NARRATOR: Luminaries, Talking to the Brightest Minds in Tech.
PRESENTER: We are technologists. And we share an awesome responsibility. The next three decades will hold even more progress, coming more quickly than ever before. A new age of miracles is literally just around the corner.
NARRATOR: Your hosts are Mark Schaefer and Douglas Karr.
MARK SCHAEFER: Hello, everyone. And welcome to another episode of Luminaries, where we talk to the brightest minds in tech today. This is going to be so interesting, Doug. We’re exploring the intersection of technology and coffee.
Are you are you a coffee snob? Are you an aficionado?
DOUGLAS KARR: I’m more of an addict.
MARK SCHAEFER: Really?
DOUGLAS KARR: Yes.
MARK SCHAEFER: I kind of am, too. It’s like I’m sort of time zoning, you know. We’re on a different time zone here. Like, this morning, I woke up. I thought, OK, I got to have my coffee. But our guest today is not going to appreciate me very much. Because I like my coffee to taste like a milkshake. So she’s probably going to boot me out the door.
Today, our guest is Marsha Osborn, the chief operating officer of Briggo. And this is an Austin based startup with a fascinating story.
And Marsha, what an amazing background you have in operations, quality and leadership. But I also noticed that you went to the University of Tennessee, where I live. So, go Vols.
MARSHA OSBORN: Yay. Go Vols.
MARK SCHAEFER: Now this is going to be a powerhouse show. Because Marsha has so many talents and diverse interests, which we’ll get into. She’s also held a variety of leadership roles at Tyco Electronics, Raytheon, and Texas Instruments.
She was named a part of the Women of the Year awards for 2012, 2013 by the National Association of Professional Women. Wow. I mean, Marsha, welcome to the show.
MARSHA OSBORN: Thank you. It’s such an honor to be here.
MARK SCHAEFER: It’s going to be so much fun. So much fun.
DOUGLAS KARR: Absolutely, it’s great to be here. Because I am a coffee addict. And you guys don’t even know this. So when we were at South by Southwest, I was hunting around and walking around the convention center. And I saw this machine. And I saw this beautiful large machine. It was Briggo.
And it said, you know, you can order coffee on your mobile device, pay for it right there. It would notify you when your coffee was ready. And I sat there, like a geek, staring in the window–
MARK SCHAEFER: Like a geek? You are a geek.
DOUGLAS KARR: OK. I am a geek. I am a geek. But I’m staring in the window. And I am watching this machine make my perfect cappuccino with no spillage, no anything. And then it texts me when my coffee was ready. I didn’t even know.
Now we’re talking to the chief operating officer of that company. That’s absolutely incredible. So first, welcome. Second, thank you, for a wonderful perfect cappuccino. And then, maybe for our audience, talk about Briggo and what you call the Connected Coffee Experience.
MARSHA OSBORN: Oh. I’d be happy to. And I really appreciate the opportunity today to be here with you guys. And so much fun. We love talking about Briggo. Everybody at Briggo is as energized and excited as I am about [INAUDIBLE]
MARK SCHAEFER: How did they come up with the name?
MARSHA OSBORN: So the name, Briggo, comes from our founder, Charles Studor. Actually, we call him Chas. And his grandfather had a machine tooling equipment company in Syracuse, New York. And it was called Briggs. You might have heard of it. So the way–
MARK SCHAEFER: Oh, yeah.
DOUGLAS KARR: Like, Briggs and Stratton?
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes, yes, yes.
DOUGLAS KARR: Wow, that’s cool.
MARK SCHAEFER: Wow.
MARSHA OSBORN: So what he did to keep his heritage and pay homage to his own family, et cetera, he took the Briggs part of it, dropped the S and added the O, for coffee-on-the-go.
MARK SCHAEFER: That’s cool. Briggo.
MARSHA OSBORN: Briggo. People think of barista-on-the-go, as well, when they’re thinking of the name, Briggo.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah. So what is this concept of the connected coffee experience? I’ve never heard of anything like that before.
MARSHA OSBORN: Well, I think that Doug actually just described it perfectly, by his experience at South by Southwest and exactly what’s happening there. So you’ve got the whole system and the technology, et cetera. And then you’re connecting with your customer on their perfect cup of coffee.
And whether it’s a milkshake or not, I know you said earlier that–
MARK SCHAEFER: Is that allowable?
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes, it is.
Because perfect is personal.
MARK SCHAEFER: OK. I’m in.
DOUGLAS KARR: The menu is unlimited– the flavoring that you can add, sugars, sweetener, dairy, everything. Yeah.
MARSHA OSBORN: Yeah. It’s all fresh ground coffee. And we source our beans very specifically for the blend that we’re looking for that is unique to Briggo, so that it’s beautiful as an espresso. And then, it’s also lovely paired with your favorite dairy product or non-dairy, for that matter, or syrup.
We have all gourmet syrups, fresh dairy, et cetera. And you make it.
MARK SCHAEFER: All inside the machine.
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes. All inside.
DOUGLAS KARR: Yeah. And for people listening, to get a picture one, you want to go to the website and look at– there’s beautiful videos there and everything else. But this machine is probably, I’m guessing, 8 feet wide, maybe.
MARK SCHAEFER: Oh, it’s huge. Oh, I had not idea.
DOUGLAS KARR: Yeah. It’s an entire–
MARSHA OSBORN: It’s 40 square feet.
DOUGLAS KARR: 40 square feet.
MARK SCHAEFER: For a cup of coffee.
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes. 40 square feet.
DOUGLAS KARR: For any type of coffee, not just a cup.
MARSHA OSBORN: For a perfect cup of coffee that you create yourself.
MARK SCHAEFER: That’s awesome.
MARSHA OSBORN: And so, what we’re really doing is empowering people to become their own barista and create perfectly customized gourmet coffee or hot chocolate or tea on demand. The connected coffee experience leverages Briggo’s whole bean Latin American blend, fresh dairy, and gourmet syrups to deliver quality, consistency, and convenience, all through a mobile app or at the house itself.
MARK SCHAEFER: So what do you do? You can use an app to sort of, like, order it. And you show up. And it’s there?
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes. So you can download the app. You can create your perfect coffee. And then you can save it, by the way, as a favorite. The app will ask you, do you want to order the same thing as last time? Or would you like to tweak it?
You can tell it exactly how much dairy you would like, what type of dairy, if you want it to be mild or mellow or strong or bold, et cetera. You can tell it exactly what you’re looking for. Create that perfect cup of coffee. And then, save it as a favorite. And every single time– let’s say you’re in a security line at the airport. And you’re on the go. You’re hurrying to your flight. But you want that perfect cup of coffee.
MARK SCHAEFER: And you know that machine is there. Oh, that’s brilliant. Now I’m starting to get it.
MARSHA OSBORN: Yeah. And so you’re in the security line. And you’re creating and ordering your cup of coffee. It’s being made over there. It sends you your own personal code. So you get to the machine, put your code in. Also, there’s no mistake in your name. Because you put your name in as well.
And so, you walk up to the machine. You see your name displayed in the lights. You hit Pick Up, put your personal code in. And voila, your perfect cup of coffee is presented to you.
MARK SCHAEFER: So how long has the company been around?
MARSHA OSBORN: So the technology started about 10 years ago with Chas thinking. He was doing some soul searching, doing some touring, et cetera. And he was actually in South America going to some of the coffee farms, et cetera, and realized that, wow, there was a huge opportunity to pair this beautiful thing the farmers were doing and creating with technology to create this perfect cup of coffee.
So there he started with the idea in creating this technology. And in that system is the most advanced unbelievable technology that you can possibly imagine. But it’s great. Because every time the lines get long, or that kind of thing, the machine doesn’t get flustered. The machine makes your perfect cup of coffee every single time, consistently.
And you can be at Austin and get that cup of coffee. Or you could be over at the Dell corporate offices. Or you could be at San Francisco. And no matter where you are or where a machine is, you order that same cup of coffee. And you’re going to get that consistent beautiful coffee every time.
MARK SCHAEFER: Nice. Now one of the things I saw when I was preparing for the show was this idea that beyond technology, you’re also committed to creating a sustainable supply chain, which I think is very, very cool. Because I know there’s a lot of issues with coffee right now.
There’s some environmental issues with coffee right now. And I read that there’s even some scarcity issues with coffee right now. So talk a little bit about the sustainability part of the supply chain and what you’re working on.
MARSHA OSBORN: OK. So I think some of the things you might be referring to is at some of the areas where the farms are, there’s natural disasters, like volcanoes, et cetera, that happen. Or there are insects that invade their crops, that kind of thing.
And if you go to these farms you see that a lot of them are very small operations. And we are committed to giving back to the farmer. And so we actually even did a campaign, in the fall, where $0.10 from every cup of coffee that we sold went back to the farmers. And we also created a place where our customers could donate to those farmers, as well, so that we can give back to their livelihood, so that generation after generation, they will continue to want to be in this business.
But it is difficult for them. In many of those cases, the areas are pretty underdeveloped. And they need the resource and the help with technology, et cetera, so that their livelihood can continue to be sustainable, and also, scalable, as we go forward in the world. Because coffee is a very popular commodity across the world, in all the regions.
MARK SCHAEFER: I saw a documentary about how difficult it is to grow coffee. And I was surprised by that.
DOUGLAS KARR: Yeah. Because you can get it anywhere, right?
MARK SCHAEFER: Well, it’s just fragile. Because as Marsha said, these farms are very small. And it doesn’t take much to kind of throw them for a loop.
MARSHA OSBORN: Yeah. 100%.
DOUGLAS KARR: So [INAUDIBLE] curious. We’re at Dell Tech World. We’re talking to you. And there’s, obviously, some kind of interesting connection there between Dell and Briggo. Where did that start? And what is it?
MARSHA OSBORN: So our participation at Dell World is actually the culmination of a long standing partnership between Dell and Briggo. We were fortunate to place a Briggo coffee house at Dell headquarters, back in 2015. And that was directly with the relationship with our CEO, and also, co-founder, Kevin Nater. He actually worked with Michael for eight years as president of Dell Financial. And so they have a good relationship, a longstanding relationship.
And basically, Kevin reached out to him and said, hey, you know, we’ve come up with this new technology. By the way, we’ve partnered with you on making this all come to fruition. Can we place a coffeehouse there? He said, yes. And 2015, it began.
MARK SCHAEFER: So it really is a coffeehouse. Because you said it’s, like, 40 square feet. It’s a little barista area.
MARSHA OSBORN: It is. It is a beautiful barista that never gets tired and consistently produces a quality cup of coffee that’s convenient to our customer.
DOUGLAS KARR: So I happen to appreciate my sarcastic barista that I see on a daily basis. And one of the things that I thought that was interesting about Briggo was, you’re not looking to replace baristas. You’re not looking– yeah. And so, talk about that, that you’re not trying to conquer the world and put every coffee house out of business.
MARSHA OSBORN: No. Not at all. In fact, we have to have people to make this come to fruition. And all we’re doing is creating more interesting, kind of more challenging opportunities for people to work right alongside with a barista. You still need your barista to create your recipes and things like that to be able to develop the technology that we’re developing.
But you have people that create these that we’re creating jobs all over the world, and even in the different areas. We’re creating jobs. Like in San Francisco, we’ve hired our first two employees there that we’ll be servicing the machines and being able to provide the technology, the service tech, for the machines.
DOUGLAS KARR: That’s a great– And the locations of the machines are not where a coffeehouse would be, right? You guys are optimizing where these machines are located for where coffee houses can’t be.
MARSHA OSBORN: Exactly. And when you only need 40 square feet, it’s a lot easier to put these in a lot of different locations. And not only that, it’s not brick and mortar. So you don’t have to build out, like a restaurant has to build out a full location.
They’re pretty mobile. I mean, we do have to be connected to power and water and data. But besides that, you don’t have to build out a full restaurant, like in many other cases. We’re creating jobs that are interesting across the country, all the way from technology, engineering, supply chain, operations, actually manufacturing. We build them right there in Austin, Texas, right now, in our location that’s just down the street from the Dell headquarters, which is fantastic for us. Because we’ve been able to collaborate on the Dell roadmaps and the technology and where they’re headed and how we incorporate that and create more innovation with what we’re doing.
And then there’s the cloud and the data part of it all to where we connect, from the system, the customers, and look at what’s going on, what are the trends, what are people ordering, and so forth, and then create a better and better experience for our customer.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah. That’s awesome. And one of the things that I really appreciate about you, Marsha, is your positive and optimistic view of technology. You know, so many times on our podcast, we’re talking about cybersecurity. I almost ask everybody, like, is the Terminator coming? But this is cool.
And so I want to do something unusual. I’ve never done this before. But I’m going to read something that you wrote for us as we were preparing this. Because I just love this so much.
“My vision for technology is built on making everyday lives easier and more productive by reducing repetitive low-value added tasks, letting us focus and spend our time on the activities we personally value, activities that increase our personal sense of well-being, passion, and belonging. I sleep better at night knowing that my work directly supports others to enrich their relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and the organizations we commit our time to.”
That was just like an oasis to me. I think you are the Oprah of technology.
Can you be my best friend?
MARSHA OSBORN: Wow. Yes. Yes, I can.
MARK SCHAEFER: I just love this. Because it just focuses on the positive helpful relationship. And something that I’ve been writing a lot about in my own work is this idea of belonging, how we’re in a belonging crisis in our world. And the perspective you have here is that by implementing technology in the right ways, it can really help people belong. And I just love that.
MARSHA OSBORN: And, thank you. And now you get connected coffee.
MARK SCHAEFER: Yeah. That’s right.
MARSHA OSBORN: Because we believe we’re igniting the customer connection, the device connection, and the logistics connection in everything that we do. We see the world and the glass as half full and making us all more connected and more mobile in everything that we’re doing, so that we can connect with each other from wherever we are. You know we’re all doing it anyway. And we just brought coffee into that.
MARK SCHAEFER: It’s funny. I’ll tell you a funny story. In my old days, I implemented one the first customer portals in the world. And this was across every culture. We were in Russia and Asia and South America.
And when people logged in, there was a picture of a cup of coffee. And all the IT people thought I was crazy. Because they wanted to put pictures of machines. And I said, coffee is the one thing that goes across every culture.
MARSHA OSBORN: It does.
MARK SCHAEFER: It says, this is a calm and safe place. You know, coffee is like the break that you take with your friends. In some cultures, it’s like a sacred event during the day you do with your co-workers. So that was the thing. When you logged in to this first– And everybody was afraid of this thing, right?
Just like we’re talking about AI now, it was, like, customer portals, back then, is going to replace jobs and all this. And you log in. And it was just unexpected. There was a cup of coffee. So there. There’s my coffee and technology story.
MARSHA OSBORN: Great.
DOUGLAS KARR: That’s incredible.
MARK SCHAEFER: Nobody asked for it. But I told it, anyway.
DOUGLAS KARR: Well, I want to go back to the beginning. Because I do want to really emphasize that we have a person here that really is a pioneer in the technology industry, too. And so, your prospective is really important from that standpoint as well.
I’m curious. As a leader in innovation, from Tyco to Texas Instruments and Raytheon, was there a single thread or collection of traits in those companies that you worked for that led you to where you are now?
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes. I believe every company, with the diversity of people, technology, and organization, was important in making me the person and professional I am today. It has all been an important part of my journey and development. And I am forever being inspired, intently listening and learning with every single step of the way.
I continue to apply the learnings from each opportunity to the next. And I’ll say that Texas Instruments was actually way ahead of their time in the thought of diversity and being able to create that culture, give people opportunities. Really, it was truly innovative.
I mean, I hate to mention. But I’ve been at this for about three decades now. And Texas Instruments was one of my first stops. And they focused, very much, on developing organizations and giving people the opportunity to listen and learn and really develop the talents and the kind of interests that they actually had professionally.
And then they invested in you. They invested in training and that kind of thing. And it just helped to shape the person that I am, and helped me then to face the challenges through every single company that I’ve been at.
And every one of them has their own unique culture and character, et cetera. And I believe, like at Briggo, I took the best of all of those learnings, with the team at Briggo, and started to create a culture that, I believe, really enhanced everybody’s lives. Coming to work every day, we spend a lot of time there.
And even though, we’re also mobile, we have a lot of people in the office collaborating, et cetera. And when you walk into our office, you feel the energy. And I wanted to create that. Also, we wanted to create an inclusive environment so that everybody felt welcome. Because I think that it’s so important to have a diversity in your team and diversity of thinking.
And when you’re really looking at the future and what to invest in, which way to go next, and what should be on our road map, as you’re evaluating the other big companies’ road maps, et cetera, I think it’s really important to hear the diversity of thinking amongst the team. And having a diverse work group really helps you to get there with all kinds of diverse backgrounds.
I mean, I started in Defense Systems Electronics Group at Texas Instruments and then stayed in defense for several years, which was all behind the scenes– black box stuff, that kind of thing. And I couldn’t really talk about what I did. It was stifling, in a way. Outside of work, I really couldn’t talk about what project I was on or what I was doing or any of those things.
But it taught me the kind of discipline and helped me to truly listen and learn from that experience, and figure out, how can I make a difference? And how can I make things better for the next company? And what could I learn there and then apply to that next project or the next company or the organization that I was in?
DOUGLAS KARR: You know, it’s so inspiring to hear that those pieces were put into place 30 years ago for you. Because we talk about it now as if it’s a new thing, as if it’s something that companies have to start doing now. But you’re sitting here. Your entire history was founded on those principles. So just so inspirational.
MARK SCHAEFER: That sort of leads into my life last question, too. I’m wondering, you mentioned that the thing that you love is that when you walk into your workplace, there’s this energy. So if you look at your own personal leadership style, what’s that spark? Well, I mean, what’s your role in creating? Because I mean, it’s challenging.
You’ve got this younger workforce. They’re distracted by all these things. How do you bring them together and create that energy.
MARSHA OSBORN: Well, it’s kind of interesting. So when I first joined Briggo, for instance, 18 months ago, I was at a big huge company right before that, Flex. It used to be called Flextronics. But you know, 110 manufacturing facilities. I actually was a business unit leader for the Apple Mac Pro that built the factory from ground up, right there in Austin, Texas– 350 square feet of manufacturing for that one product– and then was in the rest of the business, which was 1.3 million square feet, right there in Austin, of manufacturing and technology.
And when I walked into Briggo, the first thing I wanted to learn was, exactly who are these people? What is their background? What motivates them? What inspires them?
So I actually sat down, 100%, with each and every person. And I talked about what they were doing and what their real desires and goals were for what they wanted to do, and literally, reswizzled the organization. Put them in places that would inspire and develop them more, and helped them to truly achieve whatever their personal goals were for their career and mission, and, literally, reformed the whole entire organization on that basis.
And people is what inspires me. I love to learn about every single person I’m working with and for, and all of that kind of thing, just to understand what really motivates them, what floats their boat, what makes them achieve greatness. Because I think if you really care about people and what they’re all about and what they really care about, they give you back 200% every day.
I mean, they truly care when they know that you truly care. And I’m all about walking the talk. I really love learning about every single person and what inspires them, and then helping to create those opportunities so that they can reach their goals.
MARK SCHAEFER: That’s so interesting. Because the words you’re using is almost like an HR function. And your title is Chief Operating Officer. But to get it to operate, you’ve got to get the people to operate. It really does mean appealing to people in a different way.
MARSHA OSBORN: It does. And especially what you just said. We have plenty of millennials. They actually think totally different than somebody that’s a Luminary or has many, many years of experience. They have a different way of looking at work with what they’re trying to get.
They’re more focused on the short term and, is this job going to inspire me and help me reach my goals? And it’s not long term thinking. I mean, they may be thinking, the next couple of years, am I in an inspiring enough, challenging enough role to help me meet my goal? Whereas some of the more experienced people might be thinking a lot differently.
And so, getting into that and getting into every person’s real wants, needs, desires is so incredibly important. And every single time we hire somebody, I absolutely demand that we look at diverse resumes, and have enough diversity to choose from, and then figure out, where are we missing it in a team? Whether it be engineering or software development or manufacturing or supply chain or finance or marketing or business development, I really want to have a good cross sectional team with diverse thinking to contribute to the overall goal of the company.
MARK SCHAEFER: Marsha, obviously, what you’re doing is working. You know, I was just so impressed that Briggo made the Fast Company List of Most Innovative Companies. And when that edition comes out every year, I just devour it. Because I just love learning about the things that these companies are doing.
And here you have this really interesting intersection of technology and coffee. And you made the most innovative list. So that’s got to be– just make you feel great.
MARSHA OSBORN: Oh, we are incredibly tickled and proud of the accomplishment there. And that opportunity actually landed in our lap with a couple of referrals from corporate clients, investors who knew about our business, our leadership.
MARK SCHAEFER: So how does that happen? Did someone have to, like, recommend you for the list?
MARSHA OSBORN: Well, they did. You get nominated for the list. And then they interview you. But a lot of us at Briggo are very well-connected in the community. And so, through our networks, people reached out to us, whether it was clients or investors, et cetera.
And all of a sudden, they started to collaborate as a team and talk about what we were doing at Briggo, and did it meet the mission of Fast Company? And sure enough, we were voted as one of the 10 top fastest growing companies. Couldn’t be more proud of that accomplishment. It’s just amazing.
DOUGLAS KARR: That an incredible recognition to have and to top it off on this incredible career that you’ve had, and the work that you’ve done. I’m curious. You know, you’ve got probably another 50 years left.
MARK SCHAEFER: We’re all optimists here.
MARSHA OSBORN: Well, maybe technology will really kick in.
MARK SCHAEFER: I’m starting a special budget for that in my household budget.
MARSHA OSBORN: You need to raise a lot of money for that if you’re going to help.
MARK SCHAEFER: Mark’s personal AI fund to keep him living longer.
MARSHA OSBORN: That’s right. (LAUGHING)
DOUGLAS KARR: No. But seriously, as you look back at your career, what do you want your legacy to be?
MARSHA OSBORN: I hope my legacy will be that I made a difference. I made a difference, either with my family, my friends, my colleagues, my superiors, my subordinates. Whoever knows me and whoever meets me, I hope they’ll say, you know, she really made a difference.
DOUGLAS KARR: Well, I think you already have. (LAUGHING)
MARSHA OSBORN: Then, I’ll be happy. That will be my legacy.
MARK SCHAEFER: That’s awesome. So Marsha, our time has just flown by. It has been such a joy talking to you. Tell our listeners, if they want to learn more about Briggo, where can they go on the web?
MARSHA OSBORN: Briggo.com
MARK SCHAEFER: I thought that might be it.
MARSHA OSBORN: That’s it.
MARK SCHAEFER: So that’s just awesome.
MARSHA OSBORN: And they can come visit us in person.
MARK SCHAEFER: Oh, do you have, like, tours?
MARSHA OSBORN: Yes. We would love–
MARK SCHAEFER: Free samples?
MARSHA OSBORN: Absolutely. 100%.
MARK SCHAEFER: All right. Well, I’ll be all over that now that I know I can make my milkshake slash cup of coffee there.
MARSHA OSBORN: Oh, you can make whatever is perfect and personal for you.
MARK SCHAEFER: Well, thanks, so much, for joining us today. And thanks to all of you. We never take you for granted.
Thank you, so much, for all your kind comments and your support. Thanks for your support. We’re one of the top 1% of business podcasts on iTunes. And we’re really proud of that. So thank you, so much.
This is Mark Schaefer. And on behalf of my co-host, Doug Karr, we will see you next time on Luminaries.
NARRATOR: Luminaries, Talking to the Brightest Minds in Tech. A podcast series from Dell Technologies.