strategy and business

INSIDE THE MIND OF THE INNOVATIVE STARTUP CEO

What does it take to be the CEO of a truly innovative company? In late 2017, a group of us at PwC and strategy+business working on PwC’s annual CEO survey began to ask this question. We answered it by initiating an interview series called “Inside the Mind of the CEO.” The conversations, which can be found on strategybusiness.com, include Q&As with the three leaders featured here, who are at the helm of startups that they founded or cofounded.

Although they work in different sectors — food, electronics and devices, and financial services — these chief executives have one thing in common. Drawing inspiration and ideas from customers’ unmet needs, they see their companies as game changers within established industries. Each has a different theory of how innovation can be fostered. Melissa Snover, age 38, the “head magician” at Katjes Magic Candy Factory in the U.K., regards serial entrepreneurship as a necessary attribute of an innovative CEO. This is her third successful startup. For Shin Sakane, age 47, at Japan’s Seven Dreamers Laboratories, the key to innovation is developing a product that isn’t available elsewhere. Valentin Stalf, age 33, of German financial-services startup N26, began with a vision for banking to be as easy as downloading music.

In these excerpts from the full online interviews, you get three profiles of a new generation of entrepreneurial business leaders who are just beginning to make their mark. Their perspectives may seem unusual or unorthodox, but many incumbent companies’ leaders are trying to think the same way.

Strategy in Three Dimensions

by Deborah Unger

Katjes Magic Candy Factory, based in Birmingham, U.K., does something that no other factory can: It makes customer-designed sweets using a specially engineered 3D printer. The idea came to Melissa Snover while she was in the process of growing her first confectionary startup, Goody Good Stuff, a pioneer in vegan sweets. Her customers kept asking whether she could make candies in shapes they designed. In 2015, as sales at Goody Good Stuff topped US$1.5 million and suitors came calling, Snover decided to sell the company and start something new. She spent months disassembling 3D printers and researching how to produce the ingredients that would not only print edible sweets designed by customers on the spot, but also get the requisite health and safety approvals. She used an online incubator to connect with people who shared her interests, and kept at it, even when her prototype printers failed. Snover launched the brand in 2016 with her partner Bastian Fassin.

Katjes Magic Candy Factory, the trading name of Katjes Fassin UK Ltd., now has three patents and more than 100 printers in the field. The company started with a business-to-business model: leasing the 3D printers, licensing software, and selling the ingredients that would allow customersbespoke gummy candy. It has since added two more revenue streams: consulting about 3D food printing and marketing to the entertainment industry (which included an appearance at an after-party at the 2017 Grammy Awards). The company turned a profit by the 18-month mark, revenues are forecast to double annually, and plans are in place to launch a personalized, 3D-printed product for the vitamin and supplement market this year.

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