Juggling two different start-ups is no easy feat but Rifeng Gao makes it look like just another workout at the gym. Rifeng has co-founded two start-ups out of Singapore, namely Grain and Cabin. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to pick his brains through our engagement with Cabin. For our latest Breakfast of Champions, Rifeng shares his thoughts on coffee, start-up life and the future of food delivery platforms.
Thank you for making time to partake in this week’s Breakfast Of Champions and congratulations on the recent round of funding! How did your team feel when they found out about the news?
Rifeng Gao: Everyone was feeling excited. Our Series B fundraise was very timely. It provided resources to fuel the next phase growth. And equally important, some breathing room where we do not have to worry about our runway constantly!
Can you tell us more about what Grain will be focusing on next?
Rifeng Gao: Expanding to Bangkok - we found a strong Thai partner in Singha (our Series B lead investor). And a series of new food products and brands to look forward to.
Previously, you were working as a consultant. What motivates your shift to venture into a startup and also co-founded another business called Cabin?
Rifeng Gao: I was quite clear that I will eventually want to start something. Had that thought when I was in university. So when I met Sung, Ernest, and Isaac (co-founders of Grain), it felt right and the next thing I knew we were building Grain from the big red bus (our makeshift office) in Orchard.
Being in a high growth startup like Grain and also managing Cabin tends to have a lot of pressure and sometimes can be challenging. What keeps you going at work?
Rifeng Gao: Things eventually worked out. I guess the world works in mysterious ways.
We noticed that you’re a coffee drinker as well. Do you recall your first time drinking Specialty Coffee?
Rifeng Gao: Wow it's been so long that I don't remember. But my current favourite is The Alchemist (their roaster is just beside Grain HQ). Have had some of my best espresso experiences there!
Coffee is considered as fuel to get you moving throughout the day, especially in the morning. What is your daily morning ritual like?
Rifeng Gao: As much as I love coffee, my TCM doctor disapproves of me taking it first thing in the morning. I have a bowl of hot porridge every morning. Waiting for a bowl of piping hot porridge to cool down is quite therapeutic and meditative.
If you get that one chance to have your morning coffee with anyone in the world, who would that be? and what would you be talking to this person about?
Rifeng Gao: Morning coffee with one or two close friends - I wish I do that more often actually.
Starting up companies is not easy and many of us know this but for the hopeful entrepreneurs out there, any two cents you’d like to share on starting up a companies?
Rifeng Gao: If there is one thing to get right, build a team with complementary skill sets and the journey becomes a lot less daunting. Enjoyable even.
What are your thoughts on the local food landscape and how it is evolving? What piece of the puzzle does Grain fit in?
Rifeng Gao: The rise of delivery platform (like Grab Food and Deliveroo). On the surface they are competitive with Grain's delivery service. But this creates a new market for virtual /cloud kitchens and brands that plug into these platforms. Producing amazing delivery-first food products at scale is something that Grain has gotten quite good at over the last few years. Grain is very well positioned to launch a series of delivery-first brands that plugs into these platforms.