026 Mark – Smartfire

026 Mark -

Mark from Smartfire takes a knee in the Confessional for Ep 7 of Season Two, ‘Living the Dream’. In this incredible Ep Marks takes us through the painstaking process he went through to create on of Australia’s best BBQ inventions in decades. Moreso, he teaches us how to get own ideas off the back of a napkin and out to consumers. If you’ve ever dreamt up a gadget of your own, you’ve got to listen to this!

 

Much thanks and appreciation go to this episodes sponsors:

JAGRD Woodfired Smokers  

Pit Brothers BBQ  

Clean Heat Charcoal

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SHOW NOTES

  • He loves to cook butterflied lamb as it’s quick and easy for a mid-week cook
  • Started out with a gasser, but he went camping with some Brazilian friends who would cook them over an open pit and that changed everything for him
  • He has a Primo XL and a Pro Q. Wants to move up into a cabinet or offset smoker
  • His favourite thing to cook is reverse-seared Scotch Fillet with smoked chicken wings a close second
  • The BBQ foodie scene has grown rapidly in Melbourne, culminating in the Meatstock Festival
  • The Smartfire is a Wi-Fi enabled temperature controller for your smoker, maintaining temperature to within 1 degree
  • The Smartfire allows people to be able to manage their fires remotely, allowing for more family time together
  • The idea for the Smartfire came about by his desire to be able to cook BBQ while having a beer at the pub and was initially just a personal project
  • You can control the fire from your Smart Phone
  • There is a Smartfire Owners Group on Facebook for support which Mark uses to modify, update and tweak the Smartfire based on feedback from the group
  • Mark has a background in IT and product development so the creation and development of his own product was always in the cards
  • Smartfire was the first with Cloud connectivity
    • The first to have a controlling smart phone app
    • Uses 5 volt so you can use smartphone power banks to power a Smartfire
    • They’ve got the algorithms right which are essential for a quality BBQ controller
  • At a comp, you can hot-spot it to your phone using a spare phone. He has lots of support information telling you how to do it
  • There is a new edition coming out soon with Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi for both types of connectivity
  • Probe 1 is the one that drives the fan, controlling the temperature. The rest of the probes are interchangeable between being food or ambient temperatures
  • They’re moving into domestic sales in the UK and the US
  • A new app is coming soon
  • Considers himself to be an ‘innovator’ as a title
    • He looks at things that are on the market already and thinks about how he can improve them and make them better
  • Skills you need to get your product off the ground
    • A wide range of personalities can succeed
    • You need to have had some experience in at least some of the areas that you’re going to need to cover. You need to be prepared to pay for the rest or learn
  • Tips for outsourcing
    • Some work will be best left for professionals
    • Plan what you’re going to need
    • Upwork is a good place to look for help
    • Be able to make detailed specifics – cardboard mockups etc
    • Consider time differences when working within deadlines
    • Factor in the costs for outsourcing
    • Controlling quality can be difficult when outsourcing overseas too
  • You’ll need to expect to put in at least 1,000 hours to get a product up off the ground
  • Mark uses Shopify to run his online sales
  • Once the product is up and running, Logistics will take up 80% of your time
  • A lot of people don’t budget in the time to get a product off the ground
  • Mark is not a huge fan of crowd-funding
    • He thinks crowd-funding is more about marketing than product development
  • If you don’t think you can sell enough of your product to cover manufacturing costs, don’t do it
  • Have some fun with it
  • Make sure your product solves a problem for yourself or a friend
  • Once you’ve got your idea sorted and your sketches done, find a 3D Modeller to create a model for you to take around to industry people for feedback. This will help you refine it to a working prototype
  • Prototypes can be created with rough parts just to get an idea of how it will work
  • There will be 5 week cycles involved in prototyping
  • To go from manufacturing to distribution, allow six months to get all the logistics organised
  • Try and find a good collaborative office space so you can share contracts etc especially for postage
  • After doing all his homework, Mark was able to cover his costs of his initial run in 4 hours after launching the Smartfire in the ABA group page
  • Listener Questions:
    • Are there any plans to compete with international options out there?
      • Short answer: yes
    • How does having a consistent cooking temperature affect the quality of the cook?
      • It means you know more about what’s going on with what you’re cooking and it makes it easier to replicate something that you did great before
    • Can the Smartfire be used with an offset?
      • Mark is working on prototypes now for offsets
    • How long did it take to get the Smartfire business up and running fully?
      • It took him four months, working on it full time to get a working prototype
      • It took one year to get the business commercial
    • If money and tech was no issue, what would he do to the Smartfire?
      • Waterproof and Hardy
      • Improved Connectivity
    • Most difficult thing to program?
      • The Firmware
    • How easy is it to use for people who are not very tech-savvy?
      • Very easy – Mark has put together a lot of help documents to make sure that people can get in and get it set up right away
    • How does Mark see technology changing the future of BBQ?
      • There’s a lot of new technology just around the corner such as internal cameras and humidity sensors
  • Mark’s Top Three Tips:
    • Write it down & Do the Lean Startup Canvas and talk to your friends – Prove the idea
    • Have buy-in from your family about the investment of both time AND money
    • Try and have fun from it – unlikely to be successful with it if you are only doing it for the money

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