Think you know innovation? Meet Vaiva Kalnikaitė, the UX expert disrupting consumer experience.
Raspberries made from orange juice. Olives that taste of Earl Grey tea. It sounds wrong, but food tech expert Vaiva Kalnikaitė says they are ideas that just scratch the surface of food innovation.
Kalnikaitė’s company, Dovetailed, which she founded in 2011, is a UX studio and innovation lab, delivering unique solutions for clients and to issues that have the potential to astound the average consumer. For instance, a shopping gadget that scans a product and tells you how environmentally friendly or nutritious it is. Or a milk carton that broadcasts the leftover items in your fridge to your neighbours in case they fancy any of it.
And then, of course, there’s the 3D printer that sits on your kitchen worktop and prints you edible structures from any liquid you like. “We have re-invented the concept of fresh food on demand,” she says. “The 3D fruit printer will open up new possibilities not only to professional chefs and food companies but also to kitchens in our home – allowing us to enhance and expand our dining experiences.”
Kalnikaitė’s background is in academia – she researched web and mobile interfaces and interactions, giving her a very solid grounding in the potential of technology. But she always knew she wanted to commercialise her ideas. “I like tech and innovation but I want a lot of people to use what I make. And that’s where business comes in.”
And the business has thrived. Since she graduated Cambridge Judge’s General Management Certificate of Achievement (GMCA) in 2013, Kalnikaitė has become more involved in the business community in Cambridge – “I became part of a bigger network” – and has seen Dovetailed go in directions that have even surprised her.
“The course helped me in a lot of ways – some unexpected – and there were many things I was able to apply directly,” she says. “For example – negotiation. I learnt that it’s important to understand what the other party’s goals are, not just my own. I’ve used that in contract negotiation and product pitches. For example I successfully pitched my 3D food printer at the Food Matters Live conference in 2014.”
“What I learned about recruitment has also been very useful,” she adds. “How to think about your company’s overall structure and build teams with members who are complimentary to each other – creative and analytical, for example. How to run tests but know what their goal is. How to go slowly. And I learned about finance – predicting performance based on a pattern, which has helped me focus on the long term.”
Lately she has been working on a new app for the Fitzwilliam Museum and has designed an innovative community participation project with Mill Road business owners and Cambridge Council (that used old video game consoles installed in local shops to ask people questions about how they felt about the area). And her network includes lecturers and students from the course who are scattered around the world. “We use LinkedIn messaging and meet up when we’re travelling near each other,” she explains.
She will now use another Cambridge Judge programme – Ignite – to explore in depth the 3D food printer. Her future projects include widening the scope of what the 3D printer can do, with a wider selection of flavours, as well as concepts such as a garden on your plate, complete with edible snails (snail taste optional) and garden smells made from 3D printed liquid smoke. Prepare for mealtimes to be disrupted.
Vaiva is interested in hearing from…
…global companies that want to accelerate their user experience design process and build new tech faster; start-ups that are looking to inject great user experience into their product or service in an agile and affordable way; people interested in the Internet of Things, food technology and 3D printing; and designers, scientists and engineers interested in joining Dovetailed.