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Women Of The C-Suite: “You need different systems for different stages of the company” With Eliza Becton of Bevi

Especially at a fast-growing startup, keeping up with the growth of the company is critical to managing a quickly expanding team. The…


Especially at a fast-growing startup, keeping up with the growth of the company is critical to managing a quickly expanding team. The amount that you have to learn is humbling, and every few months, you have to hustle to stay ahead of the growth. You need different systems for different stages of the company. It’s one thing to launch a product with a team of five people, and it’s a completely different experience to do it with a team of 80+ people. The best thing you can do is continually learn, adapt to feedback, and anticipate the evolving needs of your team as it grows.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Eliza Becton, Co-Founder and Head of Product at the Boston-based startup behind Bevi, the smart water cooler. With a Masters in Industrial Design at RISD (’11) and BS in Mechanical Engineering from Yale (‘06), Eliza specializes in user-centered research and has designed a variety of hardware, software and service experiences from ideation through market research to prototyping. When she’s not optimizing designs or conducting user testings, Eliza is an avid sailor, ocean steward, and mother of two.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been interested in the intersection of science and art, but only heard of industrial design in my last year of college. Later, I was working at an engineering firm in New York when I realized that I really wanted to work on something with a strong mission that required both creativity and design skills, as is required in the industrial design field. I decided to go back to school and get my masters degree at RISD, where they taught me to ask myself the hard questions and create things with a user-first focus.

Having grown up as an avid sailor, I have been concerned with environmental issues for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, Bevi combines my passion to design something for everyday life with my desire to make a positive impact on the environment.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It’s tough to pick just one, but a few memorable events come to mind.

Earlier this year, a Standup Bevi machine made a few appearances on the HBO series Silicon Valley. I watch the show religiously, so I was speechless the first time I saw our machine in the Pied Piper office. It wasn’t even our idea, either: they actually reached out to us to see if we could lend them a machine. I couldn’t believe it! Recently, Brandi Kalish, the set director, was recently nominated for an Emmy for her work on Silicon Valley’s set design. Well done!

Aside from Bevi’s Silicon Valley cameo, I’m always excited by the stories we hear from our customers. Just last month, one of our co-founders met someone who claimed to have lost 15 pounds after a Bevi machine was installed in his office! Hearing about how Bevi has positively impacted the everyday lives of our users never gets old.


Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Hungry entrepreneurs will do just about anything to have someone listen to their pitch and buy into their idea — our team was no exception. While creating an early demo video, we totally overpitched ourselves and made it look like our machine was working without a hitch. What the video didn’t show was that I was hidden inside our prototype, actually making it work the way we were hoping it would, on cue from Frank and Sean (Bevi’s other co-founders).

After we submitted the video, we only had a week to figure out how to make it work for our live demo. Our stunt pushed us to find a way to make our vision a fully-functioning reality and thankfully we made it work!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Bevi is set apart by its people, culture, and of course, its technology. I consider it a perfect mesh of challenges: hardware, software and system designs to provide something that is healthy, while sticking to our environmental mission. (I think the only thing we’re missing is an AI component… for now…)

This unique set of challenges seems to attract a certain type of person as well — the type that wants to make a difference and positively impact the world, even if it means facing more questions than answers on any given day.

Often times, people outside our company look at our product and think “that’s simple.” And that’s great, because our machine is designed to feel simple, easy, and seamless. What most people don’t realize, however, is that there’s a huge amount of complexity layered within. Underneath the fun, bubbly animations, you have flavor and inventory analytics helping to draw insights and maximize efficiency.

And there’s still more to come: we’re continually iterating and looking for new ways to delight our customers, make our machines more sustainable, and disrupt the beverage industry at large.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’re currently revisiting our original product in an effort to optimize its hardware, while also trimming off the excess in our supply chain and maximizing the positive environmental impact our machine makes. By design, a more efficient machine means more plastic bottles diverted from the landfill and less bottled beverages needlessly transported!

In general, we’re always looking to add the next level of customization to our products. Our ultimate goal is to empower people to reach their dietary and hydration goals, whatever they may be, and we always have this in mind while expanding our beverage portfolio.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Lead by example. Work hard and let your accomplishments speak for themselves.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Especially at a fast-growing startup, keeping up with the growth of the company is critical to managing a quickly expanding team. The amount that you have to learn is humbling, and every few months, you have to hustle to stay ahead of the growth. You need different systems for different stages of the company. It’s one thing to launch a product with a team of five people, and it’s a completely different experience to do it with a team of 80+ people. The best thing you can do is continually learn, adapt to feedback, and anticipate the evolving needs of your team as it grows.


None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

During my Masters at RISD, I had this one professor I wasn’t particularly fond of. One of our assignments was a classic sales pitch in an infomercial style. It was horrible and I really didn’t want to do it. But I put a big salesy smile on my face and sold the heck out of that product. (I’m just glad it wasn’t documented in any way.) At the very least, I got a laugh out of my classmates. But I learned a valuable lesson from that, which is you can really adapt and learn new skills quickly by going outside your comfort zone.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a lifetime sailor and ocean steward, I am proud to say that our product helps divert plastic waste from oceans and landfills each day. Bevi machines across the US and Canada have cumulatively saved over 42 million bottles.

In addition to the sustainability part of our mission, one of our machine’s primary characteristics is that it enables users to customize their beverage to their liking. As a company, we are committed to helping users achieve their own health goals, rather than prescribing a certain definition of ‘healthy living’ or shaming them in any way. In this way, our product and its customization features are empowering to any kind of user.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 — Fail early, fail often. No matter what your experience level with a certain subject or in a certain role, you learn more when things go wrong than when things go right.

2 — Listen. Over time, I’ve learned that it’s extremely important to listen carefully for what people aren’t necessarily asking for and anticipate those needs as providing real value.

3 — There’s no room for ego. People will surprise you all the time. Don’t underestimate the value of testing: whether you’re a seasoned executive or an entrepreneur just starting out, you have to accept that the only way to know if something is valuable is to put it in front of people and see how they react. Check your ego at the door, go out and see how people react to your work!

4 — Work with empathy. One of our core values at Bevi is ‘Work with empathy.’ Whether creating an internal program or designing the Bevi’s UI, we proactively find ways to be thoughtful in our interactions with others.

5 — Good communication is essential, especially as you grow. This means catering information to a person’s specific needs, knowing who your stakeholders are, proactively sharing learnings, and following up after implementation. As you grow, effective communication gets even more challenging, so it’s smart to establish good habits early on.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Since its conception, Bevi was imagined as part of a larger movement to enable others to live a more sustainable life. We chose our business model based on the synergies between operational efficiency and great design.

In order to get people to change (or to ‘inspire a movement,’ as you say), we need to design a solution that give users a better experience, rather than just guilting them with statistics about the amount of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean.

As we continue to grow, my hope is that we continue to find new and clever ways to outsmart wasteful products, such as bottled water, and make living sustainably more appealing than the alternative.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One quote that has resonated with me throughout my career is from Reid Hoffman, one of LinkedIn’s co-founders: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” You can spend forever optimizing, but the trick is knowing when it’s “good enough.” I often find I look back at previous iterations like old high school photos: the iterations may be painful to look at, but they also made our product what it is today!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

LinkedIn

Originally published at medium.com

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