An Open Letter: From One Backer to Another
My name is Alex and I’d like to address you a bit more personal this time: Since January 2018 I have been the COO for Bonaverde, but I also used to be a Seedmatch and Seedrs Investor long before I ever joined the company itself.
Like with many of you readers, I too was drawn to Bonaverde's ambition, on a humanitarian level, and as a tech and coffee lover. Also like many of you, I am well aware of the frustrations to date.
For the last few weeks I have been personally replying to a number of unhappy messages from our supporters to explain our current situation and shortcomings in our overall communications to them. I've received a lot of similar feedback. So I’ve decided to take this more public and write this open letter to all of you.
Being in quite the unique position as a former crowd-investor, as well as part of the senior management team, I hope I can give you all some valuable insight into the Bonaverde situation and decision-making.
So let me start with the following statement:
In regard to the lack of investor updates and communication in our crowdfunding forums, I completely understand your sentiment - and there is no way around saying that. I completely agree with you!
Most of you know that the company has had a long and exhausting journey behind it to at last get a point where we could finally go into the production of the machines.
Development, Prototyping, several hundred iterations of alpha, beta and gamma test-machines, connectivity development through thousands of SIM cards, logistical setup in more than three continents with international fulfilment and warehousing, coffee sourcing across international borders, single-serving packaging and boxing, backend development to track the customer and machine data, conventions, fundraising, design, marketing, legal requirements and thousands and thousands of general overhead topics and daily chaos... you guys probably know where I’m going with this...
A project that would stress the resources of even the most established and well-funded companies, carried on the shoulders of a tiny startup from Berlin. Just like with other startup companies, throughout that journey the Bonaverde team has changed constantly and at times it was quite honestly down to 2 people working from a living room, basically surviving on coffee alone.
Interns, working-students, people on rotation-programs or just the usual startup staff fluctuation paired with the different funding situations and financial resources led to a state of constant handing over of projects and tasks between different Bonaverde “generations” and team members being involved in several different but equally time-pressing and important projects at the same time.
Just imagine you join a company and your first day starts like this: “Please set up an international supply chain of machine shipments between China and Cologne – oh and Boston as well – without any prior documentation. And there are also ten different lists on our server of the backers, pre-orders and delivery addresses, so please make sure the shipment works out. And if you have time, please also answer the open customer support emails on the four different email accounts as well as the forums and social media. Half of the messages are in German and we know you only speak English, but I’m sure you will manage somehow. Oh yeah, and the WiFi is down, so maybe use your phone for that – have a great first day at Bonaverde.”
I wish this was an exaggeration! So I hope you understand that things just fell off the table - the main and most regrettable of which has been the communication to you on all of our channels.
Backers, Investors, Supporters... we managed to give beautiful signs of life here and there, to showcase our amazing product at conventions and several great events and of course our doors were always open for people walking in, but the real updates were lacking - a huge shortcoming on our side.
Now, finally, we are up to more than 15 people and the company was never as strong as it is today! We are working really really hard to pick up all the open requests from the past and become more transparent and responsive. It’s one of our primary goals at the moment, but still it’s a huge task to pick up und clean up those past mistakes. As you can probably imagine, a lot of those open requests have a pretty harsh and personal tone, and that it takes quite thick skin for people to own up to, and respond to all of them politely. Especially when we still don’t have satisfying answers to some messages.
Somebody broke their machines – ok, send it back and we try to fix it for you.
You have a red light and don’t know what to do – let’s hop on a video chat and we try to support you.
You are a backer and you haven’t received your machine yet – well… we are really sorry about that, but we can’t give you a definite date yet when we can reorder and send out the last crowdfunding machines (we tried that before and missed a couple of promised deadlines -- so we are really careful with making those estimates now).
Do you want to hear that? No, of course not. Would we like to give you a different answer? Yes, definitely – we would carry that machine to your very doorstep and share that first coffee together!
But we can’t change the fact, that a hardware product is immensely time and working-capital intensive, and that we also need to show revenues and prove the Coffeechanger business model before we can go to investors to raise more capital for reordering the next containers.
Even though we have accepted that challenging situation, and need to still give people those (doubtless) unsatisfying answers to them, all the while hoping for understanding and patience is quite optimistic and it can be draining, even for our coffee-infused, changing-the-world-minded and hard-working team members.
After all, at the end of the day, we are all real people, sitting here and trying our very best to bring this incredible idea to the market.
So why am I saying all of this?
It’s no excuse for the lack of past communication (please don’t get me wrong on that), but I want to at least put all of you “into our shoes” and to really show you, that things are moving even if it’s not always visible from the outside.
I myself am working on a timely controlling and reporting for us and all our investors (my main challenge since I started here and the reason for my first grey hairs), while trying to set up a new packaging line for coffee, building a tech team to create our digital backend, working on improvements for the next batch of machines and negotiating contracts with international distributors. And I do this with a smile, because I know that this whole idea is going to become a real gamechanger as soon as we get the necessary day-to-day challenges sorted out.
I promise that we will get to the point, where things will be communicated clearly, regularly and transparently. These open letters are one attempt at regular updates on a broader scale, but the same goes for quarterly reportings and a 24hr response time to any individual incoming messages.
We do hear you, we see you and we are doing our best to respond to you. I know there is a small but rightly frustrated number of people, who will reply to this letter with “I don’t give a s***, where is my machine?” and I know that we as a company deserve some of that anger, but I’m hoping that the rest of you can give us the benefit of patience and understanding, to try take everything I just described with some humor, if nothing else, and to share this incredible ride with us.
Imagine yourself as part of our team, picture yourself trying to solve your own daily challenges as well as customers’ problems to help them getting the best possible experience with the product and think about what you would do, to utilise this amazing community that we have… and then let us know!
This is a team effort - and that includes all of you as much as our Bonaverde team. So without going too much into cliché or empty pathos here - the company motto was never more important than it is now: Let’s change coffee. Together.
All the Best,