179: Tony Jimenez (Joi)

One of the kind of interesting things about design strategy and the design-thinking philosophy is that you don’t conceive an idea in a vacuum, you conceive an idea with your ultimate end customer. So, you, in a sense reverse-engineer into it based on the needs of the market. – Tony Jimenez

Welcome to Season 4 of Innovation City (The Miami Edition), a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency and Aīre Ventures, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community

Today’s guest is Tony Jimenez, co-founder and CFO of JOI, which stands for “just one ingredient,” a plant-based food and beverage company. Tony is also managing director for Medina Capital, a growth tech venture capital fund. In this episode, Tony sits down with the team to discuss Tony’s experiences in the entrepreneurial space, the process of bringing JOI products to market, the nutritional value of plant-based food products, and much more!

They discuss:

  • Tony’s superpower
    • People
    • Connecting them, meeting them, understanding them
    • Empowerment
    • Helping others
      • The desire to help others came from growing up in a house where those values were instilled
      • His parents were immigrants from Cuba
  • His experiences have been diverse
    • On one side he is in the venture investment space
    • On the other he is the owner of a plant-based food product company
    • He made all his own stuff, like almond milk, before it was all the rage
    • Fully vegan, plant-based
  • He enrolled in a quirky MBA program out of San Francisco
  • JOI is nut-based concentrates
  • The dairy-alternative milk products on the market now are mostly water-flavored beverages, with sugars, additives, preservatives
  • Tony began making his own almond milk because it tastes much better and is nutritionally different than storebought
  • JOI provides greater accessibility to better nutrition and better tasting “milk”
  • JOI’s greatest challenge to date
    • The product’s uniqueness
    • It didn’t exist before
    • The educational process
    • Not selling milk – it’s a concentrate, a paste, that has to be prepared
  • JOI’s spent about three years on research and development
    • The initial plan was to develop a Keurig- or Nespresso-style of plant-based milks
    • Eliminate the hassle and waste of making homemade dairy alternative milk at home
    • There was a fair amount of trial and error, but the failures led to success
    • The “aha moment” was when they realized they had something with the food product they were creating to put in the “pod,” not the equipment or the process
    • Simplified the business as much as possible
  • What he’s learned about himself and his co-founders throughout this process
    • They met at the MBA program
    • Design strategy – think of end customer’s pain points
  • Tony’s favorite quote
    • Genius in finding simplicity on the other side of complexity
  • His other entrepreneurial ventures
    • The first was fueled by reconnection to his heritage as a Cuban-American
      • Previous generations were against their children going back to Cuba
      • As a college student he wondered what life was like for his Cuban counterparts
      • He helped to create a non-profit international network, Roots of Hope
        • Empowering Cuban youth through music, technology and entrepreneurship
  • Tony’s vision for the next five or 10 years
    • With JOI, it was the convergence of his personal and professional worlds
    • Continue empowering others with a healthier lifestyle 
  • Connect with Tony and JOI

Lightning Round:

Where have you found peace?

  • My family

What is one of the kindest things someone has ever done for you?

  • I was hospitalized with Covid, and I was taken care of by a staff I’ll probably never meet again.

What have you witnessed that has strengthened your faith in humanity?

  • A lot. I’m an optimist. I see it everywhere in everyday life.

How do you show love to others?

  • Being kind, thoughtful. Listen.

What is a defining moment in your life and how did it impact you?

  • A doctor’s visit warned of some potential health complications, and with my family health history, I realized I need to make a change. Going fully vegan and plant-based has been transformative for me and my family.