View Full Version : is this even possible??

05-05-2006, 08:18 PM
Link to article:


They are out to bring disruptive technology to frozen desserts.

They stole the Demo technology show in February and have become a darling of the Linux crowd.

They say they could instantly turn Starbucks into a giant force in ice cream.

They are the employees all nine of them of MooBella. And until now, no one has told their story.

If you read those lines with the voice of that guy who seems to do every single movie trailer, it sounds very dramatic.

KEVIN MANEY BLOG: Read more on tech trends

Anyway, one of the year's most interesting tech debuts is indeed Taunton, Mass.-based MooBella. The company invented a computer-controlled vending machine that makes ice cream on demand from room temperature ingredients, flash freezing it in 10 seconds. MooBella unveiled its machine at Demo and got more attention than just about anything there.

"We got over 1,000 inquiries after that," says MooBella President Bruce Ginsberg. "We weren't prepared!"

The company, though, has been nearly 15 years and a lot of pain in the making.

It starts with a pair of tragedies in the life of Paul Kateman. He had been in the real estate business in the Boston area when his wife died of breast cancer and his business partner was killed in a plane crash. Kateman decided that he had to do something different with his career, says Bob Brooks, Kateman's friend who has been in business with him since that time. (Kateman declined to be interviewed.)

That was the start of the 1990s, a time of grunge rock, flannel, Desert Storm and TCBY the rocketing soft-serve frozen-yogurt chain.

Kateman researched the possibility of opening a frozen-yogurt restaurant and learned that there were limitations to both frozen yogurt and ice cream. Frozen-yogurt machines, for instance, can make only two flavors at a time. Ice cream, meanwhile, is almost always made in large batches in a factory, stored for months, and must be kept at minus-20 degrees as it travels from warehouse to truck to restaurant to customer or it ends up tasting like chilled Play-Doh.

As newcomers to an industry sometimes do, "Paul looked at this and said, 'Maybe there's a different way,' " Brooks says.

Kateman linked up with a Cambridge, Mass., R&D firm called Product Genesis, and out of that came a patented process called turbulent dynamic mixing. Ice cream has always been made by slow churning, which mixes air into the freezing cream. Kateman's new process could blast air into the cream as it was flash frozen, so ice cream could be made on the spot.

In 1992, Kateman formed a company called Turbo Dynamix. In 1995, General Mills pulled Turbo Dynamix into a joint venture to make and sell Kateman's machine. But again, as sometimes happens the big company lost interest in the little inventor and ended the venture in 1997. Kateman, unwilling to give up, reclaimed the technology and marshaled on.

In 2000, he met Ginsberg, then CEO of New England Ice Cream a 20-year ice cream insider who also had been harboring the idea that things could be done better. Ginsberg believed in Turbo Dynamix and joined Kateman.

Ginsberg, though, had one big concern: "I asked Paul, 'Who in this business is going to buy a turbo?' " Ginsberg says. "He smiled and said we should come up with a wonderful name."

'Moo' plus 'Bella'

The company's few employees sat in a room and stuck words and names on a wall. One word was moo. Another was bella. "I remembered I had a dear Aunt Bella," Ginsburg says. "So we put moo and bella together."

They got money to keep going wherever they could from about 180 friends, family members and wealthy individuals, plus an investment from venture firm Saturn Asset Management.

The next five years were about engineering building machines, trying ingredients, testing the outcome. The current version is about the size of a Coke machine. Inside are liquid dairy products in aseptic packages, which don't have to be refrigerated. In other containers inside are flavors and add-ins such as cookies and chocolate chips.

On the machine's front is a computer screen running on a Linux operating system. It displays menus of possible flavors and allows the user to create any combination, such as low-fat coffee ice cream with Oreo cookies. If the machine runs out of a flavor, it stops putting it on the menu and sends a message to MooBella asking for a refill.

The press has spanked MooBella for one serious glitch: a failure so far to offer chocolate ice cream. Which is like opening a bar without beer. "Chocolate is a challenging flavor," Ginsberg says. "It's not ready yet. One of our overriding principles is whatever we bring out will be delicious."

MooBella has a machine at Brandeis University and one at Children's Hospital in Boston. It wants to put them in college cafeterias, movie theaters, hotel lobbies and airports. The company believes it can change the game in ice cream. In a small footprint, with relatively minimal handling headaches, it can allow a proprietor to offer dozens of flavors of freshly made ice cream.

Ginsberg raises the idea that Starbucks could fit a MooBella machine in most of its shops. "We could make Starbucks the largest ice cream chain overnight," he says.

How's it taste? USA TODAY's Edward Baig wrote: "My sample scoop of low-carb vanilla with cookies 'n' cream was tasty." Fortune's Peter Lewis wrote: "The machine delivers a freshly made scoop that, based on my exhaustive testing, tastes delicious despite a slight gumminess."

The publicity has made MooBella a minor star. As the MooBella crew flew home from Demo wearing their company shirts, strangers came up to them to chat. "It was the first time I felt like a celebrity," Ginsberg says.


I find this kinda hard to believe, that someone should come out on the market with a product like this and I havent heard a word about it...

However, my line of work is purely industrial..

Any and all input is apreciated

US Iceman
05-05-2006, 09:00 PM
Hi Tycho,

That was an interesting story. Good ideas are often found in different places.

My recommendation to anyone who has a good idea is to pursue it by yourself. Do all of the development work, keep the idea to yourself, and most importantly, don't let anyone talk you out of it.

Two examples:

I developed an idea and started the patent application for it a long time ago. I thought it was a very good idea and spent a lot of time and money on the whole concept. A well intentioned relative who was very conservative talked me out of going ahead with the idea and the patent.

Several years later I learned someone had patented the idea and was selling the device.

You may know it as the HY-Save system.

I still have the original patent application & drawings setting here as a constant reminder.:mad:

On another idea I worked up some preliminary drawings for an idea using thermal storage & liquid overfeed systems for air conditioning systems to save peak energy.

Another individual I happened to show it to for their opinion told me they already had a patent on it, but I could use the idea. I thought to myself, darn it, another good idea shot down.:(

Later on, I found a different person I had known for some years was also working on the same thing. Almost exactly the same thing.:mad:

The funny thing was all three of us knew each other.:rolleyes:

Investors have put in several million dollars on research and development of this patent and lot's of marketing opportunities are beginning to pay off for this individual.

A coincidence? Who knows???

Lesson to be learned.... Don't talk to anyone about your idea until you have the Patent papers to say you own it. Good ideas can be very expensive to develop and even more expensive to loose.

I do like the idea of self service ice cream on demand. I hope the stuff is good. The idea certainly is.

05-05-2006, 10:20 PM
OOh, I know a funny story about Carel, who will for sure make Peter nervous, but... Sorry Peter, you have to know the truth.
There was a time when Carel was designing a new programmable controller, don't know exactly which one.
It came to their attention that also Siemens (Landis at that time) was going that direction with a product that looked similar, but also knew that Landis was struggling because they didn't have enough know how.
Carel was experiencing an unexpectedly high time-to-market. What they did is to fire one of their most important hardware designers, who got immediately hired by Landis as soon as they knew what he was doing in Carel.
This man took the responsibility of the project, who slowly advanced, sometimes went back to the drawing board, but essentially crawled down to a stop.
Two years after Carel was ready, the man resigned from Landis, and Carel cheerfully hired it back.