Hello! Who are you and what food business did you start?

My name is Marcos and I’m co-founder and CEO of MateCaps, a compostable energy boost powered by organic yerba Caps that you can brew and enjoy in our custom multi use bottle, as a new source of clean energy and focus. We offer 4 functional yerba blends in monodosis that are delivered monthly to your door. The Mate Full Pack, our main bundle, includes the multi use bottle, 24 traditional yerba Caps, 8 Serenata Caps, 8 Aurora Caps and 8 Amazonia Caps, an extra tea filter which also lets you drink water, a Carry Can and stickers!

Last August, MateCaps launched on Kickstarter and was funded in only three hours, making it a “Projects we love” campaign by the Kickstarter staff. Thanks to our 657 backers, the campaign raised $31,464 to manufacture our first batch of bottles and Caps. We are still taking preorders on Indiegogo now and plan to launch our official eCommerce by February 2021.



American Reader Note: You might not know what Yerba mate is. The MateCaps IndieGoGo page does an excellent job explaining what it is if you want to dive deeper. Basically it’s leaf that provides a more sustained and longer lasting level of caffeine than coffee. This beverage is popular in South America.

What are your revenue goals?

The forecast for the first semester of operation in 2021 estimates 5000 Mate Full Packs sold and 1000 CapsBox monthly subscribers. This equals $650,000 of revenue.

We also raised $34,259 from 729 backers via our IndieGoGo campaign. 

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I started MateCaps because I saw a need for a natural and sustainable way to help people stay energized. Our team understands the importance of staying awake and focused for long workdays and late nights, and would drink coffee and energy drinks. Unfortunately, these drinks were not only bad for us, leaving us jittery and anxious, but also bad for the environment, creating waste with one-use containers.

Every founder of the MateCaps team comes from the land of yerba mate in South America, so we understand the beauty of the plant, the feel-good energy and the valued traditions of the drink. As we’ve traveled far from our homes, we’ve been inspired to share the natural benefits of yerba mate with those around us. 

Attention Founders: Join our private community for 40,000+ active members to get a new case study like this every week delivered to your inbox. 

The traditional mate has a particular infusion method which demands a cultural know-how and too many elements. That’s why, in 2018, I started a creative process to develop a more practical user experience that makes drinking mate easy and accessible to anyone. It took me 4 months until I discovered a filter that emulates the same strong flavor as traditional mate. After presenting a US patent application and making many different prototypes, that filter evolved into the first MateCaps bottle. 

yerba mate

Yerba mate comes from holly trees like these.

At the same time, we had the challenge of developing a capsule system compatible with this bottle. We tried using the conventional coffee pods but we wanted to keep our experience as compostable as traditional mate and bioplastics were way too expensive. One day, we realized that compressing the loose leaf yerba mate into briquettes would let us create monodosis without the need of primary packaging!

That was a great day for our team. We validated the concept building ten very cheap prototypes and invited target foreigners to a focus group in Buenos Aires. We processed all the results and started looking for a bottle manufacturer in China.

Take us through the process of developing and testing MateCaps.

Finding a bottle manufacturer in China for such an innovative product was not an easy task. We failed at our first attempt due to the language barriers and the characteristics of the factory, it just was not a good fit for us. After deep research into similar Kickstarter projects, we found an American-Chinese factory that also works with brands like Stojo, Kleen Kanteen and Starbucks. They work with a project management interface so the industrial process has been a lot more smooth and clear.

For the yerba mate Caps, we contacted a company that builds tea briquette machines and developed our custom industrial press, which is currently on its way to our production plant in Uruguay.  

To fund all this, in November 2019 we applied to “Proyecta Uruguay” an acceleration program run by the innovation agency of the Uruguayan Government. After winning our spot through a pitch competition, we raised $65,000 plus $40,000 coming from our angel investor Mr. Luis Fredes. 

matecap prototypes

Prototypes from the development process.

Describe the process of launching the business.

The Kickstarter campaign was our strategy to launch MateCaps. It allowed us to start building our community before we are in full operation and to raise capital for producing our first batch of products. We did our research and tried to make everything by the books and at the lowest cost possible…results went over the expected scenario. 

The pre-launch campaign is key to build up your email list and to create the big momentum for when your campaign goes live. I learned that the main asset must be the presentation video and it’s also very important to create a compelling story through your page and social media platforms. To create that story we made a few interviews with target customers from California to understand better what their pains and needs are from what’s in the energy drinks market. Apparently, there aren’t too many natural, sustainable and sugar free options, so that’s the value proposition that MateCaps can offer. 

yerba mate vs tea and coffee

Yerba mate compared to tea and coffee.

Our website, email marketing, social media and all the visual assets for the campaign we’re created together as a team with in-house web developers, graphic designers and two American copywriters led by our co-founder and design strategist Salvador Fernandez. For the Kickstarter video, we had to create an independent audiovisual team with over 10 members led by producer Milena Mariño. It’s been truly an amazing experience. The final investment for all these processes was about $10,000. 

Related Reading: How Two Moms Launched Keto Cracker Company Defy Foods

During the first week of our launch, we reached a peak of +4500 users in one day and made it to national media in Argentina and Uruguay, even though our main market is the USA. Since we didn’t have samples to send to the American media, we decided not to invest resources in PR because it’s a lot harder to call their attention. We invested about $ 1000 in Facebook Ads and ROAS wasn’t as good as expected. Hiring a crowdfunding marketing company to run Ads for you on launch day it’s never a good idea. Although it’s very common to run ads for Kickstarter campaigns, it is not a must, every project makes its own way.  

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

During the campaign, we have networked with compatible live campaigns to do cross-promotions and giveaways to reach a wider audience and sold over 30 packs from this organic strategy.  

After a Kickstarter campaign is over, what startups normally do it’s relaunch their campaigns on Indiegogo Indemand as their immediate sales channel, and that’s what we did. It’s important to keep contact with your community and especially with your backers making updates on your progress and eventualities.

what does mate mean to you

What does mate mean to you?

While we are getting ready for our official eCommerce launch by February 2021, we’ve done a cross-selling campaign to allow backers to add different accessories to their carts. Co-creating with our community is something that we find extremely valuable, so they helped us develop the add-ons that they ended up buying. 

In order to get more backers, we’ll be executing a campaign for a Black Friday Sale on November 27th, which includes engagement activities on our Instagram, emailing our audience, and running a minimum budget of remarketing Ads to increase our email list and convert sales during Black Friday. 

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Today, we are testing our website’s eCommerce, processing all the data from the Kickstarter backers and Google Analytics, doing a research study to build our 2 buyer personas. It’s a long process but it pays off when it comes to building a unified brand voice and making our marketing efforts more efficient. We’ll be ready to launch in March 2021, so the pre-launch campaign will have to start in February. Another big challenge from which our team is getting ready is to provide a high quality customer journey to our backers and to be able to process their feedback. 

Even though our marketing efforts are 100% focused in the USA market, our supply chain allows us to deliver MateCaps in Europe and Latin America from organic sales and several representation partnerships.

Today, we are testing our website’s eCommerce, processing all the data from the Kickstarter backers and Google Analytics, doing a research study to gain insights about our customers and potential customers. To better understand the segments and put ourselves in their shoes, we are developing buyer personas supported with real data.

cut your waste with matecaps

Reduce your waste with MateCaps.

It’s a long process but it pays off when it comes to building a unified brand voice, making our marketing efforts more efficient and serving our customers. We’ll be ready to launch in March 2021, so the pre-launch campaign will have to start in February. We are getting ready to tackle another big challenge: excelling in customer experience and integrating the voice of the customer into the company, through a defined feedback management process. We want to offer wow experiences and wherever there’s a pain point tackle it as soon as possible. How? Using the insights from feedback and complaints and co-creating with our customers.

Even though our marketing efforts are 100% focused in the USA market, our supply chain allows us to deliver MateCaps in Europe and Latin America from organic sales and several representation partnerships.

This is a screenshot from where our backers come from:

crowdfunding supporters

Top countries backers come from.

What tools do you use to power MateCaps?

Since our team works remotely from Argentina, Uruguay and USA, our favorite tool is miro.com, which is a collaborative whiteboard where we can make real time activities like presentations or design thinking sessions. 

Our eCommerce platform is Shopify. We also use Slack as our digital office, Mailchimp for our email marketing, Trello for our day to day operations and Google drive for filing our docs, spreadsheets and presentations. For the project management of the bottles production, our supplier and us work via Teamwork, which is wonderful. 

What have been the most influential books or other resources? 

Advice for other entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid about sharing your great idea, it will become greater once you start receiving new points of view. Don’t waste your initial resources developing something too complicated before validating the concept with target customers. 

Today, it is a great time to do things right. The more you adapt your business to the 17ODS, the more value you will be able to offer to your customers, to the environment and to your life.

Remember that you are creating a business that must be beneficial and attractive for every single stakeholder. I think it is important to visualize the supply chain of your business and make sure you understand who you are partnering up with and what’s your role in it.

Where can we go to learn more?

Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

If you liked this story, sign up for our newsletter that includes our food business startup kit and most popular interviews sent straight to your inbox.

Know someone interesting that should be interviewed on the website? Tell us about them here.