Interview: FirstBuild's Taylor Dawson on Hackathons and Cold Brew Coffee

FirstBuild announced a Future of Cooking hackathon on September 24-25th at their maker space/microfactory in Louisville. We caught up with Taylor Dawson, FirstBuild's community evangelist, and asked him a few questions.

Wolf: Is this your first hackathon?

Dawson: This is our third Hackathon. FirstBuild launched with a hackathon in 2014 that was broadly focused on appliances. Last year we had over 200 makers in 30 teams working to “hack the home.” In 2016, we are narrowing our focus to cooking.

Wolf: All of FirstBuild's early products have had something to do with the kitchen. Why is this such a focus for you?

Dawson: FirstBuild is primarily a community. Many of our most passionate and engaged community members are expressing interest in combining new technology with old to unlock better user experiences in the kitchen. We decided to narrow our focus to cooking because it is rich subject matter with so much potential. 

Wolf: What happens if a really cool product concept comes out of this hackathon? In other words, is there a path with or alongside FirstBuild to productize something that had a genesis at your hackathon?

Dawson: We have found that by being open, interesting people naturally find us. Last year’s hackathon winners were passionate about roasting beans in a convection oven. After working closely with that team for several months until we unlocked a new, related idea that really took off: cold brew in under 10 minutes. Since then, we have been working with a local coffee roaster named Sunergos to validate our brewing techniques. At the same time, we ran a challenge to get input from designers in our community. Dozens of people ended up influencing the product at various stages, many of whom were involved from the very start.

Wolf: Let's talk about the Prisma cold brew coffee machine. The Prisma crowdfunding launched. Any early feedback, reactions from backers that have resonated? 

With the recent national rollout from chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, cold brew is just coming into the awareness of the general public. We’ve been tracking consumer interest for the last year and we are noticing awareness is doubling every single year. Prisma is a totally new way of making cold brew, and our early adopters couldn’t be happier to get cold brew at home in under 10 minutes.

Wolf: How is this campaign going/different from other two?

I think the main difference between this campaign and the other two is consumer awareness. By the time we launched our Paragon cooktop, there were multiple sous vide devices and dozens of websites and blogs specifically dedicated to this one cooking niche. When we launched Opal, nugget ice fans had been demanding the product for decades. Cold brew is new experience for almost everyone, and we love being on the very crest of the wave.

- Michael Wolf

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