We are spotlighting this year's incredible cohort through the means of fun & quick interviews to gain further insight into their startup journeys, unveil their driving forces and expose what it REALLY takes to be an entrepreneur in 2022...
Name: David Conway
Title: CEO & Founder
Kickstart Cohort: 2022
What inspired you to start Purcell?
10 years ago, I was serving in the military in the Coast Guard in Guantanamo Bay. I remember standing watch, looking out over the ocean, and seeing endless plastic floating around me. After spending years on the ocean and traveling around the world, the main thing that stuck with me was plastic pollution. Years later it struck me that the majority of packaging and waste comes from food products. So I started this company to address the plastic and pollution crisis, specifically related to food packaging.
What’s next for Purcell?
Purcell is about providing a solution towards a more sustainable way to buy groceries and products we purchase every day. Following years of volunteering in developing countries, I saw these deep-rooted problems in their food systems. I want to bring our dispenser technology to these countries to streamline their supply chain by eliminating packaging, thus making food more affordable. I want to ensure sustainability is achievable for everyone - not just the wealthy - particularly when it comes to transporting and buying goods.
What is your definition of ‘sustainability’ in the food industry?
We see sustainability as cutting out inefficiencies in the food system, which is not only more sustainable but ultimately more logical, less labor-intensive, and more profitable. More generally, we see sustainability as not just saving the planet, but as a business opportunity. A good example is IKEA flatpack furniture, which streamlined its supply chain and store operations, and now they own that industry. Another example is fast food restaurants like McDonald's - they profit mainly on drink sales, not burger sales (despite what some may think). It's a dispenser that mixes water and flavor packets on-site, instead of bottles or cans, where the packaging costs more than what’s inside it. That's where you get the business opportunity AND the sustainability.
What is your vision for Purcell?
I want to see a whole new style of grocery stores emerge based on smart dispensers like Purcell. A new chain focused on sustainability that is more profitable and efficient and passes the savings onto customers. I want to see the cost of food go down as we adopt emerging technologies and other sustainable packaging solutions.
What keeps you on track during the challenging times as a founder?
A big part of it is having my brother Russell as the perfect co-founder. Neither of us would let the other one down. But the opportunity to solve what I believe is one of the biggest global crises we face today is what keeps us going. 37% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system as well as most plastic waste. So, how do I stay motivated? Keeping a great team focused on the goal of creating a more sustainable food system.
What has helped as a US-based company entering Europe?
Kickstart! Kickstart is an incredible platform for us for a number of reasons. It was an excellent way to get to Europe without all the red tape. Processes can move much faster in Switzerland because it's a small country. The best part of the program for us is Kickstart's network. I was shocked to see how well Kickstart was connected within the Swiss and European business ecosystems. Also, a problem every startup faces is getting to the right people. You can chat with some vast multinational corporation, but if you're not talking to the right person there, you're not going to get anywhere because there's so much bureaucracy. What Kickstart was able to do for us was get us in front of the relevant people from the companies that mattered to us - the highest levels of food retailers and brands in Europe.
About Purcell: Purcell offers simplified refill solutions for retailers, brands, and shoppers. Our category-defining smart dispensers enable a hyper-efficient supply chain, data analytics, and a delightful user experience. This patented technology holds the key to disrupting the grocery industry by bringing sustainable shopping mainstream. The businesses we serve beyond retail include corporate campuses, cafeterias, restaurants, ghost kitchens, convenience stores, and online fulfillment.