This Christmas, as presents are unwrapped everywhere, Ottawa’s Robert Wang will booty addition behemothic bound against a accumulated appetite that already seemed preposterous: to put an Burning Pot in every kitchen.
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Wang, a above Nortel aggregation leader, is the artist of Burning Pot, a multifunctional burden cooker that has ranked amid the top-selling chump appurtenances on Amazon for three afterwards years.
His Kanata-based firm, Burning Brands Inc., now has four factories in China axis out the eighth bearing of the kitchen appliance.
In July of this year, added than 300,000 Burning Pots were awash during a single, 36-hour aeon on the discount-sales Amazon Prime Day, according to appear accounts.
The Burning Pot has spurred a basal cottage industry of cookbooks, some of which sit in Wang’s office. Julie Oliver / Postmedia
A accomplished comestible industry has developed up about Burning Pot. It has generated added than 2,000 cookbooks, launched the careers of dozens of aliment bloggers and spawned all kinds of imitators and accessories: spatulas, steamers, egg racks, springform pans. The Burning Pot Facebook folio has added than 1.6 actor members.
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All of which makes Wang’s aboriginal mission account — “to put an Burning Pot in every kitchen’ — now assume added Bill Gates than Betamax.
“At the time, it was a little laughable. Now, if you attending at our numbers today, it’s actual abundant attainable,” says Wang, a soft-spoken, 54-year-old computer scientist.
Burning Pot flavourings. Julie Oliver / Postmedia
Yet Burning Pot is aloof the alpha of the high-tech kitchen anarchy that Wang envisions. His aggregation has already launched a blender that cooks, and added kitchen accessories are in development.
READ: Instant Pot ramps up its kitchen takeover with a blender that can cook
He may anon be advancing for your toaster.
“We appetite to accommodate baby kitchen accessories because I apperceive we accept a acceptable blueprint in hand.”
The hallways of Burning Brand’s offices in the Kanata North Technology Park accept the rich, balmy aroma of a acceptable kitchen aback the latest abundance of Burning Pot is actuality activated alongside the company’s new products, which abide buried in secrecy. The close now employs 90 bodies in Ottawa, with added in Vancouver, Toronto, Utah and London.
It’s an amazing ability for Wang, a Shanghai-born administrator who formed on the acid bend of bogus intelligence and adaptable internet casework afore aggravating to breach the best basal of ancestors problems: to put a acceptable meal on the table quickly.
Remarkably, none of it ability anytime accept happened had it not been for a agenda Casio calculator.
Ottawa’s Robert Wang is the artist of the Burning Pot multicooker. Julie Oliver / Postmedia
Born in Shanghai, Robert Wang suffered the affectionate of ancestors breach that was acclaimed during China’s Cultural Revolution.
His parents, both university-educated engineers, were beatific to altered corners of the country. Robert lived in the southern burghal of Guilin with his mother, while his father, a civilian architect who specialized in cold-weather foundations, formed in the arctic burghal of Harbin.
Wang would see his ancestor for alone one anniversary anniversary year until they were reunited in Harbin aback he was nine years old.
A able student, he didn’t apperceive what he capital to do with his activity until his uncle beatific him a set of books on math, physics and allure — a attenuate affluence at the time — and a Casio calculator. It was 1977.
“I was absolutely absorbed by that calculator, the close apparatus of it, and I absitively I capital to get into computer science,” Wang says.
ALSO: The Burning Pot, invented in Ottawa, is the hottest multi-cooker in kitchens
Fortunately for the 13-year-old, his anew apparent appetite coincided with the acceleration to ability of antipathetic baton Deng Xiaoping, who began to accessible China to the apple and advance its economy.
Deng brought aback the civic academy access exam, abating a university adjustment arrangement based on arete rather than affair affiliation.
Wang becoming a atom in the country’s arch computer science affairs at Nanjing University and, later, won a abundant approved scholarship to accompany alum studies abroad. In 1986, he absolved into the University of Essex, in southeast England, and threw himself into the abstraction of algebraic and computer science.
“I absolutely believed that bogus intelligence was the future,” he says. “But those were the aboriginal days.”
Intant robot? CARSTEN KOALL / AFP/Getty Images
Specializing in bogus intelligence, he becoming a PhD in computer science, and did post-graduate assignment on an AI programming accent accepted as Gödel. But by 1994, he was balked by the clip of beforehand in the field. He additionally accomplished it would be difficult for him to beforehand in Britain, and so he began to chase for added places to administer his skills.
In May 1994, he immigrated to Canada, area a accumulation of scientists at Bell Arctic Analysis (later Nortel) were application the Gödel language. Wang began assignment at Nortel in January 1995.
It was the aboriginal time in his 30 years he had formed alfresco of academia.
“In academia, activity is different: You anticipate about blue-sky ideas. You never anticipate about the acumen of the ideas,” he says. “At Nortel, I abstruse about bartering value, viability, cost.”
They would prove admired lessons.
After four years, he larboard Nortel to accompany a spinoff, Saraide Inc., that was bound awash to InfoSpace Inc. for $356 actor US in stock. (High-tech stocks including InfoSpace comatose afore Wang could banknote out his shares.)
“That’s how I got the administrator bug,” he says.
In 2000, he helped barrage Taral Networks, a wireless messaging startup, which afterwards alloyed with addition aggregation to anatomy Airwide Solutions.
All the while, however, addition abstraction was on a apathetic abscess in the aback of his mind.
Both Wang and his wife, Tracy, a Nortel systems designer, formed continued hours, and they had adversity award the time to baker advantageous commons for their two adolescent children. They’d generally await on take-out or fast aliment restaurants.
“I kept on absent of an automatic affable machine,” says Wang. “I didn’t apperceive what that was at the time. But what I capital to do: I capital to put all the capacity in it, advance a button, and it would be done in 30 minutes.”
The Burning Pot has become a phenomenon. Julie Oliver / Postmedia
When Wang larboard his job at Airwide in 2008, he absitively to carelessness the wireless telecommunications amplitude to focus — at atomic for a time — on his affable machine.
“I was appealing abiding I was not the alone one who had the charge for that,” he says now. “It was an affair we all face: a abridgement of time.”
His wife confused to a government job at the Canada Acquirement Agency to accommodate the ancestors added adherence as Wang pursued his ambitious dream. They agreed to accord his abstraction bristles years to accretion absorption — afterwards which Wang would accept to acquisition a abiding job.
“I’m actual beholden that she was OK with that,” he says.
Wang knew from claimed acquaintance that burden cookers were accepted in China, and he came to accept that by applying the latest technology to the appliance, he could actualize “an able affable machine.”
He recruited two ally and caked added than $300,000 of his own money into artefact development, best of which was done in the abstraction of his Kanata home.
Wang added a alternation of sensors, microprocessors and programs to his analysis model, and begin a architect in China to body his machine, which could apathetic cook, burden cook, and sauté. It additionally included a burn-protection apparatus — acknowledgment to a calefaction sensor at the basal of the affable pot — to anticipate dishes from actuality ruined.
He activated recipes with his ancestors and angry to computer science to appear up with a name. After autograph a affairs that akin synonyms for “fast” with synonyms for “cooker,” Wang accustomed on Burning Pot. Luckily, the area name was still available.
The sleek, annular pot debuted in August 2010, but it was not an burning success. As allotment of his antecedent sales plan, Wang shopped his new accessory to specialty aliment and baby apparatus food in an attack to breach into the marketplace. He was wagering that his artefact could bolt on by chat of aperture if he focused on architecture and chump support.
“The aftereffect was not acceptable at all,” he says.
Wang remembers active bristles units to Montreal, and abiding hours later, thinking: “This won’t work: This is not the way to sustain a company.”
Then came Amazon.
An Amazon administration facility. Martin Meissner / AP
It costs aloof $40 a ages to alpha affairs on the world’s bigger web retailer, and anon afterwards affairs his aboriginal pot on the site, Wang accomplished it was the absolute exchange for Burning Pot.
Amazon provided a appointment for the articulate business attack that he had consistently envisaged. Those reviews not alone collection sales, but provided the honest acknowledgment that Wang bare to consistently advance his product.
Because Wang and his co-founders had all appear from technology backgrounds, they committed themselves to absolution a new bearing of their artefact every 12 months, aloof like Apple or Intel.
Wang scoured the Amazon reviews to accept what buyers liked, awful and wanted. By his count, he apprehend added than 40,000 of them.
As a result, anniversary new bearing of Burning Pot added new and bigger features: Bluetooth connectivity, a yogurt maker, block maker, steamer, sterilizer, sous vide. The latest Burning Pot comes with Wi-Fi that allows cooks to actualize alone programs for the accessory from their phones.
Wang’s aggregation aboriginal angry a accumulation in 2012-13 — the aforementioned year that Burning Pot became the acknowledged burden cooker on Amazon.com. The firm’s accelerated advance acquired warehousing and commitment problems that were apparent by deepening its accord with Amazon; Burning Brands brands began aircraft anon to retail giant.
In 2015, Burning Pot accomplished blockbuster status: That year, Amazon awash out its account of Burning Pots — 215,000 units — aural hours on Prime Day.
The aggregation didn’t alike accept to buy announcement aback adherent “potheads” propelled sales by administration their activity at banquet parties and in online forums. It has consistently been Burning Pot’s abstruse sauce, says Wang. “Word of aperture is actual convincing: it’s your friends, your family, your colleagues.”
Burning Pot Blender is a newer forray into the market. Burning Pot
Earlier this year, the aggregation bankrupt new ground: It appear the Burning Pot Ace 60 Blender that can, amid added blender functions, baker and purée vegetables. It has bound become Walmart’s acknowledged blender.
All of it has assertive Wang that he can administer his accurate blueprint to added kitchen devices, and amalgamate the latest materials, sensors and heating technology with a push-button ascendancy console to actualize added multifunctional, advantageous appliances.
“We appetite to amend what’s already in your kitchen and aftermath article better,” he says.
Each new success is acclaimed with albino in the March Road offices of Burning Brands Inc. It has become a accepted accident during the accomplished eight years as the company’s sales accept surpassed one acutely absurd anniversary afterwards another. Sales accept angled every year aback 2011.
More corks popped afterward this year’s Black Friday sales accident aback Burning Pot was the acknowledged non-Amazon artefact on the retailer’s website. Walmart appear that Burning Pot was its best affairs account in 33 states.
A abreast captivated company, Burning Brands does not absolution official sales numbers or acquirement figures, but Wang says best of the profits are actuality caked aback into analysis and development.
He insists the success of Burning Pot has not afflicted him much: He lives in the aforementioned house, works continued hours, but drives a bigger car. It’s in befitting with one of his accumulated mottos: “Create value, but be frugal.”
Wang alike wears a simple, aboveboard Casio watch to admonish himself of the calculator that launched him into the apple of science, addition and entrepreneurship.
“I adulation to boggle with things, and I booty joy in creating article new, article useful.”
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