Author Archive for Benjamin Gillette

There’s an ‘I’ in Popcorn—or There is Now

Pipsnacks is a company founded five years ago on the premise of reimagining snack foods. Founded by brother and sister Jen and Jeff Martin, Pipsnacks’ main product is Pipcorn. “What is Pipcorn,” you may ask. Well, simply put, it is miniature popcorn. While the hulls of Pipcorn are thinner, and therefore easy to eat and digest (not to mention get out of your teeth), the product is also gluten free, non-GMO, vegan (except for a particular flavor which has ghee, a milk product), and whole grain.

Pipsnacks has gone from selling their product in brown paper bags to a successful online company, and have had a number of achievements, ranging from being on Oprah, starting a mini-factory, getting funding from Shark Tank, and getting on shelves in retailers like Target and Costco.

Apoorva Mehta: 20 Failures, 1 Success



Instacart is an online grocery-delivery service. It was founded in 2012 in San Francisco and has grown today to over 300 full-time employees and millions of dollars in revenue. (Forbes, LA Times) Instacart has been vastly successful over its nearly five-year lifespan, and is still growing. But how did Instacart do it? Does the founder, Apoorva Mehta, have the golden touch? Hardly. In fact, before starting Instacart, the former Amazon supply chain engineer and University of Waterloo graduate (with a degree in electrical engineering) had tried and failed to start an estimated twenty businesses, ranging from advertising networks to a social media platform for lawyers. (LA Times)

When interviewed about his past failures, Mr. Mehta said, “Going through all these failures, releasing feature after feature, I realized it wasn’t that I couldn’t find a product that worked, I just didn’t care about the product.” This is where he learned that the key to a successful startup was to find something he cared about to work on. Out of that realization sprang Instacart. While the idea for ordering groceries online for delivery was not new (LA Times), Mr. Mehta decided that the previous attempt, Webvan, failed because of poor timing rather than a poor concept. Fast forward to 2017, and Instacart has become a large, successful company. And all of that because one man refused to give up and chose to learn from his mistakes!

Nelson Sexton: Unturned and Smartly Dressed Games

Nelson Sexton is a Canadian man, now 19, who has been programming and working on games since a young age. When he was 16, he began work on a game called Unturned, an open-world survival game set in a zombie apocalypse. The game is relatively simple and doesn’t boast photorealistic graphics, but t has still managed to attract nearly over 10,000 concurrent players almost around the clock, and peaking at over 60,000 player. Unturned spent three years as an early access game on Steam, the popular video game publishing platform, before being released early this year. It is also free to play; revenue is earned through the sale of gold memberships, $5 a pop, and keys to loot crates occasionally found in-game, which contain custom cosmetic items.

Mr. Sexton has been sole developer of Unturned until very recently, when he worked with community member on the most recent content updates. Virtually the entire game has been built from the ground up by this single individual, under the banner of Smartly Dressed Games, his personal studio. Certainly an impressive accomplishment, particularly for someone who started as a high school student!



Timothy Hwang: FiscalNote and Legislation Prediction

Timothy Hwang and FiscalNote



Timothy Hwang founded FiscalNote in 2013. Prior to entering the field of legal data and business, Mr. Hwang spent time in politics, beginning in the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama and later serving on the Montgomery Board of Education. He is a Princeton graduate and is a “World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, a Trustee on the Board of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region (the largest funder of non-profit and philanthropic initiatives in the region), and a member of the The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. and the Young Presidents Organization (YPO)”. (

In the years since it was founded, FiscalNote has become the largest company in the field of legal data analysis. It has offices worldwide and works with over 1,300 organizations and governments. FiscalNote uses data, AI, breakthrough machine-learning techniques and other technological aids to learn over time how governments legislate — on the federal, state, or local level — and allow companies to predict how they will need to react to changes in legislation. The FiscalNote website says that they, “support an enterprise-based approach to modern government affairs.” (


Gerard Adams and FOWNDERS: By Entrepreneurs, for Entrepreneurs

Gerard Adams and FOWNDERS


Gerard Adams

Gerard Adams is an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose current project is the organization he founded called FOWNDERS. FOWNDERS is a progressive social education enterprise which teaches entrepreneurs the tools they will need to develop their projects. The members mentor and teach new entrepreneurs. The members include executives, investors, and other prominent figures who take a personal interest in new businesses and invest in them.

Gerard Adams’ career includes co-founding the National Inflation Association, which is dedicated to helping Americans prepare for the threat of hyperinflation and the potential collapse of the U.S. dollar. He co-founded Elite Daily, a news source for and by Millennials, which sold for $50 million to Daily Mail. His current effort, as mentioned above, is called FOWNDERS, which he founded in 2015. He currently holds the positions of President of both the NIA and Elite Daily and CEO of FOWNDERS.

Mr. Adams has invested, co-founded or otherwise backed nine separate companies in the past decade or so. He writes on the About page of his personal website that he feels a, “drive and vision to share what I’ve learned with others.” (gerardadams/about) Mr. Adams says that one of his basic inspirations was his interaction with Tony Robbins, another speaker and mentor. He learned that a materially successful life was useless without fulfilment.

Mr. Adams intends to drive his vision of community, collaboration, and courage to the entire next generation of entrepreneurs. He hopes to help other entrepreneurs overcome the self-doubt he once struggled with, and create a vibrant group of socially-minded business leaders for the future.




Hair Bears: Haircuts for the Challenged

Hair Bears

Haircuts for the Challenged


In 2014, Jessica Leach started a company called Hair Bears. She had gone to the hairdressers with her aunt, who suffers from both physical and mental disabilities. Ms. Leach realized that a process as personal as getting your hair cut can be very stressful for children with disabilities. In what other industry do you regularly go somewhere to have them cut off part of your body?


In Hair Bears, which caters to children with social, physical, or learning disorders, the hairdresser (Ms. Leach’s mother) uses techniques that are designed to put the children at ease, such as sensory therapy and other distraction methods. From the initial realization of a basic challenge which many people experience, Jessica Leach developed a business which not only makes money, but helps people all at the same time.


Ms. Leach plans to expand her brand by training other hairdressers in the area to use similar techniques, and certify them to have followed her strategy and standards. She hopes to eventually have certified salons all over the country!