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Kevin Carbone, Founder of Sauce Bae: The “Hottest” Entrepreneur on the Rise

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Most people diagnosed with an auto-immune disease make adjustments to their lifestyle to stay healthy. For entrepreneur Kevin Carbone, there was Sauce Bae

At the age of 21, Carbone was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis: a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes painful inflammation in the intestines. When the prescribed medicines made Carbone too sick to leave his room, he started searching for all-natural foods. As he searched, he discovered an unfortunate truth about the health food industry.

“I eventually came to the conclusion that the so-called ‘health foods,’ like flavored oatmeal, would destroy me.” 

What is often labeled as “all-natural” in the grocery store can actually be loaded with processed foods that only technically qualify as “natural.” 

The Journey to Turmeric

Most people recognize turmeric as “the yellow stuff.” Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and is native to Southeast Asia. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions including digestive issues like ulcerative colitis. Carbone noticed something on his health journey and specifically with turmeric: an opportunity. 

“I noticed there weren’t really any products that incorporated turmeric.”

In 2016, Carbone created an LLC and the ideas began to flow. Eventually, he settled on hot sauce. He scanned the shelves and all the major brands: Frank’s, Chilula, Crystal, Sriracha. Not one bottle on the shelf contained turmeric. Carbone knew he had something special. Something unique. A niche. 

“How do you differentiate yourself in a market with thousands of other brands, hobbyists, people making small batches. For me, it’s turmeric, it’s all-natural and clean, and it’s low sodium.” 

So, Sauce Bae was born: A turmeric, pineapple, habanero hot sauce with low-sodium and all-natural, clean ingredients. Carbone’s turmeric-based hot sauce certainly stands out from the crowd. But to succeed in business, it takes a whole lot more than a good product.

Some Persistence, and A Little Bit of Luck

“There’s a misconception that if you make something good that people will line up. No, far from the truth. You have to go out and gain everything. You have to go out store-to-store, hat-in-hand.” 

A ton of persistence, with a little bit of luck, is what led Carbone’s sauce to land on the hit YouTube series Hot Ones. A fan of Carbone’s sauce encouraged him to send Sauce Bae to Heatonist, a popular hot sauce store and the main seller for Hot Ones. 

“I actually didn’t think I would be considered. But this is a moment where you should shoot for the moon. I sent it and they got back to me and said they were interested.” 

Next thing you know, millions of eyes are watching celebrities try Sauce Bae. Celebrities like Kristen Bell and Trevor Noah have tried Carbone’s sauce with rave reviews. In just five years, Sauce Bae had gone from an idea and an LLC to a celebrity-endorsed hot sauce on a hit YouTube series. 

“I had already laid the groundwork. I knew the branding was perfect by doing events and going to stores. They liked the turmeric. It’s different. No one was doing that. That was the biggest thing: you need to differentiate yourself. You need to have a good product. As long as you do that with persistence you can grow.”

Money, Money, Money

To create a business and a brand, it takes everything you have. It takes time, energy, heart and soul, and, most importantly, finance. 

Don’t be afraid to spend money. You have to and a lot of times it’s very scary. Whether it’s advertising, inventory, maybe it’s software that helps you prove something. You have to spend money where it makes sense.” 

It’s remarkable what you can accomplish with a strong vision and drive. You, as an entrepreneur, have to believe in your whole heart that your product is the product.

I knew in my heart that I’m going to get there. That’s why I’ve been able to push through ups and downs. There definitely are a lot of ups and downs. Good news followed by terrible news and you’re the only person you have to figure it out. Come up with a solution, there’s no one else, there’s just you.

“I went into this not as a hobbyist, but I’m going to be on the shelf next to Sriracha one day. I looked at the shelf and said, ‘[Sauce Bae] could be there.’

I had registered the LLC in 2016 and knew what I wanted to do which was incorporate turmeric with something that was better for you. I saw an opening in the hot sauce market. That, to me, made the most sense.”

What’s Next for Sauce Bae and Kevin Carbone?

Sauce Bae isn’t the end for Kevin Carbone. An entrepreneur from a young age, the health-conscious hot sauce creator has the entire health foods industry on his radar. 

My real goal is to start going into different categories. I want to go into something that’s yogurt-based. Or maybe even a hummus sauce. I have an idea for ice cream.

Perhaps in a few years time, you’ll see Cold Bae, Health Bae, or Bae Foods in your grocery store. Carbone doesn’t want to just fill the gap in the health foods market. He wants to affect the industry and push it to a more honest area. 

I think transparency and trust is kind of missing [from the health food industry]. You’ll see a lot of highly processed foods have their buzzwords on the front saying, “all-natural low this low that.” The only real solution is to have more genuine brands going into the market to make an honest, very clean product. At least as clean as it can be.”

Carbone specifically wants his products to taste homemade. As we have gradually tried to turn away from processed foods, the larger industry has fallen into “greenwashing.

Carbone isn’t just trying to make something delicious, he’s offering a product consumers are literally hungry for: real food. 

“I found that my body and a lot of other people’s bodies work very efficiently if they just eat real food.”

Radical idea, right? 

The Hottest Thing In Business

Right now, Kevin Carbone and Sauce Bae are perhaps the hottest things in business right now. Pun intended. A natural-born entrepreneur, Carbone has a knack for predicting changes in the market. His meteoric rise in just five years reflects that.

With a product like Sauce Bae already impressing local grocery stores and celebrities, it’s no wonder Carbone has been featured on Forbes 1000

We haven’t heard the last of Kevin Carbone and Sauce Bae. Of all the entrepreneurs out there, Carbone is certainly the hottest.

Chris Blondell is a Philadelphia-based writer and social media strategist with a current focus on tech industry news. He has written about startups and entrepreneurs based in Denver, Seattle, Chicago, New Haven, and more. He has also written content for a true-crime blog, Sword and Scale, and developed social media content for a local spice shop. An occasional comedian, Chris Blondell also spends his time writing humorous content and performing stand-up for local audiences.

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Kuda Raises $55 Million Series B Funding Quicker Than Most Startups

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One of the most promising industries to launch a startup is in the digital banking or fintech sector. Untapped markets can become a goldmine for startups that aim to disrupt the banking infrastructure. And that’s what Kuda has experienced over the past couple of months. Read more about Kuda here and how they were able to raise millions for their Series B funding.

Kuda: An Overview

What sparked Babs Ogundeyi and Musty Mustapha to start Kuda? Excessive and inconsistent fees. Fueled to reduce that, they launched the fintech company to develop a savings app. Wanting to make banking easier and more accessible without any charges, the founders aim to change banking for Nigerians all over the world.

Series B Funding and Possible Kuda Expansion

Kuda raised $55M funding for Series B. For Kuda, this funding will be fundamental not only in the creation of new services on their savings app but also in launching it to Africans across the continent. Ogundeyi hopes that their app can become a widely used app for Africans globally. 

Expansion is vital for Ogundeyi and his team. He maintains that Nigeria is still a market crucial to their operations, but the funding will also go to expanding efforts.

Back in March 2021, Kuda raised $25M, all thanks to Valar Ventures. Back then, they had only 650K app users, but they doubled that number in August 2021, with registered users around 1.4 million.

This funding round is once again led by Valar Ventures. But Target Global and SBI have also played a role in helping the fintech startup raise $55 million. Target Global leader Ricardo Schäfer believes in the impact that Ogundeyi and Mustapha will have in Africa. But what excited him the most was the idea that 1 billion users would benefit from their app.

Faster Funding Rounds and Other Disruptors

It was surprising how quickly Kuda raised funding over the course of a few months, but it’s due to the current market conditions and the numbers presented to investors. A McKinsey report foresaw this growth, wherein digital financial services would become a major market. Plus, with inaccessibility, Kuda knew that they could change the way Africa could do digital banking.

Kuda isn’t the only fintech startup aiming to change the banking infrastructure in Africa. Other Fintechs changing the game are:

  • Airtel Africa
  • Chipper Cash
  • FairMoney

Meanwhile, here are the other fintech and banking companies also competing to stand out in the market:

  • Revolut and N26 (Europe)
  • WeBank (China)
  • Varo and Chime (U.S.)
  • Nubank (Brazil)

However, what makes Kuda stand out from the others is they have a banking license. With this in mind, they can develop services on their own. This will also help them create and develop other products and services and build credibility more than their competitors.

The Future of Kuda

Ogudenyi aims to launch their app to other African countries but won’t say where they’ll launch it. However, Kuda has an ongoing credit service (through an overdraft allowance) that proves the fintech startup is growing and moving forward.

He says that they do a pre-qualification screening for those who can receive credit. In the 2nd quarter of 2021, over 200,000 users were eligible. They gave over $200M in credit. And to ensure they remain with their purpose of creating their app, they do an allocation of overdraft proportion. It’s based on user activities, and they won’t overpay.

Due to Kuda’s promising mission towards banking in Africa, Valar Ventures seems eager to fund the fintech startup once more in the future. Andrew McCormack, a general partner of the investment firm, says that growth and population acceptance towards digital banking are factors in continuing their support.

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Sam Adams Is Brewing Space Beer

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SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission was a raving success with the safety of the amateur astronauts confirmed when they touched down this past weekend. The first all-civilian space flight was historic in and of itself, but they did more than just visit. The four civilians also performed scientific experiments, made art, and brought up to 66 pounds of hops. Sam Adams is going to brew that into our very first “space beer.” 

That’s right, space beer. While we’re probably a way off from a space brewery, we’re definitely heading there with hops having visited space. If you’re wondering what they did with the hops in space, you’re not alone.

Far as we can tell, these hops simply made a trip farther into the heavens than any other hops before them. One might imagine a brewer saying, “one small hop for man, one giant hop for mankind.” 

No? Too lame? Anyway…

Booze. In. Spaaace. 

Sam Adams has been in the news lately with their Utopias beer being so strong it’s illegal in 15 states. While we don’t know the strength of this future “space beer” just yet, one University of Colorado research project suggests that beer brewed in space is higher in alcohol than those brewed on Earth. 

This is not the first alcoholic experiment in the heavens. In 1994, Coors participated in a test fermentation in space. In 2006, Sapporo produced a $110 six-pack using barley seeds that made a trip to space. In 2019, Anheuser-Busch sent several barley samples to the International Space Station to determine the effects of microgravity on barley seeds. Also in 2019, 12 bottles of Bordeaux were sent into space, giving them a value of $1 million per bottle. 

Turns out, if we travel somewhere, we want to know if we can get drunk. Take a look at Everest. If we trek, we drink. 

It’s just human nature. 

Space Beer… For the Children

In order to secure the rights to these space hops, Sam Adams made a donation of $100,000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as part of the overall theme to Inspiration4’s mission. Isaacman, the mission leader of Inspiration4, is aiming to raise $200 million for St. Jude’s. Elon Musk has personally pledged $50 million to the hospital. 

By tossing some money to a good cause, Sam Adams is able to secure the rights to brew the first space beer from the world’s first all-civilian space flight. If the motivation to brew space beer is “for the children,” then we’re all about it. 

When Can We Drink This Space Beer?

Sam Adams’ future space beer has yet to be named. All we know now is that it will be a traditional West Coast IPA and will be on sale later this fall. Sam Adams has stated that it is excited to brew with the out-of-this-world hops. 

And why shouldn’t they be? Anything with a “genuine” space label should be exciting to produce. While they’re not the first brewery to experiment with space booze, Sam Adams is the latest and therefore the hottest. With our attention spans lately, it pays to be a trending topic. 

Sam Adams isn’t the only thing to come from SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission. We have a lot to learn from this historic flight. While Sam Adams may be the most fun, there is plenty to look forward to in terms of scientific development. 

What is it that Sam Adams said? 

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom – go from us in peace.”

No, not that. The other thing. 

“This is Boston. Drink Accordingly.” 

No, that’s their current slogan. 

“America’s World Class Beer.” 

Nevermind. Call me when Sam Adams Space Beer is available.

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Scott Tong Shares Invaluable Product Design Insights and Culture for Startups

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Many startups are launching their businesses left and right, but some may not have a design plan in mind. This, in turn, could lead to challenges ahead for startups looking to stand out from the crowd. And it’s best that startups learn to value design and development. One such expert in the field is designer Scott Tong. He worked as the head designer for Pinterest and was the co-founder of IFTTT. Currently, he’s an advisor for Designer Fund. Here, we take a look at the advice he has shared for startups.

Scott Tong: Early Stage 2021 Tidbits

TechCrunch held their TC: Early Stage 2021: Marketing and Fundraising Bootcamp for early-stage startup founders from July 8 to 9, 2021. One of their guest speakers was Scott Tong. 

He spoke with Jordan Crook from TechCrunch to discuss early-stage design and its long-term impact on the startup. Plus, he even reveals how to find the right people for product design work. He disclosed two important points on what entrepreneurs should think about when it comes to design: reputation and existing vs. preferred.

For Tong, he considers a brand as the reputation of a company. Here, he examines the following ideas:

  • First impression
  • Repeated long-term behaviors
  • Unique and memorable moments

And the other point he brought up in Early Stage 2021 is “existing vs. preferred.” This means scrutinizing design and understanding how it matters in your company.

User: The Driving Force of a Product

Scott Tong is no stranger to TechCrunch. In his article for Techcrunch around four years ago, he emphasizes that when developing or creating a product, the one thing that matters is the user. He urges startups to ask the question, “what is right for the user?” than “who is right.”

In the article, he branched out three concepts that have value when it comes to developing a product. And finding the best people to understand your users.

The first of his points is about understanding and driving T-shaped people. It’s when you have someone well-versed in their field while collaborating with another person from another field. The best ones are curious, empathetic, and humble.

His second point deals with T-shaped people and user-centered thinking coming together. Your T-shaped people should always have the question of how to solve problems for users. And these T-shaped people will know that they can’t satisfy all of your user’s needs but identify the best solutions for your users.

Lastly, your startup should always know how to craft high-quality decisions. But what counts as one? He lists down what makes a decision, high-quality:

  • User-centric
  • Timely
  • Calculated
  • Communicated
  • Humble
  • Shared
  • Monitored
  • Considered
  • Balanced

Other Speaking Engagements

Early Stage 2021 wasn’t the only time Scott Tong shared his design insights and experiences as a founder. The Designer Fund advisor was a guest in the Startup Grind. In this event, he talked about being a designer for IDEO and Pinterest. At the same time, as a founder, he also touches on the subject of culture. 

He gives his advice for entrepreneurs who have lost their sense of purpose. He says to get in touch with values. Plus, he’s aware that disagreements are ever-present in any business setting. And to reduce friction, trust is key, and understand your team.

One other podcast tapped the ex-Pinterest Head of Design to discuss Design Entrepreneurialism. In this podcast, he talks more about his journey as a designer and working in the new venture: IMO Ventures. 

And the one thing he emphasizes about design is culture, which he also wrote in his TechCrunch article. Here, he says that design is connected to messages, wherein it means one thing to the designer and another to its viewer. That’s one way startups may look when considering product design.

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