What’s the inspiration behind Yumwoof?
In 2008, our Head Chef Ray's dog became ill. He could no longer afford to keep feeding his dog the dry kibble he had been feeding him for years.
Luckily, he was a professional chef trained at The French Culinary Institute.
With the input of his local veterinarian and pet nutritionist, he began cooking a new formula. The ingredients also reflected the latest scientific research in pet nutrition.
With the involvement of our nutrition-obsessed CEO, Jaron Lukas, this recipe evolved into the Yumwoof Perfect Kibble we offer today.
How did you meet your co-founders? How do you work together?
We have all been friends for over a decade—Ray and Yo have actually been friends since they were kids!
Our long friendships have helped Yumwoof thrive. There’s nothing better than a relationship based on trust.
Jaron and Yo previously co-founded Coinsetter, one of the first venture-backed bitcoin exchanges in the USA, which was sold to Kraken in 2016. Since then, we have collaborated on other ventures together and remain best friends.
How do you handle risk and competition?
While the pet food industry is competitive, we try to focus on our customers and creating unique products that stand out.
Yumwoof has taken a strong stance on the importance of low carb diets for dogs. While it costs more not to include fillers like rice and potato, we’re uncompromising when it comes to our dogs’ health.
For Jaron: You're stepping into a CEO position again. What lessons are you bringing to Yumwoof from your previous experience?
I believe differentiation is the most important aspect to business success. This is something I learned early in my entrepreneurial career.
When you’re starting a company, there will always be competitors—and usually some that are much larger than you. They have advantages a startup cannot replicate.
That’s why I never follow or copy the competition. Startups who do that are always playing catch-up. I believe you should stand out as being unique, and that can only be accomplished by differentiating yourself through unique products.
For Jaron: You have a large amount of press surrounding you personally. How has the recognition affected the way you work, if at all?
During my Coinsetter days, I was regularly interviewed on CNBC, Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal, and many other news outlets. It was a fun experience, but these days I’m more focused on writing articles that help customers learn about nutrition for their dogs and themselves.
For Yo Sub: This is your third time being a co-founder! What strengths have you needed as a serial entrepreneur?
Persistence is one of my more important strengths because I've been a co-founder more than three times. Some of those times just didn't work out as well as they are with Yumwoof. I'd also say the ability to adapt. There are an infinite number of things that can go wrong while building a business, but figuring out what's needed to make things go right is the challenge and the fun.
For Yo Sub: Your blockchain experience is coming into play with Yumwoof's upcoming open source food trial platform. What drove the decision to make it open for everyone?
I've always been a big supporter of open source software and that's especially true in anything relating to blockchain. You need to secure the trust of the community by being open and ultimately you want everyone to use a technology if it betters the field in doing so.
For Raymond: Web development and gourmet cuisine seem like they're worlds apart! What made you decide to work in both fields?
Web development and the culinary world are connected through artistry! I've always been an artist at heart. Whether I was holding a chef's knife or keyboard designing the front-end of a website, aesthetics have always been a huge motivator for me.
For Raymond: How would you compare and contrast your time cooking for people vs cooking for dogs?
I've spent most of my life cooking and working in restaurants. I was always fascinated by the unique "personality" that each establishment had, and the happiness that they brought to their guests. Cooking for dogs came hand in hand with this concept!
I have always been a dog person, and was lucky enough to foster and adopt dogs after college. One of my dogs was not responding well to a certain kibble that I had, and that's when I began cooking for him. After seeing him have more energy and a happy tummy, I thought "Why not do this all the time?"
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Launching a pet food company with just one recipe is a huge challenge. I always like to say that our first 9 months were the most difficult part of Yumwoof because we didn’t have any cross-selling capabilities. We’re glad to be past that with several great products to offer customers—especially those with picky eaters!
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
All three co-founders came from tech backgrounds, so Yumwoof has been an education on running a classic physical business in our view. Some of our most important learnings that we’ve implemented into Yumwoof include smart product pricing, subscriptions and managing marketing costs.
We’ve also been surprised to learn how dysfunctional the logistics industry is.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd via Republic?
We chose to raise on Republic because we wanted to spread the word about our unique company and build a network of incentivized evangelists. There’s no other platform that compares!
What’s your team culture like?
We’re all nice people with a friendly culture. We take canine nutrition extremely seriously, and we can get very focused on making sure every little detail in what we do is right.
What is your superpower?
My superpower is creativity. Whether it’s marketing or product development, I’m always thinking outside-the-box coming up with new ideas I would personally use.
What’s your kryptonite?
My kryptonite is negativity. I keep it away through meditation and being selective in where I place my attention.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I meditate for at least 30 minutes every day. As meditation gets more popular, that’s fortunately becoming a less unusual habit. I also go for walks with my dog almost every day. My most unusual habit is that I try not to have any routine (besides meditating and brushing my teeth) because I like to make every day different.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m always planning trips! My favorite trip last year was to France for a wedding. And I’m currently planning my brother’s bachelor party to Oaxaca, Mexico.
Are there any apps or gadgets that you can’t live without?
I’d say Keywords Everywhere chrome app is a pretty useful tool I use regularly. It shows me search volumes on everything I google, which is really helpful for understanding trends.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Don’t sell any of your bitcoin.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
Do you have a(ny) mentor(s)? If so, what have they taught you?
Anyone successful in what they do is my mentor. I listen to everyone.