Tyler Suiters 0:12 

Hey everyone, glad you're here. I'm Tyler Suiters with the consumer Technology Association we own and we've produced CES, the biggest, the most influential tech events on the planet. This week one of the most popular areas of CES it's called Eureka Park now, this is where investors come to find their next unicorn company. Eureka Park is home to more than 1000 startups that come from all around the world in 2018, we had more than 40 countries represented there. So this week, we're sharing a few success stories with you. These are former CEOs, startup companies that are giving you their advice on how they made the connections they wanted to make, and also made the most of their time while they were at CES. But first, our sponsors the folks who help us bring you this podcast.

Tyler Suiters 1:02 

EMD performance materials is the US based high tech materials business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, whether it's solutions for the semiconductor industry to make electronics smarter, or material to take displays to the next level. This company works to enable life as we know it and life as we want to know it. Visit EMDgroup.com. To learn more.

Tyler Suiters 1:29 

Not sure when your first trip to CES was but I'm guessing it wasn't 19 years of age and you probably weren’t exhibitor at that time. Well, joining us now is someone who took her first trip to CES at the age of 19. As a founder, as an exhibitor. Xyla Foxlin, at the time was founder of Parihug, Incorporated. And she has now added to her title, founder of Beauty and the Bolt as well. A nonprofit and Xyla is joining us from Cleveland. Great to have you with us today.

Xyla Foxlin  2:03 

It is so good to be here. Thanks for having me.

Tyler Suiters 2:05 

Xyla you’re a veteran of three CES already.

Tyler Suiters  2:10 

How in the world? Do you wind up at the global stage for innovation at 19 years old, not just attending, but actually doing business there?

Xyla Foxlin  2:21 

Yeah, that's a really good question that I sometimes ask myself as well.

Xyla Foxlin    2:25 

I think that so I founded my company completely on accident. It was something I'd built just for fun for myself. And I exhibited at a hackathon. So it was just like a 36-hour project, no big deal. And then this company, so this VC firm from Silicon Valley gave us $1,000 grant, and they were like, we think you have what it takes to be a great startup founder. If we give you some money, will you keep going? And so that thousand dollars actually got us all the way through our first CES.

Tyler Suiters 2:57 

On $1,000, that’s really impressive. Excellent budget management. Right?

Xyla Foxlin  3:02 

Thank you. And we did have an advantage where I attend Case Western Reserve University. And they had run a competition that said, you know, like a display at this alumni event, the alumni will vote at the top two winners will go to CES, you'll get like a an all expenses paid trip to CES. And I actually lost that competition. I came in third by one vote.

Xyla Foxlin  3:24 

And I want, I walked into my entrepreneurship directors office here at Case and was like, I'm going to CES, I don't care what you say, but I'm going so you can give me a booth and I will figure everything else out. Then the first day he was like eh and then day 2 he came back and was like yes, we’ll give you a booth and do whatever you need. And so we did you know, we flew out to Vegas, we did everything. On just that thousand dollars.

Tyler Suiters  3:50 

So part of that certainly has to do with your persistence, right? True characteristic of an entrepreneur. But let's not overlook the technology involved your invention, you're a mechanical engineer, by training. Tell us about Parihug and how the idea formulated and how you put it into a tangible product.

Xyla Foxlin 4:10 

Yeah, so Parihug was actually I was in a long-distance relationship. So my boyfriend had just graduated and moved across the country. And I just wanted to hug at the end of a really long day. And I realized that like we have developed technology to the point where I can send gigabytes of data almost instantly, to have. I could send him a movie, but I couldn't send him a hug, which seems so much simpler to us, like from a human perspective. And so I started kind of playing with the idea of robots, that could transmit a hug or anything. And I was obviously balancing, user interface design and my knowledge of like what humanity wants with my nerdy side that really just wanted to build an awesome robot. I landed on Parihug and so Parihug made internet-connected stuffed animals so that you hug people from anywhere in the world. So when one was hugged, it's paired one with gently hybrid out to hug in real time, and vice versa. And if they’re both being hugged at the same time, you feel each other's heartbeat over the miles. And so it was a really unique blend of touch and technology and soft, like softness, which is so rarely found in also even in products at CES.

Tyler Suiters 5:17 

Yeah, so that's where I was going with this Xyla, the fact that you see a bit

Xyla Foxlin 5:20 

Haha read your mind

Tyler Suiters  5:22 

Of everything. Yeah. Well, once you come up with a haptic technology-based teddy bear, the rest of mind reading is easy. Right?

Xyla Foxlin  5:30 


Tyler Suiters  5:32 

So you go to CES. And as, as I was saying, there's a bit of everything there in terms of what can be part of the Internet of Things, what's connected, and now more and more of the AI enabled technology. I have not seen a whole lot of teddy bears there. Did you feel like you were unique stepping into Eureka park in terms of product? Or was it was it a 180? From there, which is “oh my gosh, I'm the seventh teddy bear related company I've seen today.”

Xyla Foxlin  6:00 

Oh, my God, we stood out like a sore thumb. It was awesome. I mean, for starters, myself and my cofounder were both teenage women founders in Eureka Park and we had teddy bears. From the outside, you'd walk by you just walking through the aisles and you'd see all these like smart devices and smart watches. and like hard plastic IoT things. And then you see these two girls standing there with teddy bears. So regardless of your actual interest, there is a curiosity that piques, part of our market is traveling parents. And so we got people when they're feeling really guilty, because they're all away from their families in Vegas at CES but we were so warmly received it’s incredible.

Tyler Suiters  6:47 

So you're starting to say that's what's unique about CES, I think you're going toward the audience, right that you don't know who the next person is, is going to walk up to your booth.

Xyla Foxlin  6:57 

Yeah, exactly and also as a 19-year-old founder, I had never really pitched investors before like this was when we showcased the product for the first time at CES. If that's not a hush pitch boot camp, and how to read the person that you're pitching boot camp. I don't know what is.

Tyler Suiters 7:16 

So what do you learn with that insight? How do you apply that? From your first to your second CES? Going in and having such success the first time?

Tyler Suiters  7:27 

If not by Marketing and Communications design, by the nature of your enthusiasm and your product? How do you hone that for your second show? Because you're coming in as a as a seasoned veteran at that point, right?

Xyla Foxlin  7:39 

Yeah, year two is definitely a seasoned veteran.

Xyla Foxlin   7:43 

Yeah, I mean, a lot changed for Parihug between year one and year two. Year one was myself and my co-founder. Actually, shortly after CES she decided to leave the company and pursue school full time. And it was a super amicable, like thought out split. It didn't really hurt the company and all except for the fact that I missed her and I still do miss her. But we still talk, we’re still friends. But year one we were both really nervous, we had no idea what to expect. We looked up pictures, we heard kind of about like the booth babes of eras past. So we were really trying to play down the fact that we were young, we were trying to play down the fact that we were women, were trying to play down the fact that neither of us is white. And, we were trying to play down the fact that we had teddy bears, but in the end, like you can't play those things down, because that's inherently who we are. So for year two, we did a 180 in terms of branding and presenting ourselves and our booth, we had a higher budget because we had raised money and made a lot of progress in the year. We actually built a scene, like a set in our booth. So we drew a line down the middle of the base, including the background and the floor. Half of it was a child’s bedroom and the other half was an airport. The idea was that like we would be standing in the child's bedroom and hand the product to the people in the airport. And you could kind of show, you can truly hug someone from anywhere in the world. You're here in Vegas, you don't need to feel guilty, the fact that your child is at home, because now you have this tool, and you have this way to solve the problem. Our branding was very much in the purples and the pastels. Things were really sleek and modern and beautiful, but also really kid friendly. And we didn't shy away from it the way we did the year before. And I think that made a huge difference.

Tyler Suiters   9:36 

So you take that evolution that that strategic approach to changing the way you looked and the way you presented, and to some degree, your pitch. And then your third year, you do something entirely different. Right? And you starting over again, because you went with beauty and the bulls your new company at that time to show why the transition.

Xyla Foxlin 10:00 

So that decision didn't get made until I think November, which is maybe even December actually.

Tyler Suiters  10:09 

You had your Eureka park space set up for Parihug and then changed?

Xyla Foxlin   10:15 

Yeah, so I'm lucky enough that my university sends us to Eureka park every year. They see the value in bringing students startups, because what adds validity more than being at CES, right. The University reserves the booth for us. And then we just have to take care of everything else. And so they had reserved a booth for me as a student. Because Parihug has done so well, the last two years. And then around November, December, Parihug was really pushing to try to ship for our Kickstarter backers. We had some, unfortunate issues that couldn't be resolved in time. As a team, as a Parihug team, we decided not to go back to see us we weren't ready as a company to show any changes in that it wouldn't necessarily be worth the resources of Parihug. But we still have this booth and my nonprofit called Beauty and the Bolt was like a fledgling nonprofit, but still doing a lot of really cool things. And we decided we would take that data and the university, like really encouraged us to use that space for Beauty and the Bolt. So it was kind of a weird, but very cool. Like I brought two companies to CES now.

Tyler Suiters  11:29 

You've taken two companies to CES so far with very different experiences, right? One is a manufacturer technology product. The second is much more software based or from a nonprofit perspective. Right. Exactly. So is there more value in one than the other? Do you see it as the place to be for both or or any tech sector product? How did your point of view change going from one company to another with a similar goal, but I assume different experiences?

Tyler Suiters 12:03 

Yeah, super wildly different experiences. I think

Xyla Foxlin 12:08 

Parihug was more than I ever could have expected. Like being at CES, even now that I'm graduating in a couple of months and trying to figure out what company will I start next. What am I going to do with my future? And I look at it and I'm like, wow, I really couldn’t have done anything better than launch Parihug at CES.

Xyla Foxlin  12:28 

I think Beauty and the Bolt had a definitely a different experience, because we didn't have a product. Beauty and the bolt is a STEM education platform that's really geared towards getting girls and minorities involved in engineering and kind of promoting the idea that art and engineering are linked. Also really promoting the idea that femininity and engineering aren't mutually exclusive. Like you don't have to be the stereotypical tomboy, to be a great engineer like who you are shouldn't stop you from pursuing something that you love. And that's as much more abstract concept to be bringing to a trade show. So we still, and we also had less time to prepare and yet it was still an awesome experience. I think one of my favorite things to do with Beauty and the Bolt, we usually put up a blackboard, and on it we’ll put, “If I could make anything I would make”. And then we just hand out chalk and people can write on our Blackboard. We did the same thing at CES this year we put up, a couple of four by eights. And painted it with chalkboard paint. And then we put stickers that said “If I could make anything I would make”. And people just came in and filled out whatever was on their mind. And what I noticed is a lot of startup founders, like it's got some thinking more about what they do, which is really cool. But honestly, like from the nonprofits and like specifically what we gain perspective, a lot of it was the network and made people more aware of what we are, who we are, why we're doing what we're doing. Sort of like finding school districts that we haven't found yet.

Xyla Foxlin  14:03 

It’s getting dressed like it's really a good place to show the world what you've got.

Tyler Suiters  14:09 

So you're exceptional at developing an elevator pitch, as we talked about before Xyla, what is your elevator pitch to women in STEM, to some of the groups you're trying to reach out to, to come to CES?

Xyla Foxlin  14:23 

Yeah, so you know, it's funny, you ask that? And I'm dodging this question very briefly, but I'll go back to it.

Xyla Foxlin  14:29 

For Parihug’s second year at CES, I posted a women in tech network that has been like incredibly influential in my life. It's called NCWIT, which was the National Center for Women and information technology. And it's all like high school and college. And now people are graduating out of college and you know, starting their careers, but it's just women from all over the country. Everyone is really supportive of each other. And I posted in and I said, “Hey, if anyone wants a free ticket to CES and is willing to work half days at my booth, like I really need help. Because I have a meetings scheduled the whole time I can't be there and my team has meetings. So it would be really nice if we just had a couple knowledgeable technical women at our booth helping us out and I got so many messages of people who are like my dream has been to go to CES I would love to help out, I would love to do anything. And I just want to be able to walk around and see all of the things that are happening in the world. So I ended up bringing a bunch of girls from NCWIT to CES to help out and they spent probably, I only needed them like two or three hours a day in our booth. The rest of the time they got to explore the show. And so I didn't even need to have an elevator pitch. Kind of just wanted to go already. But I guess if I had to have an elevator pitch, I would say, you know, how many times in your life are you going to be able to go to one place to see everything and to meet all of the people that you might have wanted to meet to either advance your career or inspire you to build cool things in the future. There's something for everybody at CES, especially because you're asking about women. Just because you're a woman, doesn't mean you're any different at all.

Tyler Suiters 16:15 

The Fox and has brought two companies to market at CES, both before the age of 21. She is the founder of Parihug and the nonprofit Beauty and the Bolt. Xyla great time talking to you and we want to see one more time in Las Vegas this year. Okay.

Tyler Suiters 16:32 

All right. Absolutely. I'll be there.

Tyler Suiters 16:35 

Stay tuned for some insights from our sponsor and then more conversation from Eureka parks startup success stories at CES.

Tyler Suiters  16:46 

This week CES Tech Talk sponsored by EMD performance materials. US based high tech materials business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany with their innovative solutions for the electronics industry. EMD performance materials works to enable life as we know it. And life as we want to know it. Whether it's making microchips smaller, faster and smarter, or displays larger, brighter and more flexible. This company carries on its 350 year mission of advancing technologies for life. Visit them during the show at the Westgate and online at EMDgroup.com.

Tyler Suiters 17:29 

Well, if you are the startup scene or maybe a founder yourself, you absolutely know the show Shark Tank. There are winners, there are losers. And occasionally in the show, you see a remarkable story that moves you, it almost transcends whether there's a successful funding round or not. Joining us right now is the man behind one of those stories Robbie Cabral, he is founder and CEO of BenjiLock, and he was on Shark Tank not too long ago. Came away with successful funding. But there's a lot more to this story. And CES played a key role in this Robbie, first of all, good to talk to you again, my friend. Thanks for being with us.

Robbie Cabral  18:07 

Hey, thank you so much. And I'm very humbled to be here. And it's a great opportunity to be in touch with you. And I remember seeing you at CES. And that's kind of how it all started as well.

Tyler Suiters 18:17 

Well, let's talk about how things are going right now for you, Robbie. First of all, give us a quick scene center. How is BenjiLock doing? And what's the next step for you?

Robbie Cabral 18:26 

Well, right now, it's very exciting. Because after the whole Shark Tank, I licensed the technology to a company called Hampton products which they are known for making all the Brinks product security. So it's very exciting. We have a couple of trade shows coming up actually one with Ace Hardware now in August, and launching officially the product with them. And then we also went a couple days ago with QVC and did a pre order. And it was a success that they want me back again. And it's very exciting time having your product from like the dining room table basically a couple years ago, and all of a sudden now it’s going to be touching hands now in September for the whole back to school season. It's very exciting. That’s what's going on at the moment. We’ll see how everything goes. CES 2019 is actually around the corner. So we're also preparing for that.

Tyler Suiters 19:20 

Before we get too far down the road. Robbie, let's talk about the technology at hand and exactly what Benji luck does.

Robbie Cabral 19:27 

Yeah, so Benji lock, it's the world's first padlock that you can open with a fingerprint, but also with a key. So in less words, it's a hybrid. But the cool thing about it is that the patterns are broad. But it’s also all the claims that it has, That it literally covers the technology that goes with the fingerprint, also combination and mixing it with a key. So then, you know, it opens a plethora of opportunities that I always knew that this technology, you can go beyond padlock itself.

Tyler Suiters 20:01 

Well, let's go to where you were because before Shark Tank before CES, even before you were in the tech sector, you have had a really interesting ride and it starts in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Robbie Cabral 20:18 

Correct. I will lie to you back home.

Robbie Cabral 20:23 

I kinda you know, I was raised by my mom, only my mom. My dad left when I was six months old. So I know it was very rough for her. Because she was always working and but didn't have a lot of time to dedicate to me. But those things I kind of took it with me, it was very difficult for me, but I learned from all those things that my mom went through, because I knew that she was trying to do the best to put food on the table. But long story short, through that persistence that I learned with her.  I've applied that in my whole life and I’ve always been a fan of the creatives. I was always into music. So I had a band back home, and I did a couple of records and all of a sudden our goal was to “You know what, guys, we've been doing a lot of good things here but, I don't think we're going to get discovered here”. So might as well take a plane, go to the states and see how it goes. And that's kind of how it all started for me coming in 2007. But I don't have any background in the tech sector or nothing at all.

Tyler Suiters 21:26 

That's exactly what I was going Robbie, is that you didn't come here to make your mark in the tech sector or even as a founder or an inventor, other than an inventor of music, right? You found your way into your passion by a pretty circuitous route. And one of the key steps was the birth of your daughter, and you mentioned your youngest daughter, it was not the happiest of days for you? If you can go through the circumstances at that point.

Robbie Cabral  21:53 

Yeah, what happened was that, when you come here, and you land. I remember I came with a band and all that we did couple of shows. Long story short, all the band mates say, you know, what Robbie, we were going to go back home, because it's just not working out is very difficult when you don't have any family or friends.

Robbie Cabral 22:12   

So they all went back. And I said to myself, you know what, there's just no point for me to go back, get a normal job, you're going to get paid $1 an hour back home, which back home, you're happy but then it's like you're just not going to get anywhere. So I decided to stay and  my life kind of started that route, bumping into a lot of, doing anything that I could just to make ends meet from housekeeping to working in restaurants. I mean, you name it, I think I did everything just to kind of keep putting money on the table. Then I met my wife and we had kids and everything. And what happened was that I landed finally a good job, that I felt like it was great because it was near my house. I was applying kind of like the techniques that I've learned through my life and this company, which was in real estate. So I got the best of wars news in the same day. So basically, I got called in. I got laid off in the morning. I remembered coming home very depressed and all that, but I don't see my wife in the house. All the sudden, I'm hearing that we have to go to the hospital because the baby's almost on its way. That same day, in the midnight hours, then my daughter was born. So I was like very depressed, but then I got really happy. But then I got kind of depressed again, because then my wife, they only give you like a month lease. So she had to go back to work because she's a teacher. But I decided to also walk around the Rose Bowl, which is not too far from my house. It's like a three mile walk with a little baby. I took the first two to school, and then I walked with her. And then after that, and nighttime, when I put my kids to sleep, then I started going to the gym. And that's how I started seeing all these issues that people were having in the locker rooms. Forgetting their combinations, leaving their keys inside. And that's kind of how it all started with BenjiLock.

Tyler Suiters  24:05 

Yes, so that's the light bulb moment, then Robbie, because I would venture to guess that most startup stories don't begin with their first step coming with three kids at home, including one under six months. And just following a layoff, right? Because the one thing that startups require any founding requires is an immense amount of time. And that may have been the one luxury you didn't have.

Robbie Cabral  24:30 

Exactly. So again, I won’t lie to you. I remembered when I had that light bulb moment there, I came home, I explained it wife. I think there's something, there's an idea here. So I remember I wrote down a couple of the sign in terms and ideas out of my head. And the first thing I said is, you know, I don't have a lot of capital have a bit of unemployment coming in, I have a little bit of savings. But maybe I should do a prototype on this. I think I there's something here because I remember going to the stores, there was nothing like this a lock that you can open with a fingerprint, but also with a key that way that the younger generation can still use it. And then also the older generation if for example, if they problems with their glasses, and they cannot see the combinations, it will be perfect.

Robbie Cabral  25:18 

So I remember I went to legal zoom.com and said I should do like a patent search. Because I just know that if someone has it already is there's just no point for me to put my time and money into it. I don't even know how I got there. I remember I just went on Google com and started like searching inventions. How do you go about it? And by reading, I kind of mentored my own self.

Robbie Cabral  25:43 

Well, it's a bit different for you compared to a software based startup because you're dealing with a tangible product, a physical project, you're in manufacturing. So how do you get ramped up to the point where you have a product that you can touch, try feel, and that you want to take to a stage like CES?

Robbie Cabral  26:03 

Yeah, and I completely agree with you, I, I had no idea until I started digging myself into it deep that it was hardware. That's when I knew that Oh, boy, this is not going to be cheap.

Robbie Cabral 26:16 

What I did was after I started my whole pattern process, and we knew that you could do it, I started knocking doors on product development companies. So I knock on doors here, probably like six or seven. And all of them told me no, no, no, it's not going to happen, you're going to have to invest too much money. Just quit it, don't do it. But I knew that I had something. So I kept knocking and knocking and knocking until someone handing product development. He was the first one to actually at least help me build that prototype. And then without prototype, even though was kind of clunky all that. I remember I took another leap of faith and I said “What will be the best way to bring this prototype and just get feedback”. That's when I learned about CES. That’s how I ended up securing a startup booth at Eureka Park and I'm failing that first prototype in 2017, I believe or 2016.

Tyler Suiters  27:16 

Yeah, that's the first time I met you Robbie, and it was the final day of CES 2017. You were exhilarated, you were exhausted and you were really emotional to be direct about it. You were very emotional coming through this week. It seemed a bit of a reckoning for you. Not just us to the future of the company, but also the journey you've made and the leap you'd made into the tech sector and into the startup arena.

Robbie Cabral 27:45 

Yeah, no, I agree. I remember I think when I saw you, I remember you had something with CTA or CES. I think I drop a cry too when I saw you. I remember I gave you a hug. I say, “You know I think you may be connected to Gary Shapiro. I know Gary Shapiro runs this. And I've read about him and if you can, please send him a message that I'm very appreciative of this show and what you guys do and all that because, it takes a lot of hard work to get to that level. But if you see it that way, the CES platform, is a great opportunity. It's up to you as a person or as a company, or to take advantage. “Hey, that's a great product for the Shark Tank, you should do it. There's like a casting call here in the Venetian”. And I never even heard about this show. But a lot of people just come in. I say, you know what, I'll just do the line. I got a little wristband. And then I did a little casting, and I kind of forgot about it but that was good. Because you took another leap of faith there.

Tyler Suiters  28:44 

Yeah, I think we need to pause. Everybody can put their earbuds back in is listening to this. Because you're a startup, you're a founder, you're in the tech sector. You're at CES. And you hadn't heard of Shark Tank yet?

Robbie Cabral 28:56 

Nope, I've heard about the name. But I never really sit down and watch the show. And a lot of people kept telling me you should go there and do it and do the casting. I went in and you do a whole line. And then you met someone I guess from the Sony casting team. And I was just very real with them. I just saw that. Hey, you know what? The same thing I'm telling you here in the podcast, can I just did a quick in like three minutes. I think they were kind of stunned and said, “Okay, there may be something here, we'll be in touch”. And that was it. I went back to my booth again and kept working and then kind of recap my stuff went back to LA and that was it. Then they contact me a couple of weeks after.

Tyler Suiters 29:38 

Yeah, I want to be clear, Robbie. Your store, your narrative may have helped you got you on the show. But it's your pitch. It's your business acumen that got you successfully through the show and into a partnership with Kevin.

Robbie Cabral 29:52 

Exactly. The beauty of this thing is that going CES that for me has always been like my first.

Robbie Cabral 30:04 

So humbled for the opportunity, because I think the platform of CES and that's what if any company that it's trying to go in and or has the thought of maybe becoming a member. I tell them right away to go do it. Be proactive, because with the platform, it helped me not only build this prototype to all these retailers, but also get that opportunity of that Shark Tank casting. Also, all the big corporations that were up there, they kept an eye on me especially. At the moment, I had no idea who had some products were. They kind of knew about me because someone in their board members went down and saw me at my booth working my but off. He said, “Who was that kid that has an innovative cool product and we don't have it upstairs?”. We’re like a million-dollar company, this is just a little booth and it’s kind of rocking it. So it all made sense because then once you start putting all these little dots together, it all started at CES. I felt like, I got something special. I have my patterns. I went to CES, I sparked a lot of attention and a lot of connections that I've been in touch with back and forth. There's like a big company interested in possibly licensing, but I'm still kind of like I don't know a lot of the business realm. But, if this opportunity is here, I think I had to take it for myself. At that point, it was very difficult for my family. You go through a lot of people that are telling you that it's not going to happen. It's not going to work out. A lot of non-believers telling you who's going to pay that amount of money for a product. Blah, blah, blah. I said, you know I'll do this Shark Tank. Not because of the opportunity is more to kind of showcase my family and the ones around me that if you have an idea, go for it. I think that was the best thing for me because when I started seeing all these investors, going bananas with it. I said, “Wow, that was just like a relief”. I broke down I started crying because for me that was like the American dream. That was it.

Tyler Suiters 32:09 

So Robbie, as you transitioned from mentee to mentor to some degree. What is your advice for startup companies who are coming to CES for the first time? What can you share with them about the insight that did you glean the lessons you learned from your first to your second time exhibiting in Eureka park?

Robbie Cabral 32:30 

You know, I will say probably perseverance, I've learned a lot that having that perseverance, having that passion for what you like and for what you do. That's what kind of keeps that fire going. One thing that I've learned through this whole journey is that a lot of the times even you guys maybe you might be doing something and you kind of get tired of it. Just disconnect for a couple days. Then get back at it. If you still feel that fire again. It means that sometimes you just have to take a little bit of time off. All of us go through that. That’s what I did with BenjiLock. BenjiLock had a lot of ups and downs, from financials to emotional. I wont lie to you, that emotional kind of distress that a lot of entrepreneurs probably go through. Especially when you have wife, kids, time management and the lack of sleep. That might make you a little bit like “Oh crap, what time is it? What day is it? Where am I heading?

Robbie Cabral 33:30 

But having that perseverance and passion. Taking a deep breath that it doesn't matter. Be open minded showcasing your idea.

Tyler Suiters 33:40 

Robbie Cabral, founder and CEO of BenjiLock. A true American inventor story and an inventor who doesn't lack for passion, to say the least. Robbie, thanks for taking time with us.

Robbie Cabral 33:52 

Hey, thank you so much, Tyler. I appreciate it. Best of luck, and we'll probably see each other very soon. CES 2019 coming up.

Tyler Suiters 34:03 

You know sports tech is designed to help the fan watching at home, the fan watching at a sports venue the athletes on the court or the field. But also you when you're working out seriously or even just a little bit. A great example is Jonathon Perrelli’s LifeFuels. He is CEO and co-founder, a serial co-founder I may say. Jonathan, thanks for joining us.

Jonathon Perrelli 34:22

Thank you very much for having me today.

Tyler Suiters 34:25 

I say serial. This is your seventh company started.

Jonathon Perrelli 34:26

That's correct.

Tyler Suiters 34:29 

Tell me about life fuels. This is your first foray into health and tech, right?

Jonathon Perrelli 34:33

That's correct and beverage. So we're really in a beverage tech category. LifeFuels is a personal beverage maker. It consists of three parts. We have the bottle, which is a smart bottle. Fuel pods, which are concentrated beverages pods, and an app. So all of the more together where the pods, each one consisting of up to 15 servings are inserted into the base of the bottle. So three pods 45 beverages, and then the entire experience is managed through a companion app that actually works in conjunction with your Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin, and others. So you have a complete tracking of your input and output to close the loop on fitness. It's a unique product.

Tyler Suiters 35:14 

Yeah, so that's where I was going, which is regardless of how serious you are about yourself as an athlete. LifeFuels is a kind of tech product that can match your level of intensity, how closely you want to monitor yourself, or maybe it's just a learning experience.

Jonathon Perrelli 35:29 

That's right, we actually think that the user base, our audience will consist of the gamut. So we'll have athletes that work out every day, some multiple times a day and everything they consume matters to them. There's an outcome for everything that they eat or drink. Then their are sort of habit builders, those are achievers. The first batch habit builders are people that may work out may fall off the wagon on occasion. You know sometimes they work out to eat certain foods to try to earn that meal. And then we have technology enthusiasts who a lot of the members of CTA are and a lot of people in consumer electronics are that that may not work out at all. They may have an active lifestyle, but not necessarily exercise. And they just love technology. So the latest and greatest things are a lot of trends are portable, convenient and flexibility. People want the ability to, make what they want when they want on the go. And we hit a lot of those trends.

Tyler Suiters 36:22

So I want to talk about the product to a little bit Jonathan and how it looks and what it is and what it does. But it's a good-looking water bottle, right? It's handheld looks like something you buy off the store shelves that holds what 20 to 24 ounces, but the cylinder gets wider. And it looks like heavier at the bottom. And that's where the real technological elements are, right?

Jonathon Perrelli  36:42

That's correct. So we have printed circuit boards. We have motors for each pod, we've got RFID read right capabilities. So each pod is actually smart as well. And then, there’s some interesting technology that's ultrasonic level sensing. So we know how much of the water you've consumed. We also know if you spilled it out. There's an XL accelerometer in the bottle. So our goal is really to help people track what they consume, and then provide them what they need for every occasion. So you have many occasions throughout the day, I wake up in the morning and I like to have some energy and caffeine. You know, later in the afternoon, sometimes I need that as well. I need hydration products during the day and then I really like a pre workout post workout that is providing my body what it needs to help support the exercise I had and in the evenings asleep. You know, a melatonin vanilla camila, Rubio's Tea is one of my favorites. It actually tastes delicious.

Tyler Suiters 37:37

That's a real thing, right?

Jonathon Perrelli  37:38

It's a real thing. So that's what's interesting. We're not just a tech company, we're also a beverage company and that's why CES has been perfect for LifeFuels. You don't just see you the folks with Apple with their badges turned around or Amazon other distributors and partners in manufacturing. You see Coke, Pepsi, Nestle or Keurig. We met Keurig at our booth. Keurig is now series A investor and partner. It's a pretty amazing story and one we're really proud of and it's a lot of it because of CTA and CES.

Tyler Suiters 38:06 

Well, I want to dive into the consumer aspect and are changing tastes and maybe openness to more technology, whether we're working out or not, Jonathan, let's talk about that the serendipity behind that meeting, of course. I mean, this is a company that's making moves globally. And this is a meeting someone that you did talk to at CES 2018. How do you get from that first conversation handshake to where you are today?

Jonathon Perrelli 38:30 

So if I may take a step back first, we actually went to Vegas gambling. And our goal was to find a strategic investor …

Tyler Suiters 38:38 

Not literally casino gambling,

Jonathon Perrelli  38:41 

I was about 10 minutes. A little bit of blackjack, we were absolutely gambling with the business. I think any startup entrepreneur, you're taking a risk. But our goal was to leave there with the right partners that we could then have further conversations with about a strategic investment and relationship. So interestingly enough, an early scout team sort of came around from Keurig would say director level and found us and said, “Okay, we heard about your award,” the Innovation Award always helps. I think it's what a lot of the advanced teams and the media companies that are sharing executive tours throughout CES look towards.

Tyler Suiters 39:18

And you're talking about the CES Innovation Award.

Jonathon Perrelli 39:21                

That's right. We want our second CES Innovation Award in sports, biotech and fitness. We're really proud of that. And I think that turn them on to us at first they came by the booth, they stayed for about an hour, having a number of conversations with us about how far we are. And the trick to, I think getting to CES is not having something you can talk about, but having something you can demonstrate. So we had the bottle you see right here on the table, we had over a dozen of them working so everyone from the company had their own bottle and using it. We've manufactured those here in Reston, Virginia, by the way, with parts from all over the world. But when we could demonstrate that the first day to those folks from Keurig, they came back later that afternoon with other executives. They came back the next day and the day after and the day after that. And we turned that into pretty great conversations at the show about the potential for us to work together. Where we were in our financing round, we'd closed a series C round earlier, the previous year. Actually the June of 2017. So the conversations got pretty hot and heavy pretty quickly. The next week, we had two of the top executives from Keurig, in our office in Virginia. It takes some time as always to negotiate and perform due diligence. But we closed our round April 11, of 2018. And that was Keurig as the sole investor and largest shareholder outside of the founders. 

Tyler Suiters 40:40 

So, congratulations, first of all, 

Jonathon Perrelli 40:42

Thank you.

Tyler Suiters 40:43

That's a major victory for you. You look at the timeline Jonathan and you think “wow three months from when you first shook hands at CES to getting that closed in April. I guess it wouldn't be surprising to you that so many, well known consumer brands were at a place like CES, right? A gathering for every company that's even tangentially connected to technology. And that is virtually every major sector, if not every major sector in industry today. Have you seen that transformation take place? Because you've been doing this for quite some time you've been to CES with a number of your different corporate iterations?

Tyler Suiters 41:19 

How do you get to the place where a beverage company is now a technology company?

Jonathon Perrelli 41:23 

Sure, it's wild. We were talking earlier with john as we were walking into the studio about the fact that it was televisions and other technology that has been around for a really long time. But CES has transformed to the only show we spent marketing dollars on in 2016 and 2017 and 2018. That was it. Now we go to BevNET, because BevNET is a very focused industry show for beverages. But CES is the only show where you can find Amazon and other distributors and partners that will actually help you sell the product and retail manufacturing partners. Which is quite interesting, because in many cases, you really need to build those relationships over time. So we built some from 2016. We still have today in 2018. But what's most interesting is the health care providers, the pharmaceutical companies, and in our case, very fortunately, beverage companies. And they're there because everything ultimately will be IoT, everything will be connected, and most things are now. So when they're at the show, they're looking for innovation. Again, which is why Innovation Awards are really important and kind of a critical thing. We've got a trophy case because of our CES award. That's the reason we have one and now we have two in it. Our patents are there and other things. But the show is transition to something I think every founder that has something in technology could benefit from being at and that's why Eureka Park is a great place to start. Our 2016 time spent in Eureka Park and throughout the show was very different than 2018. Because we had a very large booth earlier this year in Sands, and we were kind of right behind Peloton in and near a lot of other companies that have already got quite a bit of revenue. But it was 2017 we spent a lot of time at Eureka park but we didn't have a booth we were just walking around with meeting. My co founder, Rob, flew out there for $89. Stayed for free, because his dad was at the show as a technology executive. I think his dad paid for the meal. So we spent under 100 bucks to walk the floor and had meetings that were follow up from 2016 and really counted for our 2018. So it's a continuity. And I think the earlier you get there, the more quickly you'll develop the relationship.

Tyler Suiters 43:40 

there's something special is there about walking the floor, especially in Eureka Park, we're talking about more than 1000 startup companies from around the world. And I find when I'm walking that that you have no idea what you're going to see next right? So I assume from a business perspective, it's not just getting the round of funding you need or make a partnership connection that may pay dividends. It's also about inspiration.

Jonathon Perrelli 44:04                                                                                                           

Absolutely. We met folks from I think over there were over 40 countries represented, we met folks from over 10 or 12, and had actual sit downs with them not just a glance by the booth. It’s not as relevant.

Tyler Suiters  44:17

Well, as you promise, we would get back to this, which is the element of consumer acceptance, right? I don't know where the tipping point is, or if you would identify one, but health technology has penetrated so many aspects of our daily lives. Whether you're considering yourself an athlete or not. How does that happen? How's that taken place that we're all seeing ourselves and, and able to quantify ourselves to some degree?

Jonathon Perrelli  44:40 

Sure. It's the combination of hardware and software really meeting design and what we had with pedometers, since I was a kid didn't really matter. But a Fitbit effectively was that with software and it was better designed with something on your wrist. I've got a whoop actually on my wrist now and whoop is a heart rate variability, sleep tracking a lot of athletes use. We're testing it and hopefully to use in conjunction with our product.

Jonathon Perrelli 45:06 

It is an advancement but actually might even look like something that was earlier because there's no screen on here.

Tyler Suiters 45:11 

Yeah, I'm looking at it. It's a sleep black band.

Jonathon Perrelli 45:14

That's right.

Tyler Suiters  45:15

With no discernible screen whatsoever

Jonathon Perrelli 45:17

That’s right

Jonathon Perrelli 45:17 

So sometimes, you know, taking a step back and saying let's make this simpler. In fact, we had a screen on our first bottle in 2016, that was an award winning product because it was so disruptive and innovative at CES. We've paired down to what you mentioned, looks more like a water bottle and a premium water bottle at that. I think the advancement is coming in software, the hardware ultimately may actually just be embedded in your clothing and you won't even see it. But it's the software that's most unique. That’s where people are getting the data streams to be able to manage the decisions that they make. In our case, the goal won't be 10,000 steps, but it may be 100% hydration, for some people in that earlier category of technology and lifestyle. For the people in the later category of achievers that are true athletes. It will be what I consumed help me win a race.

Tyler Suiters 46:04

So where are we going in health and fitness technology, Jonathan, is this a convergence where, I at home will be using a lot of the same technology for my workouts. The guys on my favorite football team are using, if not on Sundays and during their training through the week? Or is it much more of a divergence, divergence where there's a breakout for a consumer sector and a professional athletes sector and separate iterations of similar products but for different audiences?

Jonathon Perrelli 46:37 

Yeah, I hate to say it depends, but I think it does. I think it's both. A lot of athletes. Think of your best friend that does CrossFit. That person is a professional athlete, if they're competing at a level against other gyms. They absolutely view themselves as that and as do their peers. If there's an edge they can have by having LifeFuels and consuming and knowing exactly what worked for them. They're absolutely going to do it as well, professional athletes. I think on a larger scale, you're going to have variation. Just because a basketball player has a new set of shoes, every kid if that person wins a lot of games or has great stats will want those. I don't know that they're going to be able to have exactly the same gear that same year. But when that starts, those products will sell really well. Ultimately, I think people want to achieve to the people they look up to so they're going to try to utilize the products they have.

Tyler Suiters 47:32

Before we let you get back to your day job and actually making deals. And putting out product. What's your game plan to the extent that you can share it Jonathan for CES 2019.

Jonathon Perrelli 47:41

So we actually have an off year this year we’ll be in attendance for sure. We've got meetings that will be scheduling with existing partners and future partners. Because we won't be rolling out a new product in 2019. We won't have a booth. We will have a booth in 2020

Jonathon Perrelli 47:56 

We will hopefully reserve that pretty early because we will have…

Tyler Suiters 47:59

Booth selection does start soon.

Jonathon Perrelli  48:00

It starts at the show [CES 2019]

Jonathon Perrelli 48:01 

So the year before so we like the idea of bringing new products to market at CES and we are excited to extend the line of LifeFuels bottles, and in 2020 we’ll be doing that so we'll have another booth for sure.

Tyler Suiters  48:15 

Jonathan Perrelli, CEO and co founder of LifeFuels, not just a cool product, but a really good looking product too. Jonathan, thanks for being with us.

Jonathon Perrelli  48:23 

Thank you very much Tyler. Appreciate being here.

Tyler Suiters 48:27 

So next week, we are diving into the world of sports and technology. And among the folks you'll meet a former NFL star, a pro bowler, who had a pretty impressive mentor early on in his career with the Seattle Seahawks.

Tyler Suiters  48:41 

Best thing that happened to my life was being blocked by Mr. Paul Allen and the Seattle Seahawks. Most people know that Paul Allen started Microsoft so it was pretty cool.

Tyler Suiters  48:56 

EMD performance materials is the US based high tech material business of merch KGAA Darmstadt, Germany.Whether it's solutions for the semiconductor industry to make electronics smarter, or materials to take displays to the next level. This company works to enable life as we know what and life as we want to know it. Visit emdgroup.com. To learn more.

Tyler Suiters 49:22 

All right, everybody. Thanks for joining us. And reminder, it's a good idea to subscribe to this podcast. That way you don't miss out on any of our episodes as you're getting ready for CES. And of course we have all the info you need on CES 2019. That's this coming January 8 to the 11th in Las Vegas that's at CES.tech. As always, none of this as possible without our producer Tina Anthony and our engineer, John Lindsay. You both rock. Thank you. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk again soon.