Additionally, I was fascinated with space and wanted to immerse myself in the same lifestyle which meant eating similar to how astronauts eat. From that, 100%FOOD was born.
Aleh Manchuliantsau is the founder and CEO of 100%FOOD. As a serial entrepreneur, Aleh has founded multiple successful business ventures over the past 18 years and developed proficient skills in crowdsourcing, open innovation, and startup management.
In 2014, he launched 100%FOOD as an innovative source of simple and healthy food consisting of nutritionally complete ready-to-drink meals and guilt-free snacks that save consumers time and money. With the understanding that snacking habits are evolving, Aleh tapped into a market influenced by the millennial shift of focus towards more mindful and healthier eating.
Prior to 100%FOOD, Aleh worked in below the line (BTL) advertising where he launched a group of companies that generated $6M in revenue. His expertise in venture development propelled him towards scalable technology where he invested in several IT, solar, and biotech projects.
Where did the idea for 100%FOOD come from?
The inspiration for 100%FOOD came when I moved to the United States a few years ago. I found that I was faced with a problem – I had to eat, and in order to do so, I needed to learn to cook for myself. Normally my wife would handle all the cooking as she was very passionate about it, but while I was living in the United States I needed to find a way to eat healthily. Not to mention, I have very limited culinary skills. At first, I resorted to eating only restaurant food, but that eventually made a negative impact on my wallet and was ridden with unhealthy fats. I wanted something that I could grab on the go and still receive all the nutrients I needed. Additionally, I was fascinated with space and wanted to immerse myself in the same lifestyle which meant eating similar to how astronauts eat. From that, 100%FOOD was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I travel a lot for work so I’m constantly in different time zones. My schedule is extremely busy and usually booked with international calls. While I try to keep a consistent schedule, it can be a bit unusual at times while I’m adjusting to different time changes. I spend a lot of time brainstorming – I’m an idea man and I’m constantly thinking of ways to improve my current projects! I’ll sometimes use the early hours in the morning to jot down everything that comes to mind, or try to solve some recurring issues. I’ll then jump onto calls with my U.S. team and catch up on all emails. I also really believe in taking naps. They help with my productivity and keep me energized to get all my tasks completed for the day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As I mentioned earlier, I’m an idea man. Developing ideas and being creative is my fun. I brainstorm all the time and use critical thinking hacks like TRIZ, which is a problem-solving method based on logic and data, not intuition. I also heavily rely on lateral thinking which allows me to problem solve by using the reasoning that is not immediately obvious. I don’t rely on traditional step-by-step logic, that usually hinders my ability to bring my ideas to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
It’s not necessarily a trend, but it’s an inevitable part of life – aging. As we grow older, we become wiser (usually). I’m excited by this truth. I can count on the fact that as I get older I will undoubtedly have learned a great deal and I’m curious to see what new ventures my age will bring to my life.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I tend to think that I’m more of a coach for my teammates, rather than a boss. As an entrepreneur, it is extremely important that my team grows, not just in size, but that my teammate’s hone and develop their skills and learn what motivates them.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I have only ever been an employee one time. In that instance, I learned that if you fail, it’s your fault. If you win, it’s your boss’ achievement. I knew that I did not want to work for anyone else after that experience. If you want to be able to grow, be brave and find your entrepreneurial spirit to start your own venture. If you have the talent, you will be rewarded. If you still have things to learn but you will learn as you go. You might fail at times, but it will be a valuable lesson. Either way, find work that inspires you and is not just a ‘job.’
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have focused on learning math while in school. If you go into your own business, you will need these skills to better understand what you are trying to achieve. Any entrepreneur needs a good plan since it will make your ideas that much more achievable and attractive to investors.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I recommend that you take the time to conduct tests on all your ideas. Conduct several at a time. Since no one knows the future – testing is the only way to continue to move forward.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
After our first sale of 100%FOOD, we saw that there were several paths of growth: continue to sell a product, develop a vending machine that dispenses the product according to dietary preference, and creates a marketplace (like Etsy) with plenty of products in the nutritionally complete space.
Each of those directions had its prospects and required resources. To stay focused, we had to choose the most viable path. However, in this instance, I was able to test all three. I first developed WESNA the most technologically advanced 100%FOOD machine but struggled to find a marketplace for this product. Next, I created a nutritionally complete marketplace but found that this path was not viable. We could not find enough producers in this space who understood the digital approach.
Finally, I tested the 100%FOOD product and found this to be the best approach, as the demand for nutritionally complete food was growing. Through this path, I reached and surpassed my sales goal. However, this approach could not have happened without a dedicated team to help me run all three tests simultaneously. Now I follow this concept – three tests per quarter.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Looking at the success of AirBnB, I started a venture based off of that model and developed a rental platform for average items that could be easily borrowed including tools, cameras, bikes, etc. To make it handy, we developed a mobile app: just take a photo, set terms and post. Within seconds friends and neighbors would be able to borrow items and members (that you don’t know) can rent the items in exchange for money via secured transactions. It was a highly welcomed concept.
However, when we launched nine months later we found that the consumer feedback was a bit of an eye opener. It turned out that many of our users loved to chat about sharing, but didn’t actually share on the platform. Because of this realization, we will start testing a product immediately. If we fail early – it saves us money and time.
How did we overcome it? When our concept did not succeed, we started to talk to competitors and quickly realized that our loss was far less than many others. Our testing allowed us to come to the conclusion that our concept was not viable, many of our competitors did not reach that understanding until further down the line. Looking back, I now consider our failure a success. We learned a great deal.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
You never know how good a movie, music or software is until you try it. People who are fortunate to have resources to test out new products don’t always have time for review. Give people who have limited capital access to these tools in exchange for a rating system, this will serve as a resource for those with limited time and rely on reviews and rating systems.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Buying Tony Robbins’ book “Master The Game.” It cost less than $100, but its value is far greater because it extends far beyond your career and is applicable to anything in your life.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I think a lot of my predecessors already mentioned and described benefits of business tools they use.
Let me focus on the leisure software. Playback is an experimental video player that supports live streaming of video shared using a BitTorrent magnet link. It saves you time since you don’t need to download anything. It saves infrastructure costs because there is no need for servers. We need these tools to pay for the media we stream, but my brain visualizes that in exactly the same way we will have access to all unused resources of our planet.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I highly recommend Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup.” In comparison to the “Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steven Bland and Bob Dorf which is very academic (sorry, Bob. Disclaimer: Bob Dorf was my mentor in Startup Academy), Eric explains the method for developing businesses and products and claims that startups can shorten their product development cycles by incorporating a combination of experimentations. The Lean Startup approach states that companies can create order, not chaos by providing tools to test a vision continuously. Ries further describes the “Build-Measure-Learn” approach which is the core of a startup – turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere. Once you utilize this book into your work ethos, the whole series of Lean books (Lean Branding, Lean Customer Development, Lean Analytics, etc.) will help you grow in specific areas.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
There are several influential people that I have turned to that have helped me in my career:
• Richard Dawkins – Read “The Blind Watchmaker.” In this book, he presents an explanation and argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection.
• Friedrich Engels – Great for understanding capitalism and Karl Marx – read “Anti-Dühring”
• Tony Robbins When you need the inspiration to start your own venture- https://www.tonyrobbins.com/
• Altshuller Foundation – When you need some Russian hacks: http://www.altshuller.ru/
• Avinash Kaushik – This helps me separate the wheat from the chaff – www.kaushik.net
• David Allen – Great for when you need some inspiration and just need to get things done –http://gettingthingsdone.com/