Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Dave & Dave


Dave and Dave spent nine months creating Coffee Joulies, setting themselves a funding goal of $9,500 on Kickstarter. One month and a viral sensation later, they'd raised over $300,000.

Dave Petrillo and Dave Jackson are the brains behind Coffee Joulies. The pair grew up together in New Jersey before becoming engineers and moving to separate coasts of the US. Despite this, the Daves continued to work on projects together, a partnership that culminated in the creation Coffee Joulies.

Aiming to keep beverages at the perfect drinking temperature for as long as possible, Coffee Joulies are small stone-like devices that can be immersed in hot drinks — cooling them while they’re too hot, and then heating them as they cool down.

1. Where did the idea for Coffee Joulies come from?

DP: Dave Jackson had been working on ideas for phase change materials for other applications. Coffee Joulies was an idea I had for a phase change product for coffee. DJ confirmed that he had been thinking of something along the lines of a phase change coffee product around the same time, and so we decided to join forces. I put up some capital and we set to work from there. The original idea for Joulies has been largely unchanged from day one. We put strict rules in place against changing the idea as we went along, to prevent us from getting distracted. We did tons of testing, and a little optimization, but we are still amazed at how close to the original idea the final product came out as. DJ: Ideas like this happen all the time with us. We reject the notion that we should accept the world as it is. When we see something that sucks, like burning your lips on coffee, we fix it.

2. Did Kickstarter make Coffee Joulies possible, or did it simply speed up the process?

DP: I can only say for sure that it made the process a heck of a lot faster. We had a website up and a few prototypes for sale before we did our Kickstarter page. We were selling them to friends and family, but it was very slow. One thing that Kickstarter did was force us to make a really simplified message about what Joulies are and what they do. Spending the money on making a nice video was extremely important. Not sure if we would have done that if it weren’t for Kickstarter. DJ: Kickstarter also gave our story a certain warm, fuzzy feeling that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Kickstarter makes the whole process extremely personal. You meet the inventors, you hear their story, and you want to help them succeed. It’s not just about getting a cool product.

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

DP: No work day is typical for us at this point. We are all over the place, which I think is typical for start ups. When we are in Sherrill NY, I am generally focusing on manufacturing related issues, and Dave Jackson is generally taking care of website and customer service, and getting other things ready for delivering products to our customers. One thing that has surprised us the most is how much time we spend dealing with press (this interview for instance). We love doing it, but we spend a decent amount of time doing interviews, photo shoots, driving to meet reporters and stuff like that.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Coffee Joulies?

DP: Both of us love food and eating out, and neither of us technically has a home at the moment with a kitchen, so we end up doing that often. Now that it’s summer, both of us are trying to save at least a few weekends for relaxing at the Jersey Shore. DJ: We also found a hobby shop recently and splurged on an RC helicopter and truck to mess around with. I haven’t bought an RC vehicle in years, it’s amazing what you can get for $150 these days.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

DP: If you have an idea that you think can be successful, you have to really set your mind to getting it done, instead of perpetually thinking about the idea and ways to improve upon it. Even while making progress towards realising your “original vision”, or OV as we call it, you are going to be forced to explain yourself to many other people, all of whom will say intelligent things that will make you stop and re-think what you are doing. Listen to what others have to say, but stick to your guns and expend all of your energy and resources on making real progress every day towards making your OV happen. Let the OV solve your problems for you: “do I need to do this in order to get my idea into the hands of potential customers?” if the answer is yes, do it to the best of your ability and do it fast. If the answer is no, forget about it and move on. Let the customer who tests out your product be judge as to whether or not your OV was a good one. In our case, what took 30 minutes to dream up took 8 months to put into the hands of a potential customer. DJ: In my opinion the most important component of being an entrepreneur is truly believing in yourself. You cannot second guess decisions and waffle back and forth about what the right direction is. Life is one big self-fulfilling prophecy, and as Henry Ford said “if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” We believe in Coffee Joulies. If we had listened to everyone else we’d be trying to sell mugs with phase change material in them instead of these beautiful polished stainless steel beans, and that would be a real shame.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

DP: Waste. DJ: Critics.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

DP: #1 Satisfied customers, #2 green stuff. DJ: Freedom.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

DP: Design something that was easier to manufacture. DJ: Ahem… I may have mentioned that once or twice.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

DP: No idea, we purposefully try not to plan too far into the future. If you spend more energy making progress on the tasks that are clearly laid out in front of you at the moment, and you do that every day, you will realise a future better than you could have ever aimed for. That being said, one of our next OVs is: “A Joulie in every cup”. DJ: The sheer volume of work required to complete our 6-month plan makes thinking 5 years out seem ridiculous.

10. If you weren’t working on Coffee Joulies, what would you be doing?

DP: Something involving food – preparing it or eating it. Or something near the beach, waves and wind. DJ: Training to pole vault in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

DJ: Dave Petrillo baked a batch of cicada muffins for his post-prom party. Yes, that’s a muffin with a freshly molted cicada (giant flying insect) stuck in the top. The eyes get nice and crispy. There were probably two dozen of them, all eaten by the end of the night.

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

DJ: Everyone else on earth is here to tell you why you will fail. You are here to show them how you will succeed. Actions speak louder than words.

You can read more about Coffee Joulies in our article here, or visit the Coffee Joulies website here.