Dave Asprey, Founder and CEO of Bulletproof Coffee, speaks with GrowthCap about the rise of his widely popular product, expansion plans and inspiring healthier living for future generations.
RJ: Dave, thanks so much again for taking the time. I am a big fan of your product and business model. Many of our readers are probably not as familiar with your company so we’d love to hear the backdrop of how you got started. Could you share a little bit about your background and how you came to develop Bulletproof?
Dave: So I used to weigh 300 pounds. I’m now closer to 200 and have spent 15 years and well over $300,000 hacking the human body. When I say hacking I actually mean it. My career has been in Silicon Valley in the very first company to do cloud computing, and believe it or not in the early 90’s a t-shirt sold out of my dorm was the first ecommerce product ever shipped before the web browser even existed. So I’ve been a tech guy and actually left my career as an executive in computer security about a year and a half ago when the Bulletproof blog and Bulletproof executive site continued to grow; it’s continued on its path now having 14 million podcast downloads, and a New York Times bestselling book about how to eat and what to do to have more willpower and more energy throughout the day. You might just lose some weight along the way as well, but it’s really about performance more than anything else.
RJ: What I’ve been surprised about Bulletproof is that it is a higher quality bean. Can you tell us a little bit about the quality of the coffee and what makes it different?
Dave: My flagship product and the thing that I’m famous for is Bulletproof coffee, which has three ingredients. The first of which is Bulletproof upgraded coffee beans. This is a single estate coffee and what we do is we change the green coffee processing. Historically, coffee production has basically been done in one of two ways throughout. These methods are either cheap or they taste good. I had this idea that you could alter the coffee that made it better for you and gave you better performance, and we created a continuous flow process that doesn’t allow for fermentation. We then use lab testing at the end of the green coffee production to validate that we’ve prevented toxins that are illegal in most countries but are not regulated in the United States. And these toxins are bad for everyone because they increase stress in the body, and since high performers already have enough stress why would you want to get additional stress and jitter from your coffee?
RJ: So the single estate is a very controlled growing and processing environment?
Dave: We control the single estate very, very carefully. The big thing is that there are multiple variables for how we process the green coffee. What we do is we have a single estate where we control how the beans are picked, and when we get to the coffee processing there’s a special process that’s exclusive to us that prevents unwanted fermentation. We then have proprietary lab testing. The idea is to have really pure coffee that makes you perform better than coffee that has toxins in it. The U.S. has many more toxins in its coffee than other countries because it’s illegal to sell some coffee in Japan or Europe while it’s completely legal to sell that same coffee in the U.S. I’m working to change legislation and how we view American coffee so it will be as good as the rest of the world’s coffee.
RJ: I imagine you’ve seen tremendous growth; I’m certainly seeing a lot more about Bulletproof in various media channels. Can you tell us a little bit about the growth you’re seeing?
Dave: Sure. I don’t talk about revenue growth or anything like that. It’s still a small company, but the primary driver is our website with more than a million visitors a month and oftentimes two or three million who are consuming our content. So a small fraction of those are trying the complete Bulletproof offering, the beans, the grass-fed butter instead of milk or Dave’s Brain Octane Oil. The Brain Octane Oil turns off hunger in a very profound and known way; you put it in your coffee along with the butter and you lose your sugar cravings. You lose distractedness from food and you just have a lot more energy. It’s amazing. The reason it’s been so successful is not that I’m a marketing wizard. It’s that I made something after thousands of iterations that works incredibly well so people try it and they tell me, “the quality of my day just changed. It’s the end of the day and I have energy to play with my kids. I want to feel like this every day.” That’s why Bulletproof is so successful.
RJ: I think I have read that you’re going to be opening up your first location in Santa Monica?
Dave: I’m hoping that it will be opening this month. We’re just waiting on a final engineering permit and then we’re good to go. Our staff is hired, the menu is ready and we’ll have a full restaurant. We’ll of course have Bulletproof coffee, but we’ll also have meals that are compliant with the Bulletproof diet, which is that diet designed for willpower, and as you leave the restaurant you don’t care about food for at least four hours. You don’t want a snack or think about wanting a candy bar; you just don’t think about it, you don’t waste any mental cycles on that, and that really changes how you feel.
RJ: That’s great. What type of food will you be serving?
Dave: We’re going to have salads with a new recipe called Undressing, which is a salad dressing that actually incorporates the salad itself and also uses that Brain Octane Oil to give you that fullness feeling. We’ll have bone broth, which is upgraded with extra collagen protein which is a really great protein to increase human performance, and we’ll have grass-fed steaks from a variety of local ranches that we’ll be showcasing in a way you would showcase wine, because it turns out the way that a rancher feeds the animals that you eat changes how you feel and how you perform. So if you care enough to get wine from the right winery, you should care enough to get your steak from a steak artisan rather than an industrial feed lot. The difference in how you feel is profound when you get that quality. So everything is the right quality, with tons of vegetables, no gluten, moderate carbohydrates and lots and lots of flavor.
RJ: Sounds excellent. As a bio-hacker, are there one or two non-obvious health tips that you uncovered along the way that has a profound impact on the quality of one’s life?
Dave: Breakfast makes you weak. Some people need to have some protein in the morning, but when you either skip breakfast or you have only fat in Bulletproof coffee, your focus, energy, clarity, and ability to execute increases significantly. If you eat breakfast with potatoes and bacon and eggs or cereal, you’re going to be distracted and you’re going to be weaker all morning long. So try either skipping breakfast and having black coffee, or better yet, have Bulletproof coffee and just see what happens. You realize that by having lunch and dinner and eating really healthy, good sized meals so you’re not cutting calories, you totally change everything.
RJ: What is your ultimate vision for Bulletproof? Do you foresee the brick and mortar restaurant being a major component, or is ecommerce the leading component of the business? How does it all come together over the next few years?
Dave: Bulletproof is really a content media site where millions of people come to learn and the information is very cutting edge; there’s stuff that people don’t know that is actionable. So they come there and they say, “Well, I need to sleep an hour less,” or “I’ve cut the amount of time I’ve been exercising each week by 5 hours, and my muscle mass went up and I have more free time.” It’s a media site that is supported by ecommerce sales, but it’s not a hard sell. Maybe you want to try the stuff that I do and it works, at which point people think, “Okay, I was going to drink coffee anyway, but this coffee makes me feel better, so I want this one and I’m also going to put this Brain Octane in my coffee.”
And from there, that’s obviously ecommerce, but we have some small grocery offerings as well. You can buy Bulletproof coffee in a few grocery stores today, and I believe that there’s demand for Bulletproof coffee shops in most major cities. The reason for that is, I’m a bit of an evangelist. When people have properly fed brains they’re actually nicer to each other, I know that’s the case for me and it’s the case for my kids and all of my employees and everything else. If I can show people what it’s like to be fed properly just once, and to have that state of high performance I keep talking about, I know that they’re going to make changes to what they buy at the grocery store so they feel that way all the time. This behavior will eventually change demand for quality food in our country.
RJ: What’s fascinating for us here at GrowthCap is that we spend time with companies like yours in the consumer sector that are helping to promote this trend towards healthier living and who are seeing dramatic growth. So while many tech companies are growing virally, you can get the same effect on the consumer side via a strategic mix of media.
Dave: So our difference is that we’re not a normal brand in that we’re mission driven, and being mission driven makes a huge difference because what I’m looking to do is change demand. Twice last year, grass-fed butter in the U.S. sold out; you couldn’t buy it. There are thousands of comments on Facebook bemoaning the fact that people couldn’t make Bulletproof coffee because they had bought more grass-fed butter than was available on the market, and that makes me just want to dance because that means that now farmers are going to stop torturing cows and feeding them the wrong food, and they’ll start producing grass-fed dairy. And that changes agricultural farmers, which changes our environment. All of my customers know that they’re contributing to that when they buy a bag of coffee, so it’s a really big mission but we have to do it.
If we keep doing what we’re doing or feeding people bad quality food that damages the soil, we’re not going to have a lot of food to eat in another 50 years. So this is a long vision, but that’s what makes it grow rapidly. People think, “I’m already going to eat something, I’ll just make the world a better place and make me a better person.” And the raw vegan diets don’t work. They make you mean and hungry all the time. I’ve been a raw vegan, and I speak from experience. My idea there is to show people how to win personally and also benefit everyone else around them, and I believe that people are good people and that’s what they’re going to do.
RJ: And are you seeing more of a pickup with customers in different segments? Is this trend more prevalent in California, for instance, or were you surprised by some of the demographics?
Dave: The pickup has been amongst very high performance people, and it’s very upper echelon of performers; Bulletproof coffee is all over Wall Street. I have a couple of physicians who sell Bulletproof coffee out of their offices; they’re anti-aging guys in New York. And when I go to LA, I am blown away. I’ve received an email from Jeremy Piven, and another from Brandon Routh; these are big name stars, Brandon plays Superman in the movie series.
So it’s just like that, and CEOs and people who are going all out every day. And I personally am like that with Bulletproof. Every drop of energy, I’m using it to do something important; I’m not going to waste it. It’s such a tragedy for someone who is working to do something big to be distracted with junk food that causes cravings leads to less willpower.
RJ: Dave, thank you – I very much appreciate the conversation and I know our readers will enjoy learning about Bulletproof and the mission you’re focused on achieving.
Dave: Thanks, I totally appreciate it.