Keurig Co-Founder Shares Success Story and NJ Roots
Taped on the campus of NJIT, Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Dick Sweeney, Co-founder of Keurig, about his New Jersey roots, his connection to NJIT and how he encourages future innovators to brew up their own success.
"Hi, Steve Adubato here at NJIT, New Jersey Institute of Technology, talking all about innovation. Talk about an innovator, check this guy out. He is Dick Sweeney, Co-Founder of Keurig, and the Vice Chairman of NJIT's Albert Dorman Honors College board. Good to see you Dick. Thank you. Nice to be here. Now you said, when I was talking about this company? Yep. Keurig? I said, "Do people mispronounce the name?" And what did you say? I said, "Anyway they pronounce it, as long as they buy the product, it's fine." The story... We're happy. The story of Keurig coming to market? Mm hmm. Getting to market. Fascinating. Talk about it. Well the company was founded in 1993. We... I joined about six months after it was founded, as a co-founder, investor, advisor. In fact, I was going to meet the original two owners and tell them the appliance business is lousy. Fold your tents, and find a real job. Is that you guys? I'm looking at a photo right there. Where I... yeah. No. Well the one... the guy on the right, Peter Dragone, is one of the original Founders. Chris Stevens, in the center, was our first VP of Sales and Marketing. He came on afterwards. And that was me when I was less follicly challenged. Love it. Love it. What did you see at the time? I saw the... well, what intrigued me was the fact that they weren't going into the consumer appliance world with another coffee machine. They weren't going to be the next Mr. Coffee. At least not then. They were focused on the office coffee service market. Which, when we first met, on a dark and stormy night at The Ground Round in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I think it was the first time I heard the phrase "office coffee service"."Office..."? And... "...coffee service". Wow. People that serve... Yeah. Yeah. Sell the, you know, the coffee machines in the offices, and coffee in the frac packs, and cups, and napkins, and tchotchkes, and everything that goes with it. Yeah. When I took a look at it, it was about a 2.7 billion dollar industry that was devoid of any real innovation, and looking for something new. At the same time, again, going back 23-24 years ago, people were starting to queue up at Starbucks to spend twice as much for a cup of coffee that they could get at Dunkin' Donuts or someplace else for half that. Yeah, join the club. Right. I gotta get out of that thing, but that's another story. And then we thought, well, you know, when they go to the office, what are they drinking? They're back to the stuff that's..."