HOME - INTERVIEW
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Dr. Ing. Rupprecht Gabriel and Markus Gabriel
HOME - INTERVIEW
by Mehmet Kaplan
Everything started from an egg. In order to set the egg boiling time correctly, Dr. Rupprecht Gabriel invented BeepEgg. In the beginning, they created Brainstream to launch BeepEgg in 2001, and the product range has grown with new designs throughout in this 17 years. The most important thing for BRAINSTREAM team is always to create fun, functional and ready-to-gift products. I talked with Markus Gabriel, CEO of BRAINSTREAM, to learn more about their design and production philosophy, and the future of BRAINSTREAM.
Markus, it is very nice to meet you. Nowadays, people need fun, and you offer more than fun with your innovative products. But before start talking about BRAINSTREAM, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Markus Gabriel?
Photo : Markus Gabriel, CEO of Brainstream GmbH
I’ve been working for Brainstream and helped building the company since I left high school 17 years ago. I went to University for studying business and politics and more or less had a media career in mind first. I did work some jobs at radio and tv stations before really getting involved with Brainstream. But as time went by, my involvement in (by that time my dad’s side project) Brainstream, got more intense and we thought we could build this into a “real” company with international sales. So I focused on our family business and here we are, 17 years in the making, having sold many million fun & functional products into every continent.
Privately speaking, I’m a lot into travelling different places (I love road trips with my lady) and into culinary experiences. And making ice cream myself. Maybe I’ll also open an ice cream parlour one day, that’s kind of a freaky dream I have, alongside with winning a cup with the football (we avoid the term soccer) team I follow. As this team is Arminia Bielefeld, an ice cream parlour seems more realistic ;)
Brainstream BeepEgg Idea
BRAINSTREAM is a family run business that based in Bielefeld. Could you tell us about the beginning of this journey? How did BRAINSTREAM was born?
It was a simple need for a product. My family was annoyed by not being able to boil a soft-boiled egg on point. Having the perfect boiled egg is quite a thing over here... so my dad, who has a PHD in electronic engineering, thought he had the brains to create a product that solves the problem. This was the birth of BeepEgg. We discussed whether to sell the product to some other brand or take it as a starting point to create our own. We created Brainstream to launch BeepEgg in 2001. By now, we sold many million units of that item. From that point, we developed further fun & functional products that always serve well as a gift, but also need to have a problem-solving function.
I would like to learn more about the BRAINSTREAM team. Dr. Ing. Rupprecht Gabriel is your "crazy professor". Please tell us about the Brain?
As stated before, he has a PHD in electronic engineering and is our technical brain. He is the one that tries to put ideas into being. And he is all around the place with many other ideas and involved in various companies, which sometimes drives us crazy alongside his crazy product ideas. So two reasons to call him the “crazy professor”. Plus he has initiated dozens of patents for his companies or other licensees.
Who are you working with on your Design process?
We have many designers we team up with. On the technical side, we have two designers with an engineering background in our team, plus we work very closely with two companies that focus on technical design. On the “art side of life” we do have one “house designer” that lives close to our company, plus many designers or artists that we create special editions with. Also, we work with different industrial designers to shape the product ideas into real products.
Designing is not enough to achieve success. Could you tell us about your operational team members who provide continuity of all processes?
Design indeed is not everything. Although it certainly is very important, it is as important to have a good sales strategy as well as a stable production and organisation. We’re a small company, but we do have our own team for most matters. We have a team member taking care of the production. We do have our own bookkeeper, who has been in the company for more than ten years. I operate the PR & Marketing together with our youngest team member, who is still to finish his academic studies. Regarding the sales, I do work with my key account manager who I already went to school with plus three team members for order processing, including my mom, who also does the operations on our B2B incentive business. We also work with many independent sales reps and distributors to get our crazy merchandise into the shelves...
Brainstream Princess Tower
How could you define your design approach?
There is no standard procedure for crazy items as we produce. Most of our items are indeed in-house concepts and we’re lucky to have a certain depth of knowledge with having engineers on the team that can really evaluate if an idea is doable and what it takes to get it marketed. Then the sales side of the company discusses if we see a niche for it and we give it a go. Or we don’t. We certainly talk to reps, customers, etc. But we don’t do huge market studies. Many times it’s a “gut feeling thing”.
What type of products do you prefer to design and produce?
They have to have a functional value. That’s the bottom line, we don’t want to sell funny trash. But being fun also is important. We want to create giftable products that create a certain “wow” effect and will be used in everyday life.
Could you briefly tell us about your fun & functional products and the problems they are targeted to solve?
Let’s take a few examples. Starting with BeepEgg, our first product. In Europe, the perfect boiled egg is a big thing. But there are many parameters to keep in mind for a perfect boiled egg, which cannot be taken into account with a regular timer. Like altitude (water boils at different temperatures at different altitudes), the quantity of eggs you boil at a time, if you start from cold or boiling water....so our idea was a product that works like an egg and not like a timer. Plus we wanted to make it acoustic, so you could continue to do stuff in the kitchen and will be alarmed by a tune playing, once the egg is ready. BeepEgg is temperature driven and more exact than any other egg timer. You simply need to store it with the real egg to have the same starting temperature. Then, nothing else matters. If you start from cold or boiling water, boil one or ten eggs and do so on sea level or in the Rocky Mountains. BeepEgg will play the melody because it has reached a certain inner temperature and not because some time has elapsed. It does play three different tunes to meet three different tastes. Soft-, medium- and hard-boiled.
Or the SOI. Purse light. We observed that women (not only but mostly) tend to search their endless handbag voids forever until they find what they’re looking for. So we thought of a light that automatically turns on once a person diggs the bag and automatically turns off again. No buttons or switches involved.
Another problem solver is our newest item, Princess Tower. A device to create your own cake stand with your own China. No huge storage space needed for a cake stand. You can simply deconstruct it when the party is over and put Princess Tower and your China back into the drawer. Fun at a party and space saving.
BRAINSTREAM products are "made in Germany". What is your production philosophy?
First of all, we do believe that it is a positive thing to create things, where one lives and sells the items. That’s how society works. And many of today's socio-economic issues come from one side of the world exploiting the other.
In our case, our setting is in Germany. This coincides with being a place where quality plays a role ;) which certainly is an advantage. Many of our suppliers are located close by, which keeps the supply chain short. And in the end, besides thinking that we do the right thing and can offer good quality, the key factors is flexibility. We don’t need to plan six months in advance. E.g. we did a B2B incentive for a huge German communication company this year. They used a BeepEgg branded in their colors, playing their jingle, etc. They gave it away at a trade show. After two days at the show, they knew they’d run out of products. So they checked how quick we can act. In the end, we were able to supply additional completely customized items within 3 days. That not only left a very satisfied customer, but also generated additional sales, which we could not generate with a product made overseas.
Brainstream Princess Tower
How do you ensure the sustainability of production quality?
We work with good suppliers we can control, ensure certain production standards and know where each and every part of the product comes from.
According to your opinion, what are the most important factors that affect product success?
Usability. Quality. Sleek design. Creating a smile on someone’s face.
This applies to our product categories. If I sold screws, oil or French Fries, these factors might vary ;)
In addition to the design and production, BRAINSTREAM is also a distributor of different brands. How do you decide to collaborate with a new brand? How do you ensure that their products are "soul mate"?
When we travel the world on trade shows or come across products at any other given occasion, we sometimes think “wow this could be us”. And many times a small company appears to be behind those items that might not even have thought about marketing it in, say Germany. So we sometimes reach out or sometimes be reached out to and if it fits, we’ll join forces. But it’s always important that it meets our fun&function criteria.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who would like to pursue their dreams?
Go for it if you believe in your idea. But be prepared to stumble. It does take a bit of breath to go somewhere. Don’t believe everything you are promised by people that want to give advice, do the dirty work yourself in the beginning.
But I’m not Bill Gates, so who am I to give advice...
What do you think about the importance of social media for innovative products? How could our readers follow BRAINSTREAM?
It becomes more and more important. When we launched, “old” media was our key driving factor. Media people loved it and wrote about it. We had huge coverage with zero budget. That really made all the difference to get going with retail, as people demanded it in the stores. Since retail chains are normally not huge risk takers it’s essential to hit the public. If you even only have a slim budget, spend it on reaching the consumer, not primarily retailers. Today this is done more and more via social media. We just hired someone to take care of it as it had not really actively been taken care off. You can find us on Instagram and Facebook.
How could our readers buy BRAINSTREAM products? In which countries they could find your products in stores?
The easy answer is Amazon. But we also love to work with independent retailers, as they do all the hard work. We have many independent and chain customers from all over the world. We have active distribution almost all over Europe, a bit of Asia and Australia, plus we have started targeting the USA a while ago. We have many independents in the US and a bunch of catalog people like the grommet or uncommon goods.
Are you open to distributorship requests that may come from different countries? How could they contact you?
Most certainly. As stated, quite a few countries are taken or in the making, but we listen to everybody with good ideas. They can reach out to me if they’re interested. By phone, email, or even fax if they’re like that...
What is coming up next for you and your team?
We’ll talk about stuff when the eggs are laid ;)
Thank you Markus for this enjoyable interview.