Dropping Out of College to Start A Business: The Story of Cafe X | Co-Founder & CEO Henry Hu


Hey everyone, you’re about to watch the founder
of cafe x. His name is Henry, who and he’s got an amazing
story. If you want to be one of the entrepreneurs
learning here at Draper University, just like the people you see in the audience, make sure
you apply today at Draper university.com. Hope you enjoy the video. I was thinking we start with some of the story
as to how you got started. I know you dropped out of college, but take
us a little bit before that and your journey into actually starting cafe x. Okay, well, thank you for having me. Those are very interesting dancing thing. So I started cafe x in my second year of college. I was at Babson and then dropped out to work
on this. Before Babson I went to high school in were
basically I grew up in Hong Kong, and wasn’t a very good student. So I started like an online store and a YouTube
channel when I was in high school and middle school. Just because I was bored with school, I wanted
to do something else. But because I had some kind of like, entrepreneurial
experience I got into Babson, which is a entrepreneurship school with a fairly low GPA. But at Babson I think, like I was just being
a normal student. But one of my friends who was in the MBA program
wanted to got into this course that required a business plan to get into. So it’s just like, randomly looking for ideas,
gave him the idea. And somehow we got in and did it. So I just kind of like, I wasn’t actually
taking it seriously just just did it. And then it just kind of stuck. And that was cafe x, correct. Yeah. So I mean, the idea came from just standing
in line, like if you go to Starbucks, or any kind of chain cafe, like not a third wave
coffee shop, but like Starbucks or pizza or something. Most of the time, the brewery says I’m just
moving cups around and pushing buttons on, essentially automated machines. And I just had this like, really terrible
experience in the Singapore airport, where it took like, 30 minutes for a few drinks. And they were like, making mistakes, and they
were panicking. So just like, well, this is kind of sucks,
like people, they’re just like standing there moving cups around, pushing buttons. And then there’s like a huge line of like
Angry passengers waiting for drinks. And, and the reason I was at the airport was
because I was visiting like car factories in Germany, where they have really awesome
robots moving, moving parts and building cars. So just like, okay, let’s just like buy a
robot arm, buy a coffee machine, play around and see if we can, you know, like, make a
cool, automated thing. So did you say when you were studying at Babson? Were you studying entrepreneurship or something
different? Yes. Well, I mean, I was in my second year, so
I didn’t really get to take any of the kind of concentration courses or any of the super
interesting courses. But so I didn’t really have like, you know,
it was just like normal, like business business school stuff. So the engineering aspect of cafe x, when
did that play in? Or who did you have to recruit in the very
early days in order to make such a thing happen? Yeah. Well, initially, I just kind of started talking
to like robot, our manufacturers and try to learn how things work. A lot of the the parts that we used initially
come from the kind of industrial automation world, which is kind of like the Lego of engineering. So you can just like buy parts and like, learn
how to use them and combine them, integrate them and build something. So initially, I was just like learning. Very, very basic and terrible. Now CAD, and I was just like, making mockups,
and then doing some other software mock ups as well. Just so we had some thing to show people to
like, recruit into it to raise some money. But yeah, so after able to get some money,
we had hired a bunch of engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical software, and built
our hack together our first prototype. But yeah, that was like super, shitty and
scrappy. How long ago was that? We had our first prototype in 2015. In Hong Kong. One thing that was really helpful was one
of the co founders. He’s no longer involved with the company,
but was very helpful early on. His family has a manufacturing business in
China with with the sheet metal. And so that that basically made it possible
for us to make prototypes with like nobody. Yeah, so the whole company or the actual vision,
you think it came out of a problem that you experienced firsthand? And then you went ahead and started building? Did you ever have that vision? So one question is, what is the vision that
you guys have? And was that the same vision when you started? Yeah, well, the the vision is, basically, we think it doesn’t make sense
in the future for people in food service to be doing very low productivity, highly repetitive,
like boring jobs. I mean, I’d be basically like, yeah, like,
you don’t want people just like moving cups and pushing buttons. People are but a good for other things. So in the long term, we basically want to,
yeah, basically have a future where people are not doing things robots can easily do. And instead, focus on delivering a really
great experience for customers. So in the case of cafe x, the way we use automation
is again, just doing like moving cups around pushing buttons, we obviously don’t actually
push the button. There are some like some knockoff cafe axes,
that actually use the robot to like poke the screen on the coffee machine. Just kind of kind of silly. But basically, we have robots to do boring
work. And then we have coffee bar specialists that
have all of our locations. And they’re basically like front of the house
staff at a retail store. So think, like in the future with Qasr or
food service, it’s going to be kind of like, more like retail, in terms of your interaction
with other like staff that work there.

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