One of my Christmas gifts this year was an Instant Pot, a smart kitchen appliance that’s an all-in-one pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer. My new gadget got me wondering how it became an Internet sensation.
Journalists and other influencers point to Instant Pot’s word-of-mouth marketing, passionate fans and use of Amazon’s fulfillment program as primary reasons for its success. But a sentence on the Ottawa-based company’s website suggests another key factor.
“Instant Brands Inc. was founded in 2009 by a team of Canadian technology veterans who set out to explore the food preparation category based on their own life experiences,” the sentence reads.
Instant Pot inventor Robert J. Wang was in his mid-40s when he was laid off from his job and began working on multi-purpose cooker designs. Earlier in his career, he weathered many ups and downs from starting three other businesses. By the time Instant Pot came along, Wang had accumulated a combination of professional and life experience that benefited his latest venture.
As an engineer with a Ph.D. in computer science, he had the know-how to conceptualize the sensor technology used by Instant Pot. As a father of two, he knew that busy families and professionals didn’t have the time or energy to prepare a hot, nutritious dinner after a long day.
Wang also had more than $300,000 in savings to invest in development. Not every startup has that much seed money, of course. Still, inventors and entrepreneurs of all stripes can benefit from these lessons:
View personal dilemmas as potential business ideas. Wang’s inspiration came from his family’s own nightly challenge: what to do about dinner when you’re tired and want a quick, healthy meal.
Drill down for answers. Analyze what your customers like, dislike and want. Wang says he’s read more than 40,000 reviews of his products.
Be in it for the long haul. Instant Pot required eighteen months of grueling research, design and development prior to the product’s introduction in 2010.
Make changes when necessary. After its first product, Instant Pot produced subsequent versions to improve functionality, user-friendliness and safety.
Get legal counsel to avoid big headaches. Wang planned to call his invention the “iPot” as a tribute to Apple. His attorney feared trademark infringement and wisely advised against this idea.
For 40-and-older entrepreneurs, Wang’s story offers one more lesson: don’t let age stand in your way. Here’s a CNBC video that tells more about Instant Pot.