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Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in Venture |

From NASA to the Bars of Chocolate: TCHO

From NASA to the Bars of Chocolate: TCHO

Today there are thousands of companies that make bars, though few do in the right way. Making chocolate is quite simple on paper, and requires only five ingredients: sugar, butter, cocoa and vanilla alcohol. In the case of milk chocolate, that sixth ingredient is added and enough.

When we speak of real chocolate, chocolate grain called to bar, from only a handful of ingredients, the number of manufacturers spend thousands, less than sixty. Among them is TCHO , a chocolate that is in Belgium, or Switzerland, but in San Francisco, California, and uses technology as great aspect of differentiation. We walked to the Pier 17, Embarcadero neighborhood to learn more of the history of this company, see their facilities, go to its factory and talk to the key people behind the project.

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Start-Up Chocolate

is the birthplace of western technology. It is in the “Bay Area” (San Francisco and surrounding areas), which invented the microchip, the personal computer, the x86 processor and the birthplace Google , Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. What technology has to do with the return to chocolate making at its most pure? What does a NASA engineer, founder of Wired and cocoa manufacturers, recycling old machines and adapted to modern times to become one of the best chocolates in the world?

The history is fascinating. Timothy Childs , who worked at NASA in charge of visual systems of the space shuttles and specialized in 3D systems and the Internet, he decided to take it seriously, creating several companies related to spirituous liquors (between they Pisco artisan ) and hand of Karl Bittong, a veteran of the chocolate industry, included in its portfolio companies to TCHO. They leased an ex-warehouse in the port of San Francisco, they signed Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe, founder of magazine by address, bought used machines of East Germany, they hired a design studio in Berlin and created a very attractive brand, finally starting finding the best cocoa beans in the world.

In this mission, explored Africa, passed through Mexico, arrived in Madagascar (where finally buy vanilla), Ecuador producers met to finally opt for Peru, where they found several challenges. Base is cocoa butter and the roasted seeds fermentation, which is done in the same plantations. Fermentation is delivering the final taste a quality chocolate bar and here’s the big problem: most cocoa farmers have never tasted a chocolate bar produced with grains. Given this, do not understand the importance of fermentation, at which Louis Rosetto decided to start small labs, connected by the Internet, in the middle of the jungle, to monitor fermentation and produce small samples of chocolate bars and go debugging the result. Does it pay? Cocoa producers in Peru, which had never been seen in the world stage, winning all kinds of awards for its excellent cocoa beans. All analyzing data from its offices in San Francisco by software in the cloud and sending feedback to producers with the same method.

Trial and Error

But not only is the technology aspect of what makes this project something interesting, but also the way of doing things, considering graphic design as key within the user experience, focusing its sales and marketing efforts on the Internet and most peculiar, doing Beta testing of their products. The creation of a cycle bar not only involves your internal team, but their main customers and all their employees by making test batches. The bars do not go through a “focus group”, but are tested under the concept of “fail fast”: Take a fast, try it in different people and then iterarlo, as if it were software.

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In the mid-nineties, Jerry Sanders, AMD founder said, “real men have factories” referring to semiconductor companies designing chips and then outsourced manufacturing in Asian smelters. Now, Louis Rossetto uses the example of microchips to explain the importance of a factory at the time of making chocolate. “Many people know chocolate and many people believe that chocolate works, but in reality, making chocolate is no different to make microchips, requires a factory to make the product from scratch. Other people who work in chocolate really buy done, as other third-party companies buy chips and use them to do other things, “he told SlashGear.


Make a chocolate bar taking 4 to 5 days. These are days of data are taken from those old machines used in East Germany, using various low-tech devices connected to very simple interfaces which are then sent via the Internet to an iPad app. Led by Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries , put together a pilot of what they hope will be the future of the automation of different size. For example, were able to control from a mobile device such important things – in the case of cocoa – as the temperature of the factory, to the monitoring of security and lighting.

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TCHO’s story is not a story of chocolates, it’s the same story of Elon Musk – creator of companies like Tesla and SpaceX . Veterans technology concentrating their efforts on a new passion, if I may say a hobby offline, and use everything you learned in the past to revolutionize industrial processes and product creation.’s The story of how technology applied is leaving the world of wires and gets closer to the real world of how to think like a programmer or engineer to compete, with only 40 employees, with giant companies, and how the model of the startup and innovation on the Internet can be applied to other areas.

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