Robert Wang just wants to be the Steve Jobs of kitchen appliances.
And he may just achieve that. Much like Jobs with the iPhone and other Apple products, Wang has created a product with great attention to detail that has inspired cult-like devotion: Instant Pot.
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Millions of fervent foodies have purchased an Instant Pot multicooker, making it one of the top-selling products sold in Amazon's Prime Day sales events in July 2016, with 215,000 Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cookers sold, in 2017, and in 2018, when Instant Pot broke its own Prime Day record with 300,000 units sold over 36 hours. The company expects to be among the best-selling products on Amazon during the already busy holiday sales season too.
More than 5.5 million people follow an Instant Pot-related account on Facebook — 1.5 million follow Instant Pot's official Facebook page alone — where they gush over the product and swap recipes (from pot roast to cheesecake and yogurt) as well as user tips.
And recently, in a pitch-perfect example of how Instant Pot has penetrated the zeitgeist, rising young political star and newly elected New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who's been dubbed the most relatable politician ever) has even started having Instagram Live conversations about politics with her 780,000 followers over an Instant Pot. Earlier this month she held court while making Instant Pot macaroni and cheese, and a few days later, she asked her 1.2 million Twitter followers to submit their favorite Instant Pot recipes for future chats.
If you're one of the few who has not yet used the gadget (as a rice cooker, yogurt maker, browning pan, steamer or warming pot, among its other functions), it's likely you've at least been on the receiving end of some Instant Pot proselytizing from one of its many devotees: a Bloomberg critic called it "a magical pot" and Slate compared the product's faithful following to a "religion."
This is all according to the master plan of Wang, 54, who tells CNBC Make It that, in addition to worshipping Jobs, he's also trying to follow the example of tech titan Bill Gates and "put Instant Pot in every kitchen" (a nod to Gates' famous promise to put a computer in every home in the early days of Microsoft).
"It was a very ambitious statement [and] kind of laughable at the time," says Wang, who made the proclamation in a 2013 mission statement when he had just four or five employees. "But now it looks very much attainable."
Today, Ottawa, Ontario-based Instant Brands (which changed its name from Double Insight in May 2018) has nearly 90 employees and there seems to be no end in sight to its record-setting sales.
But it all started after Wang lost his job in 2008.
Wang had been the chief scientist at a mobile messaging company he'd co-founded in 2000, but the company's CEO shut down Wang's division, putting Wang out of the job (the company, Airwide Solutions, was later sold off). Despite having spent 14 years working on telecommunications technology, Wang decided to turn his attention toward solving a personal problem he had been pondering.
Wang and his wife, Tracy, both worked full time in the tech industry (his wife at telecom Nortel Networks, where Robert also used to work), which left them with a very relatable problem: They had little time to cook fast, tasty and healthy meals for their two young children, who were then 4 and 8, he tells CNBC Make It.
"We did a lot of takeout, fast food. Kids really love fast food," Wang says. "But my wife and myself don't think that's the way to raise our kids. So, at that point, I was dreaming about an automated cooking machine, which will help me cook [a] healthy dinner after work."
Read more about Instant Pot and Robert Wang here: https://cnb.cx/2BAS2Hz
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How Instant Pot became a kitchen appliance with a cult following and a best-seller on Amazon | CNBC Make It.