We get the scoop on Jeremy Tan, founder and CEO of Singapore-based company Advantir Innovations and their flagship product – Swirl.GO, dubbed the Nespresso of soft serve.
Once upon a time, ice cream was an indulgence reserved for the rich. The Chinese King Tang of Shang has been credited as the person to invent it, a process which required the labour of 90 men mixing camphor, flour and buffalo milk continuously with ice. Like the Chinese King, Jeremy is also dedicated to perfecting the art of ice cream making. It is exactly this passion that led him to start his own company, Advantir Innovations, which has produced the world’s first capsule-dispensing soft serve ice cream machine. Soft serve is a smooth, aerated ice cream invented in the US in the 1930s and now seen in cones all over the world. With Swirl.GO, customers can choose from a selection of pre-packed frozen ice cream capsules, turning them instantly into creamy, icy scoops. We sat down with Jeremy to learn how Swirl.GO is revolutionising the art of ice-cream making by designing a new machine that dispenses soft serve quicker, cheaper and more efficiently.
Jeremy’s love for food started when he lived in Stockholm. “I spent a year there and, as food was really expensive, I started cooking. That’s when I fell in love with creating food experiences for people around me.” Passion led quickly to ambition. “I cycled through many F&B ideas. Initially, I wanted to start a food delivery business, but when I came back to Singapore I fell back into finding a job and sort of forgot about it,” he remembers. “However, after three years working for ExxonMobil and Singtel, I realised that I still wanted to start a business that would combine my love for food and technology.”
Instead of revisiting his old F&B ideas, Jeremy turned his attention to the ice cream market. “I found a major gap in soft-serves. When I investigated further, I realised that it was the machine that was the problem.” Traditional soft serve machines are expensive – costing up to SGD 30,000. They also take up a lot of space and consume an exorbitant amount of electricity and water. On top of that, most can only produce one or two flavours. “So, I began thinking about designing something smaller, cheaper, more elegant and simple to use for end-users and businesses,” says Jeremy.
The name Swirl.GO. perfectly captures the vision of his resulting product. “I spent a year developing the idea, design and technology and finished the prototype within a few months,” he says. Swirl.GO makes ice cream in a much simpler way by processing capsulated frozen ice cream and turning it into soft serve which is instantly dispensable. With temperature sensors and a timer in place, the machine can also make milkshakes, frozen yoghurts and acai bowls.
The ingenious design of Swirl.GO has already attracted attention. The young company is backed by NUS Enterprise and supported by Enterprise Singapore, a government agency which drives SME development. It has also successfully built up its profile by participating in competitions, such as IPHatch and NTU’s Ideasinc. Recently, Swirl.GO was also invited to take part in the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2018, an accelerator programme supported by the Government of Korea to attract foreign startups to cooperate with local VCs and companies.
Still, Jeremy’s journey has not all been smooth swirling. “As a young entrepreneur, the initial challenge is getting a strong team to join the company when you have just an idea. It is difficult to convince people, especially experienced engineers, that this is a journey worth going on.” In addition, his prototype was not easy to develop. “Unlike software, hardware cannot change as rapidly because it takes time to redesign, wait for the parts to arrive and get it manufactured before you can see the actual result.”
As the next step, Jeremy is planning to expand the company geographically. “Singapore is great for starting a company because the process is easy and fast. However, because the market is so small, the company will outgrow it instantly. As a result, we have to be instantly regional, or even global. There is not a lot of regional competition at the moment, which gives us the perfect opportunity to expand.”
Even though Swirl.GO is currently targeting retail businesses such as food courts, pubs, bars, convenience stores, offices, events and catering companies, Jeremy wants to bring the ice cream revolution into people’s homes eventually. “In the long run, we would like to design a model for homes. With Swirl.GO, people could treat guests to perfect soft-serves, or in the future, have ice cream for breakfast!” We’ll raise a cone to that.