As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Robb J. Osinski. Robb is the founder and CEO of Bambu Global, a family of innovative companies with a portfolio of advanced technologies designed to disrupt the life science, lighting, renewable energy, safety, tattoo and defense industries. Under his leadership, Bambu was ranked by Inc. Magazine as one of the 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies. Before founding Bambu in 2001, Osinski, a serial entrepreneur, launched a real estate development company that acquired, successfully stabilized, and managed several marquee properties in downtown Boston. He was also a pioneer in mortgage banking in New England. He was one of the principals who developed and operated one of the largest one-to-four family residential mortgage lenders in the region, where he employed his financial and management skills and developed an extensive knowledge of mortgage-backed securitization, investment banking, and corporate and real estate law. During his tenure at First Eastern BankShares Corporation, he coordinated the acquisition of a local downtown Boston thrift, restructured the corporation to not only sustain significant growth but also survive the cyclical downturn that devastated the competition, and developed a reputation for successfully negotiating the disposition of over $30 million of recourse loan servicing liability. While one of the youngest recognized bank executives in the region, he left First Eastern as Executive Vice President and Director of four companies, including the First Federal Savings Bank of Boston, where he was President, to pursue his passion and devote his full effort toward real estate investments and new corporate startup opportunities. Osinski earned an A.B. in Economics, cum laude, from Harvard College.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m not sure that being an entrepreneur is a specific career path. But what brought me to be an entrepreneur was the excitement about doing something that would positively affect the world. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur throughout my professional career, identifying new opportunities. It stems from an innate drive I’ve had since I was eight years old.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The story that had the largest impact on how I think about disruption — which is what INQUE (and our parent company, Bambu Global) is all about — stems from golf balls, and the results or lack thereof of commercializing a game-changing technology in that space. Early on in our company’s development, our disruptive technology centered around revolutionizing golf balls through the development of a color-change indicator technology that, if implemented, would have resulted in doubling or tripling the industry’s product sales at a time when companies extravagantly celebrated even the slightest low digit-percent increases in annual sales.
Despite having the support of nearly every trade journal and organized golf associations and thinking that we would be the ones riding in to save the day, the entrenched golf ball companies chose not to adopt our technology for irrational reasons. Until then, I had thought that business always operated on rational tenets. Thus, the experience surrounding the lack of that technology adoption was probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned and sticks with me today as I think about risk mitigation while still being disruptive for the industries that we target.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?
Our Brilliant INQUE™ idea will revolutionize the tattoo industry. This is an industry that product-wise has not changed dramatically in its more than 10,000-year existence despite the recent boom in social acceptance. Today, there exists a huge latent market of consumers who are interested in tattoos but who do not get one, because unhealthy practices and painful, costly “removal” remain as barriers.
With roots in groundbreaking science, our technology and commercialization plan change all that. First, we have developed the first tattoo ink, Brilliant INQUE, that can be quickly and easily turned invisible (“BLANQUEd”). With our BLANQUEing technique. We use a low-powered laser so that our inks can be easily BLANQUEd in one session, without scarring or the pain of traditional tattoo removal.
We also have developed our Brilliant INQUE to be healthier and safer. Our inks are non-toxic and do not contain any banned chemicals. Unlike with conventional tattoos, our ink does not leach any toxic chemicals into the blood or lymphatic system as occurs during the conventional “removal” process.
Finally, we are creating a unique new skin art and wellness experience. Tattoos will be applied in premium, high-end locations that provide an aspirational, modern and immersive environment. Our guest-centric approach will combine the best service and latest technologies to ensure clients feel amazing before, during and after their journey.
How do you think this will change the world?
We are disrupting an art form that hasn’t changed in thousands of years and opening the door to millions who want skin art (tattoos) but fear the risks and commitment that come with them. With this, we expect tattoos to become a mainstream form of self-expression.
Although we intend to embrace the conventional tattoo community and dramatically improve the career paths available to tattoo artists, an unintended consequence is that our efforts could alienate a percentage of the artist community.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
A key tipping point was understanding the potential impact of the idea for INQUE. An initial idea for the approach emanated from a conversation with Dr. Robert S. Langer, a renown MIT professor and researcher in biotechnology and a member of our advisory board. Dr. Langer had an awareness of the major health issues associated with conventional laser removal practices being deployed. It became clear that the “Holy Grail solution” would be based around dramatically reducing, if not eliminating, the displacement of ink into the body. Further understanding that product need and embodiment is what led to INQUE.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
We need time and capital. We’ve proven the technology but now need time to share the value proposition and raise money to launch the first 105 INQUE retail locations.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Things take at least two times as much money and three times as much time than what one would like to believe. I finally woke up to this when I was in my mid-40s!
- Culture is more than a mere mission statement. It is comprehensive and must include alignment amongst the entire team on both how to behave individually as a team member and why we all are working together (i.e., what are the corporate goals and objectives and how do they translate to each team member’s own set of goals and objectives). Then, there must be honest inspection of what is expected.
- People often do not do as they say or as is expected of them unless you clearly communicate those expectations and how you will measure that — and that’s important both for employees and management.
- When commercializing a product, the idea itself is worth only five percent. Execution drives 95 percent of the value.
- A handshake with the right person is worth more than a thousand-page contract.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
We all need to stay knowledgeable about and be receptive to new technologies and new ideas that will impact the way we socialize, conduct business, and live our lives with our family and friends.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
We’ve already made that investment in INQUE, which is the big trend in the tattoo industry. We’ve also been developing disruptive technology for a number of other industries. Some, like INQUE, are ready now, and others are visionary … so you’ll just have to wait and see!
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
For me, it’s important to do something that’s exciting, challenging, and rewarding. At the end of each day, I ask myself, “Did I accomplish what needed to get done? Was it exciting? Was it rewarding?” Another core philosophy I have is to treat people honestly and with fairness and equity. I always reflect upon the day’s interactions and ask myself “How did those relationships go? Can I improve them?”
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Number one, it’s important to know what direction you’re heading by setting goals and objectives and striving to achieve them. Secondly, just win — not necessarily every battle — but definitely win the war. And finally, do not reinvent the wheel unless the tire is flat. That’s really the interesting thing about disruption — it doesn’t necessarily require reinventing the wheel. You need to know the difference.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
The heart of what we do is to enhance, improve, and save lives through our groundbreaking and patented technologies and innovations. We are a truly disruptive and very high growth proposition.
We’ve raised over $65 million and none of that money, to date, has originated from any institutional sources. I’m not sure a VC would find our business model investable. However, with our transition from R&D to full scale productization — I would be more than happy to share our vision and strategy with any potential investor group.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us.