Stepping down as CEO of my own company

Peter Buchroithner
5 min readJun 17, 2024

--

My co-founder David (left) and I in Iceland creating content for Stardust Adventure Coffee

This is the hardest thing I’ve written in a very long time.

I am stepping down as CEO of Orgn Inc — the maker of Stardust Coffee.

When David, and I started our business in 2022 we wanted to build a health tracking app to help people manage their caffeine intake.

Caffeine is one of the most consumed drugs on the planet.

We thought it is insane how much caffeine we all consume on a daily basis. An unregulated psycho-active drug consumed by one billion+ people every day should at least be controlled.

Why? Because caffeine has such a big impact on the quality of our sleep, on recovery, focus, and many aspects of our daily lives.

The caffeine problem

Our caffeine tracking app

Astro Cat App

We’ve built an app to measure caffeine levels and to show you the half-life of caffeine so you know how much caffeine is in your system.

The Apple Watch app took off on Reddit with 1000+ downloads.

But we ran into a big problem.

It is impossible to get reliable information on how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee. The range is from 45mg to 600mg in a single cup.

The FDA recommends a maximum of 400mg a day.

But how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee? Ask your local barista. Spoiler alert: Coffee shops don’t know, and don’t care.

This was a tough nut for us to crack. How can we help people to really understand & manage their coffee intake if every cup has a different amount of caffeine?

What if we make our own coffee?

As many great adventures, it all started with a joke.

“You know what? What if we make our own coffee? That would solve it!”

A product with a precise caffeine amount*.

The challenge: There’s only 2 ways to get precise caffeine amounts per serving:

  1. pre brewed like a canned coffee
  2. freeze dried like instant coffee

We’ve decided to go with Instant. It’s long shelf life makes instant coffee more sustainable, and it’s low weight makes it easy and cheap to ship.

So we’ve created Stardust Premium Instant Coffee.

A sachet of Stardust contains only ≈60mg of caffeine, that’s 80% less caffeine than your average filter coffee at big chains (like Starbucks).

But low caffeine amounts are not enough:

When David and I started working on our own coffee we wanted to make the best tasting instant coffee on the market.

We tried every single product we could get our hands on. We’ve looked in the US, Europe and Africa. From Nescafe to single origin speciality instant coffees from Boston, to Africoffee in Botswana.

And we found the best single origin coffee in Ethiopia, and a facility in Hamburg, Germany to help us with brewing and freeze drying.

Stardust is delicious.

The brand — the first cup of coffee on Mars

Our Brand — First Cup of Coffee on Mars

Our aim was to create a cult brand in the coffee space. Something that stands out. Something people love talking about.

Inspired by Space Travel & with the big vision of being the first cup of coffee on Mars we were always thinking big & believed Stardust has the potential to become a staple for people world wide.

Just like NASA’s space suits we’ve used ‘international orange’ as our primary color. We’ve added ‘space cadet blue’ for contrast.

We believe space travel is the ultimate adventure, so adventure coffee was the theme we went with.

What worked

our Trail & Scale Podcast trailandscale.com

Once people tried our coffee most loved it. ’I can’t believe it’s instant coffee’

’Stardust Coffee tastes delicious! It’s great for hot or cold coffee on the go and can be prepared in seconds. I am pleasantly surprised’

We’ve created a brand some people love, and a product they enjoy drinking, some customers spent € 200+ on their first orders for instant coffee.

Sponsoring Pro Trail Runner Sebastian Spehler of Team Salomon helped us sell the first Stardust to France. And for our ‘Trail & Scale’ podcast we’ve get to interview some of the worlds best endurance athletes including Marianne Hogan & Bianca Tarboton.

What didn’t work

Fake Mars Mission in Iceland

It’s hard to get people to try instant coffee. Instant coffee has a bad reputation.

Ads are hard, even if you had a lot of help. Thanks Nico Frank and Team Ecoza, it’s been great learning from you.

We tried to give retail a shot, and first partnered with Biogena Alimentastic, but haven’t yet found a way to get into stores. Our pricing might be an issue for retail.

We’ve also had Paul Pallweber join as a 3rd co-founder to focus on getting Stardust into retail stores in Austria, but our product wasn’t ready for retail shelves when we tried last year. Paul left us again to focus on his agency business.

So after 17 months on the market, it is time for us to change strategy. And at this point I am no longer the right person to run this business.

New CEO

I am stepping down as CEO.

I will stay on board to help with a smooth transition.

Last but not least I want to say thank you to all the people who’ve made this journey possible. I know I’m going to forget some of you, so please know how much I appreciate every single supporter.

A big thank you to all our customers, especially our first 2: Georg Buchroithner & Bettina Ludwig.

Thanks to Steph our Head of Content & Sledgehammer Studio for your the amazing content.

Thanks to our amazing investors Hermann Futter (Compass Group), Lisa Pallweber & Hansi Hansmann (Hanswomen Group), Albert Schmidbauer & Laurenz Hoffmann (Biogena Group), Michael Krause (Spotify), Dominik Greiner (Camouflage Ventures), Federico Ntidi, Simon Knopp, Philipp Holly & Manfred Strasser (Gateway Labs), Thanks to our advisor Peter Allerstorfer (Silvertree Holdings).

Helping people taking charge of their caffeine intake while building a delicious instant coffee has been a project that brought me much joy.

I will soon share what’s next for me, but in the meantime:

Stardust is here to stay

I drink Stardust every day and you can too.

We ship to most countries in the world and the smallest package starts at € 19.

Find Stardust online

Love, your instant barista, Pete

--

--

Peter Buchroithner

Partner @ Gateway Labs - A venture studio for health & wellness