Interview with Haden Calegan, Co-Founder, Modal
Q: What does your company do? What problem are you solving? How did you “discover” this problem? Why are you passionate about it?
Haden: Modal is a company that specializes in optimizing the home coffee brewing experience by providing tailored insights into coffee grinder performance. Our main goal is to help users improve their coffee brewing by analyzing grind size consistency and assisting them in correctly adjusting the grind setting for their ideal cup of coffee. The problem of inconsistent grind settings and the lack of understanding about how grinders impact brewed coffee was discovered through many conversations with coffee enthusiasts. We realized that most people had little to no knowledge about the crucial role their grinder plays in the brewing process, and they often never adjusted their grind settings! We are passionate about this issue because we love coffee and its potential to bring joy and connection to those who enjoy it every day, as well as those who produce it. At Modal, we are dedicated to improving a product that means so much to so many people by bridging the gap in grinder knowledge at the consumer level.
Q: What inspired you to start this venture? Is there a story behind the name of the company?
Haden: We were inspired to start this venture after talking to many coffee enthusiasts and hearing about the passion they have for coffee. It became clear that coffee plays a positive role in people’s lives, whether it be as a morning ritual, a way to connect with loved ones, or simply a daily pleasure. We believe that coffee should be enjoyable and accessible without having to worry about technical details, so we decided to create a solution that simplifies the process and enhances the experience. The name “Modal” is derived from a statistical term that refers to the most frequently occurring value in a dataset. In the context of grinding coffee, particle sizes often form a bimodal distribution. We chose this name to reflect our focus on understanding and optimizing grind size consistency, which is key to achieving the perfect cup of coffee.
Q: What’s your background? How did you get here? Is there a story behind what led you to jump into entrepreneurship? What previous experiences influence your role today?
Haden: I have a background in mechanical engineering and manufacturing, with a strong focus on quality assurance and statistical methods. These skills have been crucial in producing high-quality products throughout my career and inform my current approach to problem-solving. My journey began when I developed a passion for coffee after college. It quickly became an essential part of my morning routine, and as my interest grew, I started experimenting with coffee machines and grinders at home. This passion eventually led me to combine my technical expertise with my love for coffee, creating a solution that simplifies the brewing process for everyone. The story behind my leap into entrepreneurship is influenced by my experience growing up as part of a tight-knit swimming team. This fostered a desire to build a similarly close team in a business setting, working together to achieve great things. Inspired by these experiences, I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial dream and establish Modal, a company dedicated to enhancing the coffee brewing experience for everyone.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
Haden: My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is the challenge of solving problems with limited resources. This constraint requires creativity and often leads to more innovative solutions than if I had started with an abundance of resources.
Q: Do you have any mentors or role models who have inspired you while you have been building your business?
Haden: Throughout the process of building my business, my family has been my greatest source of inspiration and support. They have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and to think big, no matter the challenges ahead. In addition to my family, I have also been inspired by various mentors that I have met during my time in the RIoT program. These individuals have shared valuable insights and advice that have shaped my approach to problem-solving and business development. Their stories have served as a constant reminder of the possibilities that lie ahead for my own business.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your startup journey so far? What are you still learning today? Any advice for entrepreneurs?
Haden: The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my startup journey so far is the importance of listening to customers. While customers may not have all the answers, they undoubtedly have a clear understanding of the problems they face. By actively engaging with them and considering their feedback, you can develop more effective solutions that truly address their needs. As Modal is currently a pre-revenue business, one of our ongoing learning experiences is figuring out how to monetize our solution. The transition to generating revenue will be a significant mental shift for our team, but we are incredibly excited about the potential it holds for our growth and success. My advice for fellow entrepreneurs would be to embrace the challenges that come with limited resources. While it may seem daunting at first, these constraints can serve as a catalyst for creativity and innovation. By approaching problems with an open mind and a willingness to adapt, you can turn these limitations into opportunities for growth and success in your venture.