The series Startup in the Net collects interviews done to innovative startups which are part of the EmiliaRomagnaStartUp network and that ART-ER supports in their development process.
The perfect cocktail is prepared by a robot.
Bringing innovation behind the counter is the mission set by NextIs4Us, the startup founded in 2016 by Leonardo Stamati and Dante Daniel Cruz Velasquez. The product that the two mechanical engineers have designed is called Mixartista and it's a robotic barman that can mix ingredients for the masterpiece of drinks.
“We target hotels, restaurants and bars that don't have a professional mixologist within their staff but can offer high quality cocktails anyway thanks to us" Stamati explains. "Mixartista can at the same become a very useful tool for the management side of these businesses”.
It works in a very simple way: the machine on which 12 bottles are installed is programmed with 101 recipes one can control through the integrated tablet device. The only thing the barman has to do is follow the instructions (for example use the right glass and add the necessary ice), wait for the machine to finish and then decorate the cocktail to their preferences.
“This is also a way to retain clients as they know that at your bar the Long Island, for example, will always be made the same way" the startupper continues. "Furthermore the owner can contain costs and waste of product by what we have estimated to be a good 20%. The machine can also create a report that allows the manager to understand what clients want, what to improve, costs etc”.
To those who say that you lose the magic that a professional barman brings to the table, Stamati replies that the robotic barman takes care of the boring part of the mixology art, freeing up time for client interaction and the cocktail final presentation.
“A chef is still a chef even if there is an oven in the kitchen" he says "the poetry behind the course isn't questioned”.
What triggered it all was an extremely bad cocktail the two friends had at a hotel bar in Germany during a trip.
“We realised straight away that that could be an interesting market and we started to design the machine we had in mind with our 3D printer" we hear from Stamati, who has shared his university journey with Cruz at the University in Bologna. "During these past years we have created two prototypes, a preliminary product and the machine we are now selling: the actual debut for Mixartista was at the Host fair in Milan on October18-22”.
The co-founders are satisfied with this first feedback from the market: the goal is now to close sales and prepare for the American market in 2020.
“We have validated the market with catering services and private parties, a way for us to test the product and earn some cash" the startupper explains "While we were testing the water, we have patented the machine, we have joined the Serre di ART-ER incubator, we have gained funding for innovative startups from the Emilia-Romagna Region body and we have found partners amongst who we have a partner company with whom we actually produce Mixartista”.
This is great progress for the two startuppers who in less than two years found themselves diving deep, from their garage where they would experiment with their 3D printer every weekend, to the States, a golden ticket that Leonardo Stamati knows well thanks to the grants he won which allowed him to experience it all first hand.
“I took part in a project with ART-ER to travle to the Silicon Valley because for those who want to do this job it's a fundamental step" he says "I've been ath the Plug and Play Tech Center: I faced a very hectic reality and, even though I felt very small, I was determined to learn as much as possible”.
The objective was to come home with a great amount of know-how to exploit in Italy, but within the States too, as that is a good fit for Mixartista given the value that a Made in Italy product has overseas, aside from the machine's specs.
“When I got back we changed the pitch, the business model, the target: that environment helped me improve the offer we were about to launch to market" Stamati specifies "The tutors and mentors I met had advised me to go back there and so that's what I did. I went to Chicago thanks to the Global Startup Program promoted by the Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico. During this second trip I had the chance to create a solid network of contacts that, if all goes well, we will be able to make the most of soon in order to open up to the American market" the young entrepreneurs says. "It wasn't about the growth of Leonardo the entrepreneur anymore, it was about applying what the entrepreneur had learnt over the previous experience." And he feels like sharing a piece of advice with other startuppers "It's an experience that I would recommend to everyone because it shapes you: there you can learn not to fear failure, life is one and you should dare”.
The two engineers feel at ease in their entrepreneurial shoes so much so that they are thinking of other products that could be revolutionary in the same field as Mixartista but with different uses.
“They say that at university they teach us to know or not know how to do this, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion" he wants to clarify "The truth is that an engineer is used to solving many problems and I have faced each step as if it were a test: my studies but also our journey with ART-ER have thaught me a method and I have understood that, if I apply myself, I can face any situation. I don't think one was born an entrepreneur" he adds "But when you start handling this subject, ideas blossom also thanks to confrontation with other startuppers: every opportunity becomes a good one to keep thinking of ways to innovate”.
Find out more about NextIs4Us and check out their profile in our dedicated section "Linked Startups" by clicking on the banner below.
If you want to meet the other startups featured in the series Startup in The Net, check out the 2019 gallery.
Author: Giorgia Olivieri, freelance journalist. Works in business development since 2003 having curated communications projects for Progetti d'Impresa, for BAN Bologna, for the Metropolitan City of Bologna, for Incredibol and for Almacube. She collaborates with ART-ER since 2017 on various projects including StartCup Emilia-Romagna.