What does a software engineer have in common with a sales and marketing guru? Coffee, of course!

Kaffelogic is a bench top coffee roasting system for the coffee enthusiast who wants to roast their own beans at home. The gadget was born out of Chris Hilder’s garage in Dunedin about 4 years ago. Chris was, in a previous life, a software engineer and wanted to get into roasting coffee as a hobby - but he could never get a good result.

He started out with a frying pan that let him down more than once. Then, he progressed to a popcorn maker, but it was tricky to get right with mixed results. After going through all that, Chris was hooked on nailing it and found the inconsistency frustrating. So, he started to wonder how he could turn a basic piece of equipment into something more usable.

With his brain in action he thought, ‘it’d be great to have a piece of software that can control the process of roasting the coffee’. So, he wrote the software first, and then developed the hardware to talk to the software, and the result is Kaffelogic.

At that stage, he didn’t have any thoughts about it being a business. It was just for him, so he could get the perfect roasted coffee beans. Then he found friends were asking if he could build them one. Then a few people encouraged him to take it to the next level, which was to go commercial with it.

He identified one of the challenges was to raise the finance to be able to develop the product to get it production ready, so, he did a crowdfund through PledgeMe. That was in 2018. His first prototype was built in 2017.

Chris decided to go on a road trip during the PledgeMe campaign and that’s when he met his now business partner, John Robson. John was working in his other business, The Coffee Workshop in Christchurch, when Chris walked in with a demo.

“We supply roasting machines to cafes and wholesale customers. Chris walked in and did a demo, and I thought, ‘oh my god, this thing is amazing’. I’d been looking for something on the market to import into New Zealand, and here, unbeknown to me, this thing was being developed in little old Dunedin,” John said.

Soon after that first encounter John began working really closely with Chris. “My business partner, former All Black captain Reuben Thorne, loved the product as well, so we provided some seed capital and the rest is history,” John explained.

PledgeMe provided the first 120 sales in New Zealand. They were all made in Dunedin. At this stage, John had become a shareholder.

“It was apparent early on that we didn’t want to be a manufacturing business, so we partnered with ASL (Assembly Specialists Ltd) here in Christchurch and they now make our product under contract for us,” John said.

Before all of that happened, Chris had received a lot of help from an eco-system of startup support programmes. Such as Startup Dunedin, CO.STARTERS, Rising Tide through Petridish and Soda Inc. John was onboard when the pair pitched for a Lift Program through Soda.

“By the time we both went through the Soda Lift Program we had a few hundred machines already in market and we knew it was good. People who brought the product, loved the product. We knew we could build on the market, but we wanted to know how we could cross into mainstream marketing and achieve global marketing.”

Timing was perfect for the coffee loving duo, they got into the Lift programme in late November last year. “That meant we were still in it during Covid, but that worked well for us because it gave us time to work on the business.”

They were paired with mentor, Andrea Hammond - cofounder and executive director of PR firm Hustle & Bustle. “She was fabulous, highly experienced and really took us on a journey. She taught us to step back and do some research. Out of that we got some great information that helped us build our branding and our marketing plan. Our next stage is to execute that.”

Execution is something John feels comfortable with, mainly because his background is in sales and marketing. “I’ve always been involved in sales and marketing across different industries. About 15 years ago I got into the coffee industry, it grabbed me and didn’t let me go, I love it. There’s a great vibe around it, it’s a positive product. I think Kaffelogic is the end of my career journey, I have found my passion.

“It’s exciting to be part of a business that is manufacturing in New Zealand and is exporting to Australia and soon to be many more countries. We have influencers within the industry raving about our product, including the likes of the New Zealand barista champ winner in 2018. All these top barristers around the world are loving our product,” John said.

You might be wondering how easy it is to use, rest assured, the machine is super user friendly. It’s a plug and play. You could have never thought of roasting coffee before, receive the machine and have roasted your first batch in 12 minutes, it’s that easy. But, if you are an expert you can delve into the software and really fine tune it.

Kaffelogic currently sell in 22 retailers up and down New Zealand and have about 15 to 20 in Australia. “We are getting a huge amount of enquiry out of the UK, Europe, and Asia now too. Ultimately, we see 20-30 countries distributing our product in the next few years. The aim is global domination. I’m going to love it when we have it in Italy, the home of espresso selling a New Zealand made coffee roasting machine!” John said.

John said the support from combined startup eco-system, including the Soda programme, was fantastic. “Putting us in front of highly experienced professionals, and to be actually getting feedback from those people has been really important to us.

“This is such an exciting journey, I’ve been in the Industry a while now and both Chris and I are geriatric entrepreneurs, it’s not just young people that are going for it. We’re both in our 60s, but we’ve got the energy and passion of 20-year-olds, believe you me!” he said.

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