Brian Powers has raised tens of millions of dollars for his startup. Proving many investors wrong about putting their capital to work during the chaos of 2020, and their beliefs about the potential for startups which are big on sustainability and high priced ticket items.
During our interview on the Dealmakers Show Powers shared his journey from meeting his cofounders to NASA inspired coolers. Plus his experience with going international, and tips on staying focused on executing well.
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Brian Powers was born in Washington but ended up growing up in Maryland. His parents were both big on education, with multiple degrees. His father works in public policy for the University of Maryland and his mother is a civil rights lawyer.
Brain pretty much grew up on campus. Yet, as far back as he can remember he always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
As early as kindergarten he was flexing his entrepreneurial powers by selling tickets on a rocket ship to the moon. By middle school, he was in a band, and hustling doing lawn work and hauling junk. Today, he is taking on a $10B a year industry.
In Search Of Startup Ideas
At TemperPack Brian has two co-founders. One of them he has been friends with since middle school. They were in the band together and worked on many small entrepreneurial endeavors.
For a while their paths diverged for a while at school, they frequently debated business ideas. Always searching for something that hadn’t been done. Not all were viable, like the Gatorade flavored mouthguard.
James went to study engineering in Canada, while Brian dove into finance at Penn.
One day James showed up at Brian’s apartment with a big tub of white powder. It was aerogel. The lightest weight insulating material. At the time it was being used in NASA spacesuits.
They started brainstorming the applications for it. They were so excited that they couldn’t sleep.
They came up with the concept of a high-end cooler. One that would cost several hundred dollars. They got into the Wharton Business Plan Competition.
They didn’t win. No one believed that people would spend that much on coolers.
While their idea that consumers would pay for such a product has since been proven right, they’ve expanded into many more pressing uses for their technology.
They discovered one of the biggest uses and demands for this type of solution was in pharmaceutical cold chain packaging and transportation of temperature-sensitive medical materials.
Creating A Scalable Business Rooted In Sustainability
Everyone was aware that the existing model was inefficient. Styrofoam was really the only thing available. Yet, it was very bulky. It, along with traditional plastic, was also very bad for the environment.
We are all aware of the growing problems of pollution and even in the middle of the COVID pandemic climate change is still a big thing in people’s minds.
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Recent studies have shown that this waste isn’t just taking over our oceans and impacting fish, but microplastics are now making their way into our bodies too.
Yet, no one seemed to believe you could build a profitable business based on sustainability. Many entrepreneurs have met this frustration. Producing healthier and greener products cost more money, and not everyone wants to pay the difference yet.
Brian Powers admits that they have to charge more for their material than less environmentally friendly options. Yet, they have found ways to add value and save their customers money at the same time.
All businesses know they must change their practices. Either to retain their customers or by government mandate. That is an economic incentive for their B2B customers.
Secondly, their cooler designs can help those shipping medical supplies of food subscriptions reduce the size of their packages, and in turn, save a lot on shipping costs.
TemperPack’s material is also made using quickly degradable plant-based fibers. They already have a demand for three million units a month.
Raising Money In A Pandemic
TemperPack has raised money through a Series C round closed in the midst of the chaos of 2020.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Brian was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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This is a time when entrepreneurs are definitely finding the benefits of having built relationships with investors well in advance. As Brian did with the London based Wheatsheaf Group, which led their most recent round of funding.
Investor meetings have changed too. Video chat is now the meeting room of choice. One of the changes he says he has experienced this year is investors seeking to meet more team members (virtually) than normal and also asking for virtual tours.
Business Advice For New Entrepreneurs
Brian Power’s top advice for other young entrepreneurs includes:
1) Celebrate successes more
When things go right as a founder you can still be plagued by the feeling that something will soon go wrong and another challenge will pop up. That’s probably invariably true. Yet, as Brian points out, celebrating success is rarely the cause of those things. So, allow yourself more slack to enjoy when things go right.
2) Build A World-Class Team Earlier
He credits a lot of his company’s success in scaling with the world-class management team they’ve built. Though he says the earlier you can build a stronger team, the better. It will help you go faster and avoid major issues while keeping the right perspective.
3) Don’t Be Such A Rebel
You’ve got to be a bit of a rebel to become an entrepreneur. However, Powers says you can be too much of a rebel too. You don’t have to break and disrupt everything. Especially not all at once. Innovate and do your one thing different and better than everyone else. Just be aware that trying to disrupt on all fronts simultaneously just for the sake of it can be counterproductive.
Listen in to find out more, including:
- Taking your startup international
- The importance of prioritizing in execution
- Finding your customers
- The future of shipping