this. And it's probably a trip down memory lane as well.
Mayer: There were two, there were basically two holy shit moments and neither of them actually resulted in real world progress for the business externally until way later. The first holy shit moment was when I hocked together, the first one of these, and it was terrible. I had to hand deliver it because I didn't believe it would survive the mail. And, the person set it up in their house and like, then I started seeing the data and I saw it go down, down, down. And like I bought a coffee for them online on like some Shopify store. Right. That's like what I did in the beginning to test this out.
And then the first, holy shit moment was seeing their weight jump up.
Watson: They put the new bag on.
Mayer: Yeah. I was like, holy crap. It actually works. And then, the next holyshit moment was those 15 initial customers like looking at the retention. Like spinning up a graph and seeing how much coffee we were selling, like after they'd been on for like six months, that was just like a mind blowing moment.
But again, it didn't translate to any real worlds, real-world benchmarks. In a sense, like when you read fundraising announcements or you hear about people having success in a startup, it's a real trailing indicator of the progress that they've made.
Watson: Makes sense. So after the funding and also kind of just validation co-signing like even being in Y Combinator immediately.
Like, I know that it happens here in Pittsburgh is if any company here has been has sniffed Y Combinator, they're all of a sudden way more relevant to the relatively small angel network and other investors here in town. So, what did that do? And then what became the kind of new constraints?
Mayer: Yeah. So we raised the pre-seed like a pre-seed round, right before we went into Y Combinator, but yeah, what can I say?
An interesting thing happened when you go through Y Combinator and you raised some money, your idea goes from like this insane thing that nobody believes to like an inevitability almost. So the narrative around the company very quickly shifted from like, I don't like, this is crazy.
Wow. This company is doing something really innovative. So, what was the constraint? First I can say a note on Y Combinator people sort of assume getting into Y Combinator means that your company is going to be a success. But in fact, it's like a wild dash. You get into Y Combinator and you need to make this insane amount of progress in order to sort of rise to the top of the pack or at least you don't need to be in the top and you maybe need to be in the top 25 percentile to sort of come out of YC with enough momentum to raise significant follow-on capital. So, during, from the moment we got into YC, until we raise our post splicing money. The only constraint was just the personal energy and time of my co-founder and I, and at that point she had joined full-time after a pre-seed capital.
So before we got into it YC. The the biggest constraint by far was just like how much energy can we pour into it? And I think we averaged something like eight or 9% weekly growth during that time. And we were still using like 3d printed hack together hardware. So that was just an insane. That was an insane period of time where we were just like waking up and working nonstop and trying to keep up with the pace.
Basically it's a, Y Combinator is a bit of a competition. Even though it's not frequently acknowledged. And so just sort of trying to prove this and take advantage of the opportunity then after we went through YC, we had grown, we were able to raise a decent amount of money.
I would say the constraint after we raised that money was essentially hiring. What's a big constraint. Hardware was also a big constraint because we had been sort of like hacking together this hardware manually. And that can, you can scale that to a thousand customers, but you can't scale it to 10,000.
So we had to really build out like a real manufacturable product. And then we also, we couldn't do it just the two of us anymore, either again, you can get a company up to a thousand with two people, but not to 10 tasks. And, so just hiring people for an early stage startup can be a bit of a puzzle.
And so, yeah, that's been, that was like the year after we got into YC was finding the right people to work with us and getting a manufactured product. We went to Shenzhen, China, we met a guy there that was great. He now works with us full-time and actually helps us produce our hardware and improve it.
So, yeah. And then, I don't know what the constraint is now. The constraint is just keeping the machine running as you grow as a company, it's like you don't grow linearly. Like the complexity doesn't grow linearly with size. It's like the surface area of a balloon or something you're pushing out this frontier more and more complexity.
So it's just sort of like managing the chaos and writing what sort of feels like a bucking Bronco, I guess.
Watson: And I would imagine also like from a decision-making or a prioritization standpoint it becomes. In addition to that complexity, just the list of potential priorities, the list of potential focuses.
So like, one of the obvious questions is it's a coffee company right now, the same way Amazon started as a book company, and then they start to diversify out of that and it becomes that balancing act of do we just deepen? Do we add to our bench of copywriters that we partner with, and market exclusively as this, or do we start to branch off into different directions? And that can't be an easy call.
Mayer: Yeah. It's one of those things where I feel like we could double our valuation immediately if we were selling more things. Because investors don't want to invest in a coffee company, I guess, they want to invest in the next Amazon.
And so it always is a temptation for us, right. To start selling the next stuff. And frankly, like, we didn't start. I should be, I don't want to trash the coffee business because it's actually pretty awesome that people can get freshly roasted coffee shipped to them straight from the roaster.
But it is a temptation always to do more things. I think what we, our perspective is really like, do we think that what we're doing right now is as good as it can be? And I don't think it is. We still have the flavor from an early stage company in a lot of ways and an early stage product.
And I think, we're only halfway there to really fleshing this out and I'm doing the best we could be doing. And so we just keep that as our north star. And since we're talking a lot about business strategy on this podcast, I would just say that. There's an element of like the person with the most amount of customers is going to win the game.
And we want people to experience this sort of service model with us. And so the more people we can get, trying to service model out, the better it's going to be for our company. And it doesn't really matter if they buy two things from us, five things from us, or one thing for them to really trust bottomless as like the best service provider in what I think is going to be a huge market in the long run.
So we really want to get as many people on board as we can before we sort of distract ourselves and we want to give them the best experience that we can too. So, that's really our north star.
Watson: Yeah. That makes of sense. It's the probably hardest task, but it is also the long-term most beneficial because I knew I'd be tickled if there was like one other thing that I could potentially not have to think about ever ordering ever again, but that'll be there in years to come.
Mayer: Yeah, no for sure. And, it's just, it'll be that much more impactful. If we have a hundred times more customers, it's going to be so much more impactful for so many more people. Once we actually decide to do.
Watson: It also seems so, so there's a nonprofit here in Pittsburgh, that's focused on food waste.
So you basically have this issue of stuff has to be shipped from the farm or wherever to the grocery store and then picked up at the grocery store and brought home. And if it even is the smallest inkling of being past due or a little rotten or whatever, it gets, let go, but then there's also just people that like won't take home a yellow banana.
They only take home a green banana because they want it to ripen once they get at home. And their basic thing is they take it from the grocery store and then they deliver it directly to food banks and other people with food insecurity as a kind of solution. To almost a thing that's like fun. It's fundamentally broken.
If you take it back to the source of the issue in the way that you'd be addressing. So I would imagine that the opportunity, and this is like when you start pitching a bigger fund one day, like that's also part of it, like from a, like a sustainability standpoint, finding these things that can just be a fundamentally better experience if the supply chain and the logistics of it's delivered to the end consumer becomes more efficient.
Mayer: Yeah. I mean, that's exactly right. The fundamental eligibility of consumer demand drives a lot of inefficiencies in the market. Like, there, you can think of like tons of examples, but like the whole, the whole reason, like grocery stores have to have like really stale stuff is because the supply chain needs to be like there for you to pull at any moment. They're not able to sort of know your demand in advance and push it to you more slowly. So I think, when it comes to efficiency and, even like climate change in the long run, in the efficiency of distributing goods, This sort of solution I think is going to make a really good impact because, slow shipping has to be like two or three times less resource intensive than fast shipping.
Like you think about like door dash and they have an individual person driving to your burrito and then delivering it to you with one guy. Like if they knew you were going to have a burrito three days in advance. They could literally make the burrito in an extremely efficient manner in like, you know, on an assembly line and then slowly get it to you and like deliver all the burritos to your neighborhood at once, tight.
And so that's without going into too much detail, there's the sky sort of the limit in terms of making things cheaper and more efficient with this sort of technology for the consumer and for the world. So that's another thing we're excited about. I think that's kind of like the coolest thing about doing this company is like we can go down so many rabbit holes about the impact of something like this.
And it's because we're making something really important available to the internet. Like when smartphones came out, they made all of these things, all of these important pieces of information available to the internet. Like your location, just the visual surrounding around you, like being able to take photos. And then that translates into Instagram and QR codes and all sorts of stuff. So, we don't have the advantage of a whole new computing platform coming up for us, but we sort of created our own by making these scales and putting them out there and getting this one really important piece of information and just fundamentally making it available to the internet.
So that's something that really excites us. And I think just the basic level. Like, I hope that we can succeed at least to the point where this sort of technology for rates through the economy in like a commercial settings and industrial settings. I C J M.
I know it's not the best handle ever. M I C J M. You can just search Michael Mayer. I don't think I'm the most famous Michael Mayer, but you can scroll down until you find me.
Watson: Right on. I'm going to link that in the show notes. It'll be easy for everyone to find how hard was it to get the bottomless URL and a handles.
Mayer: Oh, that's a great, that's a great question. I haven't talked much about my co-founder in this, but I'm sort of like head in the clouds type of guy. I'm always coming up with different thoughts and, usually they're terrible, but sometimes they're very good and she's just sort of like the get stuff done, incredible executer type.
So we just decided we wanted to get the bottom list.com handle and we didn't have a lot of money and she somehow pulled it off. It's pretty nuts. I don't know if I want to divulge her tactics, but she made it.
Watson: Yeah. I have a friend with a potentially similar story that I'll share with you once we're off the recording here, but that'll all be linked, like I said, in the show notes.
And before we let Mike go, we're gonna give him the Mike one final time to issue an actionable personal challenge to the audience.
Mayer: Okay. So, when one piece of the bottom of the story that I didn't really talk about is I have some pseudonymous, like Twitter accounts that are followed by a lot of people in Silicon valley.
And that sort of helped me bootstrap it network to be able to fundraise. And, people always ask me like, how do you come up with things to post? Like how do you have insights? And I always tell them, like, I'm not some sort of super advanced algorithm. Like, I'm not that smart. I really focus heavily on curating my informational inputs.
So in a lot of that is pruning. So, during this last election, anyone who post. Posted more than once a day about politics. I just unfollowed them. So I would say like the some political stuff is good, so don't worry. But, anything that you come across. In your social feed or in your just typical information consumption that you think to yourself, this can't possibly be a building block for thought for me, it's like, I can't see this piece of information being a good premise in some argument in my head that I'm gonna build. Just cut it because it's not adding any value to your life. And there is in the modern world, like an infinite plethora of information sources, so it's not scarce. So the actionable thing I would say is the next time you look at your Facebook feed, Instagram feed, Twitter feed, maybe less Instagram. Cause I'm not sure watching somebody eating a burrito or something is going to be a great input for thought.
But if you aspire to be. I think they're in any way, just unfollow any, anything that isn't going to be a good building block for you.
Watson: Yeah, I would say if you're going to do Instagram curate artists, the art on there can be staggering. And it's not the exact same type of intellectual stimulation, but it is definitely going to take in a better direction than a lot of the other stuff on that.
Mayer: Oh, sure. And that might be a good tip for me because bottomless is at an interesting point right now where we have to start developing our visual identity. And brands and I feel really clueless about that sometimes. And so maybe I just don't have enough input of high quality aesthetics.
So maybe I'll go and set up my Instagram follow artists. Maybe you can send me a couple.
Watson: I'm happy to, but I can tell you as someone whose business partner is much more aesthetically talented than me, it's also a great thing to just find someone else who has that competency. Busted them.
But I'm totally with you, unfollow. I use the mute function on Twitter as much as possible for the thoughtless stuff and sign up for bottomless.
Mayer: Yeah. Sign for bottomless. Be a part of the future.
Watson: Thanks so much for coming on the podcast, man. I really enjoyed talking with you.
Mayer: Thanks Aaron. This was a blast.
Watson: Hey, I really hope you enjoyed that interview with Michael. If you found it interesting, and you want to try the product, there's a link in the show notes for this episode for you to get your first bag of coffee free from bottomless. You can find it in the show notes here. It is very easy to cancel if it turns out to be something that you're not interested in, but if you're a coffee lover like me, they have a fantastic selection.
It is definitely opt my coffee game and it will do the same for you. This is not a paid endorsement. It is just a product and a model that clearly I am a big believer in, and I think you will be as well once you try it. Check it out and hit subscribe. If this is your first time listening, because we have a ton of other great interviews coming down the pipe, including next week's with Pete Dakomo.
Dakomo: And, one of the, 180 unique, characteristics of startups, especially, life sciences, startups, is that when you're in the business of innovation. You don't know what you don't know. And a wise old man told me one time. You don't know, if you don't know what you don't know, but you don't know that you're in real trouble.
Thanks for listening. Connect with Aaron on Twitter and Instagram at Aaron Watson, 59.And for your bananas and all sorts of stuff is, is really the dream.
And whether it's us or somebody else, like, I think it's going to be a dramatic improvement.
Watson: I'm rooting for you. I'm going to keep ordering and drinking the coffee and I've got my list here. I don't know if you want to go. Maybe this is taking the eye off the ball here, but I had like a couple of different items and I wanted to see if you would give them a grade for the likelihood or the ease at which they could be converted to this model, because I'm sure that there's functions of like things that people actually do care about.
Like you were kind of surprised by the DTC cereal things that they do care about. And that from like a actual shipping standpoint, it would be a disaster or not a disaster. So the first one was eggs. I think that fresh eggs, like what I found, I was like these eggs are treated so that they can sit safely on the shelf versus some egg that was laid within the last couple of days by a chicken.
That could be delivered directly to your home. So if you were to start meeting with the grade for a delivery via bottom list, if I had a little scale underneath my eggs, what do you think of that?
Mayer: Well, that's a fun one because you can sort of think about reinventing the whole egg supply chain, right?
When you travel internationally, they don't actually refrigerate eggs, right. And so I still remember like seeing eggs, like out in a supermarket, like in China, at least. And I was just terrified, like, I wouldn't eat those eggs, but, it has to do with the processing, right?
Like, so American industry processes eggs in a certain way, such that it actually lasts longer than the fridge. But if you don't process it that way, it lasts a really long time unrefrigerated so I don't know. Eggs could actually work pretty well, right. Like how much is a dozen eggs, like four or five bucks.
If you've really, really care about eggs, you might be willing to pay more for like really good, fresh eggs. So I think I could see it.
Watson: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely not, definitely not the next one though. Take a little bit more, more stuff. Go to the egg delivery safely. It would be the biggest variable there.
Mayer: And then the science project, it gets me excited because I think it would be really fun to like to design like a USPS mailer for eggs. Milk is harder because this is a very low price point. You kind of have to figure out things that people that cost enough coffee is a beautiful thing because, it's sort of concentrated.
It gets it's gets diffused into water. So in a sense, it's like a chem, it's like a concentrated thing already. So, $15 bag of coffee is actually not that expensive on a per cup level, it's like 50 cents per cup. So, milk. Milk is one of those ones where we would have to figure out how to batch it with other items, which it's really something we could do in the long run.
But yeah, another, I would expect that in 2030.
Watson: And then serial was actually at the top of my list. So it's funny that you came up with DTC serial here on your own.
Mayer: I used to tell, like,if you go back and you find somebody that I pitched in. Like the pre-seed or even the failed pre pre-seed round for bottom list. I would have told them we'll probably never do cereal, right.
And I was wrong. So, all of these verticals that you can ask me about, like, somebody is gonna figure out how to do it. Bottomless really is a new way to like connect buyers and sellers of repeat stuff. And I think the world hasn't really understood that yet. And somebody will, somebody will figure it out for the people that actually care about it.
There are going to be enough weirdos that care about pretty much anything. That they'll want to get it in the mail.
Watson: It's almost like the byline of the internet.
Mayer: Yeah, it is. I mean, that's the original Amazon thesis, right? Like what kind of weirdos are going to buy things online and like, oh, okay books.
Sure. Like books is books. People are going to buy that online because there's a big assortment that you can't get in a bookstore, but nobody's going to buy a microwave online. And now I bet like half of microwaves are sold online.
Watson: Yeah, totally. Mike, this has been awesome. I want to aim towards wrapping up and asking our standard last two questions.
But before I do that, anything else you were hoping to share today that I didn't give you a chance?
Mayer: I don't think so. No, I can't think of anything now. I can't think of any agenda other than just talking and prof preaching the word of bottomless. I think I've been doing that this whole time. So this has served me nicely.
Watson: Wonderful. So for the folks that are converted, what digital coordinates can we provide them to learn more follow along and try it out?
Mayer: Well, we're at bottomless.com. We also have the bottomless handle on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, if you want to follow me personally, I'm on Twitter at M