A few years ago, David Weiss went through a bout of career self-reflection.
He was working as a sales rep for a sweater wholesaler in New York City and found the work unfulfilling. So eventually, he did what so many of us dream of doing when a period of career stagnation comes along: he quit and travelled the world.
“I had a year’s salary in the bank, so I said, ‘I’m outta here,'” he told me in a phone interview.
And he was. Over the next year and a half, Weiss spent time in Israel, Indonesia and Thailand, and it was this last country where he would find the ticket for what would be his next journey.
Weiss was at a three-day silent meditation retreat in northern Thailand when he met his future business partner, a chiropractor named Farsh Kanji. Like Weiss, Kanji had cashed out of his former business and was traveling the world. Eventually they found each other and, luckily for both, their meditation wasn’t exactly silent.
Instead, they started talking about an idea that would become the focus of their future company: printing faces on food.
Real-Time Face Printing
Weiss and Kanji knew that the technology to print photos on food already existed. For example, there were already online services that could print your loved one on a cake and have it sent to your house in a few days. What they wanted to do is take this idea further by letting people snap pictures and print their image on food at events in real time.
From there, it wasn’t long before they got down to business. First thing they knew they had to do was to figure out the technology to actually print on food.
“We had some friends who understood printing technology,” said Weiss. To work with food, they explored modifying an ink printer and printing with food coloring.
It worked and Selffee was born. Before long, they were taking the tech to events. But in those early days, they still had to work out the kinks. At one event, they were excited to print a cookie for one of Instagram’s early executives, only to have the picture print his face in the wrong colors and too big to fit on the cookie.
They’d eventually fine-tune the process, and nowadays can print on thousands of cookies, drinks or even marshmallows at a single event. For a typical engagement, Weiss says they’ll bring three printers and can batch-print 18 or so cookies in about five minutes. For bigger events, they’ve figured out how to queue logistics and can print thousands of face-printed edibles.
“We did the Super Bowl and did about 60,000 faces on marshmallows” said Weiss.
So far in 2018, Selffee has worked over 200 events. According to Weiss, they’ve worked a total of 350 cumulatively their start in 2016. The company also has seven full time employees and has plans to expand globally in 2019 by moving into five markets in Europe.
“From two guys just hacking away, it’s now a successful project that’s my personal ikigai,” said Weiss.
He asked me if I knew what that meant. When I said no, he explained the Japanese term that basically describes a person finding their life’s calling by providing the world something it needs.
While I’ll have to take Weiss’s word on the inner peace he feels, one thing I can say with certainty is he nailed one part of the ikigai equation: the world definitely needed more edible faces on cookies.
If you’d like your face printed on a cookie, come see Selffee and 40 other startups at The Spoon’s FoodTech Live event in Las Vegas during CES on January 8th.