Soylent: Food of the Future – A Case Study
Evolution is a process that enables an organism to adapt itself to its conditions and develop intelligence to discover and hunt for food.
Food ensures survival of species. Most intelligent beings have a wide variety of food sources and hence least threatened to be eaten by other animals.
Homo sapiens have climbed that ladder of intelligence quite cleverly. Dinosaurs on the other hand evolved to become birds like chicken and are consumed with passion by us.
Not so smart.
First thing we did when we got intelligent was to organize hunting. From there, we invented agriculture and grouped up into an even larger bunch to create the food industry, so that not everyone had to grow crops. All of these major revolutions happened in the last few thousand years. But for the past 100 odd years, we have done nothing significant as a species, apart from creating governing bodies like FDA, for instance.
After all, there’s still a large part of the impoverished world that struggles to find the next meal. Well, Soylent has broken the status quo and promises to be mankind’s latest and the biggest revolution to feed the whole world.
Food - Version 2.0
Food is a set of micro and macro nutrients our body needs to survive. They contain proteins to build and maintain muscles, carbs to supply energy, fatty acids to produce hormones among other essentials, vitamins and minerals for key bodily functions.
Rob Rhinehart, a 25 year old tech savvy entrepreneur, started off an experiment that came from a simple hypothesis, “Can we nourish our bodies with nutrients directly from raw sources only?”.
For months he studied the government’s food standards, nutrition textbooks and formulated a set of ingredients that would provide the calories and nutrients for his body to run. He set off on the experiment and reported the results on his blog, as he monitored his own bodily responses.
The results were phenomenal and the people, media were all enthralled. They all wanted Soylent, so they could go post-food too. Many realised that Soylent did better than a regular meal in all respects.
Before he knew it, an organized effort had to be planned to attend to those spiking requests and Soylent was thus born.
Over the following days, Rhinehart set up a crowd funding campaign and raised over $1 million in preorders.
Fast-forward to the present, they have raised $20m more, they have moved into a larger production facility, have made a lot of news across the country and have turned a seemingly impossible idea into an enviable business.
Today, tens of thousands of early adopters entirely survive on ‘Soylent’ and only ‘eat’ food occasionally, for social reasons.
In The Early Stage
Soylent was in a tricky situation. They had paying customers, donors from the crowd-funding campaign, even before they had a facility.
In the next 12 months, they had to ship out products to their eager early adopters. So, Rhinehart assembled a brilliant team and among other things, also setup an ecommerce store with Shopify and added subscriptions using Stripe. Soon, with scale setting in Soylent shifted to a full fledged subscription management system.
Most subscription management systems are better suited for SaaS businesses. Soylent being an eCommerce company with recurring needs, problems quickly arose. Soylent knew they needed a scalable solution to manage subscriptions.
Just when they needed it, everything seemed to be coming off for Soylent.
The Switch to ChargeBee
Here’s how ChargeBee helped them with the crucials:
Credit Card Data Migration
For one, credit card porting is not ‘automatic’ as data has to be migrated in a PCI-compliant way. Data has to be divided into two categories – that covered by PCI-DSS (e.g credit card numbers) and “everything else” (e.g customers, subscriptions).
These two sets of data are to be migrated in a regulated manner and then mapped together.
Any lapses can create nightmares from operations and fulfilment standpoint. So, ChargeBee ensured that customer information is perfectly mapped with the credit card data and ported into the system. Soylent didn’t have to bother.
If they ever have to switch from ChargeBee to another provider, credit card data porting would be far more convenient than it was for them to migrate to ChargeBee.
Soylent is very tech-savvy. They are one of a kind in the way they capitalize on ChargeBee’s powerful APIs. For instance,
Soylent is not a vanity product. It’s food. People who live on Soylent can never afford to run out of stock. That means Soylent must set priorities in shipping every batch of their products.
Existing customers who are already living on Soylent had to be given priority over the new customers.
With ChargeBee’s APIs they could create a ‘priority algorithm’ and seamlessly create lists and ship their products.
Soylent’s customers are using ChargeBee’s customer portal, to modify their billing or shipping preferences and also to monitor their subscription history. That’s plenty of correspondences and time saved.
The tech team was able to achieve the “priority algorithm” while the support team could go hands off with the “customer portal” feature, all perfectly tailored for Soylent.
ChargeBee’s reliable, yet flexible system has allowed us to support tens of thousands of subscribers with minimal engineering overhead. Their API-first design philosophy enables rapid development and limitless customization where desired. Developing on top of ChargeBee’s recurring billing system is a wonderful experience.
End of ‘Hunger’
Rhinehart believes that he has it, in him to tackle the world’s hunger. In the future, there could be taps and pipes that runs through all the places, through which Soylent can be fed to billions of poor neighbors all over the world. Eliminating ‘hunger’ is a decisive milestone to human evolution.
In a profound way, they are agents of evolution itself. Well, we for one are believers of Soylent’s vision and will continue to do our best to support them in their mighty endeavor.
If you enjoyed this story, do your bit and spread the word. We will go back, eat some food, sorry, Soylent and come back with another awesome customer story in a few days!