The Memobottle Founders Spill On Skype Beers And Cracking Kickstarter

Ever looked at a water bottle and thought, “hey, that’s obnoxiously cylindrical,” before lamenting that it won’t tessellate into your already cluttered bag? Yep same. Apparently so did Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy, the brains behind memobottle – rectangular bottles designed to fit into briefcases, laptop bags and the like.

They’ve gone from strength to strength both in terms of popularity and design, but the big issue at the core of the movement (not that conserving precious bag space isn’t super important folks), is eliminating the use of single-use plastics.

From popping their bottles in the swag bag at the Oscars a few years back to now being one of the most successful start ups to come from crowd-funded origins, ending the spread of single-use plastics is the next big goal. We had a chat to them to find out what drives them to this goal, and how to celebrate the wins when they come.

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Our biggest goal when starting memobottle was… reducing single-use water bottles.

We’re reaching it by… providing a more convenient and practical alternative, and changing environmental perceptions.

We first felt like the venture was a success when… our Kickstarter campaign went viral, bringing in over $260k in funding and placing memobottle in the Oscars gift bags given to nominees. It was an incredible feeling to see our product being flaunted by people around the world, after starting as just an idea on a sketchpad.

The biggest takeaway from the past few years is… the importance of hiring well. From the start, we wanted to hire people that are better than us. It can be difficult to find the right people, but we are lucky to have a world-class team at memobottle, which has allowed us to grow at the rate we have over the past few years.

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Memobottle has surprised us by… The passionate following that we’ve built over the years.  Our network is hugely important to us.

We feel most connected to our customers when… running design markets. These give us the chance to understand our customers thoughts, suggestions and even criticisms.  

We never thought we’d… be running a business together when we were hanging out in primary school. It’s been a pretty incredible journey together as best mates.

We celebrated our early wins by… Our very first celebration was the first memobottle sale on Kickstarter, which went through four minutes after our campaign went live. We were in different countries, so it was a beer cheers over Skype. It’s easy to become distracted by the day-to-day, but it’s important to take a minute to celebrate wins with the team. A little yacht party on Sydney Harbour goes a long way for culture!

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Our biggest learning from starting the company was… the need to up-skill on everything – quickly! It is a constant learning curve.

We’re passionate about eliminating single-use plastics because… 250 billion single-use plastic bottles are consumed each year and it’s a stupid, overpriced product that is killing our environment.

Our biggest motivation is…the need for change, and being told that something can’t be done.

We’re at our most focused when… we have extreme deadlines. We both seem to be at our best when under pressure.

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Some early challenges in our careers were…  having to ship over 1400 products to 6000 people in over 71 countries after our Kickstarter campaign. We were planning on doing this from our garage, which proved to be a bit naive! We were both working full time jobs at this point so it was a pretty demanding juggle.

A financial habit we had to change was… being on a salary!

We managed to save / budget by… moving back in with the parents and wearing the same outfit every day. We’ve never been motivated by money so living off a tight budget isn’t too problematic for us.

We still need to work on… There aren’t many aspects of the business that we are completely satisfied with. We are all about constant improvement.

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Our long-term goals are… to reduce single-use water bottles and inspire a more reusable society.

The best bit of advice we received was… to focus on the 80/20.  It’s easy to get bogged down in things that aren’t important to the big picture.

Our theory for what makes a worthwhile project/business is… it needs to solve a problem/frustration that you experience.

We maintain a work/life balance by… travel, beach, meditation, and outsourcing where possible!