We talked to Rick Smith of HyVIDA about its antioxidant sparkling water.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rick Smith: Well, on a personal level, we are doing very well. Considering this crazy World, we are blessed!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded HyVIDA
Rick Smith: I am an extraverted technology geek, meaning I’ll look at YOUR shoes when speaking with you…..
My entire career has been focused on leveraging advanced technology to disrupt markets. I spent 20 years in photonics, and advanced semiconductors, where I merged business with a VC backed technology company and taking it public. We grew compound semiconductors and packaged with micro-electronics to deploy highly sophisticated x-ray & gamma-ray sensors and imaging arrays for medical imaging, defense, and aerospace markets. It was fascinating technology, but the R&D to product development to commercialization timeline through regulatory approval took 6+ years. That gestational phase was too long and risky, and I wanted to apply the knowledge gained into other industries.
4 years ago, one of my partners told me about molecular hydrogen gas (H2) and its therapeutic capabilities. The concept was becoming very popular in Japan and gaining momentum in the USA. At the time, there were 1,000+ published medical studies, indicating H2 regulates cellular behavior. By regulating behavior, H2 brings cells back to an optimum state. For a moment, contemplate the magnitude of this. H2 can boost metabolism (if your metabolism is low); it can calm you (if you’re under stress), and it can regulate the production of excess inflammation (some inflammation is healthy). In a world where we talk about a “Balanced Diet” or a “Balanced Lifestyle” or a Work-life Balance” etc..…. we are divorcing ourselves from the notion of extremes. It’s about Balance, and as a balancer of cellular behavior, H2 has NO Side-effects.
There are 2 methods of delivering molecular hydrogen.
1 – Inhaling H2 gas
2 – Dissolving H2 into water (drinks) and consuming it (similar to consuming a carbonated beverage
There are portable machines that generate H2 like nebulizers, but dissolving them in beverages creates a consumable product with enhanced wellness.
The market has gotten super passionate about healthier /better-for-you beverages, and H2 appears to be the most impactful wellness ingredient since vitamin C.
30+ beverage brands are infusing H2 in waters. What I realized is to make H2 ubiquitous. We need to make it fun, engaging, and affordable. The required infusing H2 into carbonated beverages, using the same cans and packaging of standard brands and the same beverage production lines (co-packers).
By collaborating with standard beverage bottlers (co-packers), I developed a method for infusing hydrogen in beverages while using their standard filling lines. The result, HyVIDA is by far the lowest cost hydrogen infused beverage in the World, and we are the only hydrogen infused carbonated (sparkling) beverage brand.
We are more like a Life-sciences company than a Beverage Brand, with highly disruptive IP leading to a product, cost, and consumer experience advantage. We now have multiple licensing and private label opportunities that leverage our core technology.
How does HyVIDA innovate?
Rick Smith: We look at problems from First Principals. We simply don’t care why something doesn’t work. We start with questions like, What are we absolutely sure is true? What has been proven? Is there a single variable that has limited innovation? How do we work around that variable or change a process to eliminate/diminish that variable’s impact? There are so many gems to uncover by breaking down the end result into a series of independent variables that, in combination, generate the final result.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Rick Smith: It slowed our growth and expansion into more points of retail. Some distributors stopped the onboarding process of our brand, and some retailers stopped any new product placements as they focused on bulk items.
Investment capital activity slowed as many investors hunkered down, allocating capital only to the existing portfolio companies.
We have done a massive expansion into eCommerce and seen sales grow >150% since the pre-pandemic. We now have onboarded with multiple eCommerce channels and have set up an omnichannel fulfillment partner.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Rick Smith: Yes, we slowed down all marketing and consolidated our sales territory. We are focusing on the regions where we have the strongest sales.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and HyVIDA in the future?
Rick Smith: Honestly, I drink a lot of HyVIDA. It’s a 0 calorie, 0 sugar sparkling water with Hydrogen gas and Magnesium. I really calm my nerves and keeps me level headed.
Beyond that, I exercise to burn off steam and play with my 13-year-old twin boys. We have a ton of laughs.
It is our honest view that H2 gas will soon be recognized for its amazing therapeutic benefits. We have the methods and processes to scale H2 infused beverages, and we envision a very successful future for HyVIDA. We have 4 patents pending and expanding product portfolio and a pipeline of licensing opportunities.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rick Smith: From a hydrogen standpoint, there’s Hfactor, H2, and a few other hydrogen infused beverage brands. We are by far the lowest cost, and we are the only sparkling water (carbonated beverage) with hydrogen gas. In fact, we are better for you sparkling water, and many of our customers were former consumers of LaCroix, Pepsi Bubly, and other sparkling waters. As Jeff Bazos said: “even if they don’t know it, customers always want something better,” and HyVIDA is that something better.
Your final thoughts
Rick Smith: Nobody launched a company expecting a pandemic to happen a few years after launch. It’s about how you adapt, pivot, and keep your overhead costs flexible during these challenging times.
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