July 21st, 2020 (San Francisco)
This past Monday, on July 20th, Harmony Plus continued our Future Entrepreneur Challenge (FEC) talkshow. For our sixth episode, we interviewed Ofek Arush and George Passantino, two young entrepreneurs who recently graduated from U.C Berkeley. For them, they sought to improve and revolutionize coffee, a beverage that many people depend on and consume on a daily basis.
Now they’re the Founder and Co-founder of Quokka Brew, the first fully caffeinated jitter-less coffee. After working with chemists and food scientists, Ofek, George, and their team created a blend of all organic amino acids which eliminates the jitters, anxiety, and the crash from caffeine. Quokka Brew is currently present in several stores across the Bay Area as well as four universities: UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly Slo, and SFSU. Their current month-long Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000 was completely met in the first 4 hours, and now it has reached over $40,000 in crowd-sourced funds.
Ofek and George began their entrepreneurial journey all the way back when they first met in 7th grade. as when they were studying for their final exams at U.C Berkeley. Despite early language barriers (when Ofek first moved to the United States), the two had a passion for business and problem-solving. They explored more business ventures in high school, from selling iPhone accessories and camera equipment to managing and selling muffins as the “Muffin Men”.
The humble start of Quokka began when George and Ofek, like most college students, were studying for finals. Coffee was one of the mains ways that students could get the energy necessary to maintain concentration and continue studying. However, Ofek and George both noticed how jittery and anxious they felt from the caffeine after drinking coffee, as well as the subsequent “crash” that made them fall asleep after a few hours. Furthermore, many of the readily available coffees that were being sold on the market were very unhealthy due to high sugar content and calorie count.
This realization was the catalyst that inspired them to create a healthy, jitterless coffee. They then proceeded to ask people questions and receive feedback for their idea, of which many people supported.
“The main thing [is that] it’s really just going ahead and doing it… We had the idea for Quokka [and] we basically spent five months on research and development… When we finally had the product, it was that feeling of ‘Oh, ok, I guess we start selling it’. And it was kind of scary, but we just had to do it… so we went with a few bottles and a table to… the main plaza at U.C Berkeley and started selling the bottles.”
Ofek and George also offered advice for students who were interested in pursuing entrepreneurship. George recommended that students try to create a start up as early as possible, and to keep asking questions to refine their ideas. Ofek also recommended that students try to start at least one business in college. The reason for that was, according to Ofek, there would be no other time in a student’s life where they could easily access the opinions of thousands of other fellow students about their ideas. The two also agreed that, although starting out might be intimidating, the most important thing was to be able to accept the potential for failure and to learn from it.
“We all have ideas, but an idea isn’t worth anything unless you execute on it. The first business is always the hardest because you’re really putting something out there to the world, to your friends and classmates, that you’re creating. I mean, it’s scary, right? What if they reject it? But I think once you do it once, and you get rejected, and get rejected again, the idea is that you learn so many lessons from that... If we were scared of the failure, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today.”
If you are interested in learning more about Ofek’s and George’s story, you can watch the full video here.