Fonte Engineers creates a new dessert experience with ColdSnap — The Heights

Four years ago, Matt Fonte went through his nightly routine of putting his two daughters to bed while they talked about the various gadgets they planned to invent, prompting his youngest daughter to ask if they could make a machine. ice cream for their own home. . Fonte, BC ’94, however, explained to her daughter that ice cream machines are not common household items.

“My girls seemed disappointed…so we wrote the idea down in their invention journal,” Fonte said. “We signed it, and then the next day I went to work and started asking my engineering friends, ‘Do you think we could freeze six ounces of ice cream in one minute?'”

That question became the basis for ColdSnap—Fonte’s latest startup, in which he designed a machine that delivers single-servings of ice cream, iced coffee, and frozen cocktails in about a minute.

Growing up, Fonte had a gift for entrepreneurship, constantly stirring up ideas for new inventions. One of his first concepts was a fogless mirror for shaving, according to Fonte’s childhood friend, Erik Skulte.

“[He put] copper strips on the back of the mirrors and [attached] to a battery to create an electric current to keep the mirror fog-free,” said Skulte, who is also senior director of the ColdSnap program. “He actually contacted a friend’s father who is a patent attorney [to see if] there is a patent on the fogless mirror”

Skulte said that idea, along with Fonte’s determination to execute it, was a clear sign of what was to come from Fonte.

“Even at a young age he showed a very strong entrepreneurial spirit,” Skulte said. “I think that was an early indication that he had the mindset of ‘behind every problem lies a solution’.”

When deciding what to pursue in college, Fonte said he was interested in both business and engineering, but he decided to study finance at the Carroll School of Management.

“I think going to school really gave me an idea of ​​how much I enjoyed my classes in organization and how to manage money and be accountable for money,” Fonte said. “And I was surrounded by people who cared about me and helped support me, and I thought that was a good base to start my career.”

Fonte continued to develop his technical engineering skills while working in his father’s manufacturing plant throughout college. At the factory, he said he learned about the formation of metals and the different mechanical properties of metallic materials, which motivated him to continue his studies at Tufts University, where he earned a master’s and doctoral degree in engineering. mechanical. For 11 years, he worked in his father’s factory during the day and spent nights and weekends attending classes.

After graduating from college, his father sold the manufacturing plant and gave Fonte the money to start Mx Orthopedics, a manufacturing company specializing in orthopedic implants. But instead of using common metals found in orthopedic implants, Fonte said it used a nickel-titanium alloy called nitinol. Because it is a malleable “shape memory metal”, nitinol springs back to its original shape when heated

“The idea was that a surgeon could stretch an implant over a fracture in order to [that when] the staple or the screw or the plate or the wire is released from the delivery device, it can bring the bone fragments closer together, which would maintain constant compression at the bone site and the patient would heal faster,” said said Fonte.

After running Mx Orthopedics for nearly five years, Fonte decided to sell the company and start working on Coldsnap. Inspired by his daughters’ idea, Fonte invested in launching ColdSnap. He started with a question: do you think we could freeze six ounces of ice cream in one minute?

“And everyone said, ‘I don’t think so. If you could, someone would have done it by now,” Fonte said. “But I wasn’t sure because there are Cuisinart machines that can freeze a liter and a half in 45 minutes, and if you break it down by ounce, you’d think you’d be able to freeze six ounces a minute.

Skulte explained how Fonte’s fierce desire to bring his ideas to life and figure out what’s truly possible is what makes him such a successful entrepreneur.

“[Fonte’s] the perfect storm of being very hardworking, very enterprising, willing to try things and willing to fail,” Skulte said.

To put his idea to the test, Fonte asked a friend to help him create a computer model to examine the plausibility of the concept. By calculating the wattage of an average kitchen wall outlet and the freezing point of dairy in six ounces of ice cream, they determined that it was possible to freeze six ounces of ice cream in just one minute.

“So armed with that information, I said, ‘You know what? i think i will try [it]Fonte said. “So I made a prototype in my garage using a drill in a little compressor, and saw that I could freeze ice cream. The first batch of six ounces took seven or eight minutes, but I I had at least the idea that it was possible. I still had to figure out how to make it more efficient and go faster, but the concept was there.

Fonte then said he started filing patents, asking first his brother and then his friend Robert Devaney, with whom he started Mx, to join him. They started to form a team, adding four or five engineers who helped make prototypes of the product, Fonte said.

For ColdSnap’s first year and a half, the team worked out of a small office above a pizza joint in Lexington, Mass. to a larger manufacturing plant. During this period of expansion, Fonte said ColdSnap relied on friends and family for financial support.

“As we have continued to advance technology over the past three years, we have had to go back to our friends and family and ask for more money to fund research, development, innovation, pay salaries… .and at this point, [we’ve raised several] rounds of capital from friends and family and have [over 50] the folks at ColdSnap, and…we’re growing fast,” Fonte said. “So it’s been an exciting process over the last three years.”

To operate ColdSnap, consumers insert a single-use pod, either for ice cream, frozen cocktail or iced coffee, into the machine. Coldsnap then scans the QR code on the capsule, telling the machine how much to freeze based on the product inserted, and within one to two minutes the treat is ready.

Along with having a user-friendly design and offering a variety of products and flavors, Fonte said ColdSnap prioritizes sustainability. The company intentionally used aluminum cans containing 70-80% recycled material to avoid increasing plastic waste, he said.

“In addition to that, we chose to use a refrigerant that does not have ozone depletion characteristics,” Fonte said. “So in the unlikely event that our refrigeration system leaks, there is no harm to the environment.”

Fonte also noted that the reduced production time reduces ColdSnap’s carbon footprint. The instant nature of the product reduces the carbon emissions associated with making ice cream by approximately 50-70%.

“Ice cream today is frozen in the factory, and it’s shipped frozen in trucks and brought to the grocery store and kept frozen in the grocery store,” he said. “So what we’re offering is a different way of looking at it: just freeze the product when you need it.”

Reflecting on the evolution of ColdSnap, Fonte said that personally he was happy to be able to show his kids how to turn their ideas into something bigger.

“I love that I can take my family here and my kids here and they can see that you can start with an idea and an invention journal and grow it into a business and a product,” Fonte said. “And now we have over 50 employees working here and their livelihood is, you know, based on working and helping to get [ColdSnap] at the market.”

ColdSnap is expected to enter the commercial market in early 2023. For now, Fonte said it’s focused on selling to larger organizations, such as office buildings and school cafeterias, to test the rate. product approval. Then he plans to sell to individuals.

“Over the next six or eight months, we will get a consumption rate,” Fonte said. “How many pods do we sell per day per machine to where? … We will kind of have an idea [of] what flavors people like and whether the machines work as expected. »

Fonte said his move to British Columbia was crucial to his success because it gave him the practical skills he needed to enter the business world. He also highlighted how BC has shaped who he is as a person in a larger sense, helping him navigate his career and find something he’s truly passionate about.

“And so these foundational courses that I took really prepared me for the business world,” Fonte said. “But more broadly than that, I think…I’ve matured as a person in BC.”

For BC students navigating the early stages of their careers, Fonte advises to follow what you love and go into a field you love.

“I would tell a young person not to worry unnecessarily about your career, but to focus on something you love and do it well, and it won’t feel like work because it won’t be hard work. work,” Fonte said.