Louis Dakis - Our Client on Food Network with his Patents
Congratulations, Louis Dakis, holder of quite a few patents written by this law firm. Mr. Dakis was on Food Network's new food invention pitch show and picked up an investor! Michael J. Feigin, Esq., the lead attorney at this law firm is mentioned in the article as having made the connection between Food Network and Mr. Dakis.
(The information about Shark Tank attributed to Mr. Feigin is incorrect - Mark Cuban from Shark Tank has drawn Mr. Feigin a cat and Mr. Feigin has reviewed Shark Tank's contract, having been contacted by their producer for contestents before the show aired ... but this firm can't claim to have written their contract.)
Clifton inventor improves coffee's flavor
CLIFTON – An inventor with an overflowing inventory but zero exposure had his prayers answered this week after an appearance on Food Network introduced a hit product to millions of television viewers.
Louis Dakis, 43, dedicated much of the past two to three years to a patent-pending brewing system he says improves the quality of coffee brewing found in standard Keurig "K-Cup" servings.
Although his plan was simple and proven successful several times, the journey was a long one in which his positivity overcame setbacks, frustration and long hours. Along the way, the lifelong Clifton resident sold his sports car, he said had been a prized possession, and took money out of his annuities to help make his vision a reality.
Although a java lover, Dakis is far from a coffee snob.
"I used to drink Maxwell House with my father," said Dakis, fondly recalling the pastime was one of the final activities the two shared before his father died from lung cancer. "I just drink a lot of coffee and enjoy it. It's just the experience, that social aspect of it, where you're sharing time with others."
Dakis said his eureka moment came one day in 2012 after his wife, Carrie, introduced him to the Keurig brewer. Never a fan of the quality of coffee the machine produced, he began using refillable pods and realized there had to be a better way.
"I took all these measurements," he recalled. "I can't explain how it came to me but I just saw it in my head. The problem was that the water is flushed through so quickly there's no time to extract the natural oils, producing weak, bitter coffee-flavored water. The extra layer I created simply lets the water soak longer and extract better flavor in the process."
With that, Dakis' product, Calix, from the Latin word for chalice or cup, was born. (The origin of his company name, Xira, stems from his father's family name, Xiradakis, which was shortened when he became an American citizen in 1958.)
"Seeing that it actually works is kind of amazing and a very proud moment," Carrie, a corporate employee of Xerox, said of her husband's tireless efforts. "It's been crazy to see him start with a very small idea and, after two or three years, get to where he is now."
For his family and many friends, hearing of his conception of the single-serve multi-layer brewing capsule was impressive but not surprising.
"My brother's always been a creative and inventive person," Helene Celenza said. "As a kid he loved building things with Legos. As a matter of fact, he always enjoyed building things in general, from tree houses to bike ramps."
Dakis, who works as a union tradesman, operated a custom carpentry business in the late 1990s. He's also managed a punk rock band called Amsterdam Ave. and studied web development and business programming at Chubb Institute.
"Lou tried many roads to success prior to his invention. He always had a lot of interests and was always looking for that big break," Celenza said of her brother. "When he came up with the idea for Calix I remember he came to our house with his prototype made out of Legos! My husband and I knew he was on to something good."
At last year's CoffeeFest expo held at the Jacob Javits Center, 195 coffee aficionados were given a side-by-side taste test of a standard K-Cup serving of coffee versus a Calix cup brewed with the same brand and weight. Testers unanimously chose the modified Keurig cups 195-0, Dakis proudly reported.
"The trade shows were important because a 100-percent success rate shows that it works," he said.
Five months and thousands of dollars later, the multi-layer brewing technology officially received its patent.
After locating a company in Illinois which contracts with a Chinese manufacturer, Dakis had 5,000 molds produced and shipped to his Clifton home. In between, he coped with "discouraging" and "intimidating" learning experiences that delayed his product's arrival several months.
An unlikely path would soon be revealed, however.
It was following his initial breakthrough with his invention that Dakis happened upon Michael Feigin, a patent attorney in Passaic Park. During their initial conversation, Feigin made a matter-of-fact remark that he had written contracts for a producer of the ABC television show "Shark Tank."
Thinking nothing of it, Dakis continued with his product's development only to hear years later that the attorney had been contacted by the same TV producer who was interested in auditioning entrepreneurs with innovative kitchen devices or food-preparation products.
"I ended up getting a call on Wednesday right before Thanksgiving and over the weekend I filmed and edited an audition tape," Dakis said. "I sent it Sunday night and by Monday I got a call that they wanted me to come to the New York City auditions."
He filmed a demonstration of his product for production assistants but Dakis did not hear back from the company for weeks. It wasn't until January that the Cliftonite received paperwork. He was not entirely sure he would appear on Food Fortunes until two days before he was scheduled to fly out to California for the show.
On the program, four investors who are respected in the food industry hear pitches from organic food makers and inventors. After polling a studio audience armed with voting controls, the investors decide whether or not they would like to partner with the contestants.
"It really was the coolest experience ever. The biggest challenge was the pitch," Dakis said of show, which aired on Monday night. "But they didn't make it about pressure because I told the investors that without their help I'll have absolutely nothing. I wasn't making money because people didn't know my product existed."
Sitting $85,000 in debt, he put his faith in the four industry leaders and "the power of TV" to rescue his product from obscurity.
Upon sampling the coffee with and without the Calix brewing device, all four judges commented that the inventor's product was the real deal. Reinforcing its claims, 84 percent of the studio audience said the Calix cup provided a noticeably more robust coffee flavor.
Judges said the only drawback was that the $20 system only works with the K-Cup model and is not compatible with the Commercial, Mini, 2.0 or Vue versions. However, with the proper support, Dakis appeared confident modified systems could be made for the newer models.
Ultimately, Pat LaFrieda, a meat purveying titan who called Dakis a "brilliant" inventor, agreed to invest $75,000 into the product in exchange for a 51 percent stake in the business venture.
"If my dad were here right now he would be overwhelmed with joy," Dakis said on the Food Network program. "This [deal] is truly one of the biggest accomplishments of my lifetime."
Dakis, who admitted it was extremely difficult to keep the experience under wraps, said that about 70 friends and family members joined him at the Shannon Rose on Monday for a live viewing party.
On Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours since the episode aired, Dakis said that his website (xirabrew.com) had already received 150 orders.
"That I'm now getting endless people buying my product shows that you can do anything if you put the energy into it," he grinned. "If you want to change something you have to do it yourself, not wait for it to happen. Most people spend more time complaining about why it's not."
As of this week, Dakis is optimistic the demand for his product will force him to manufacture several thousand more units of his Calix system.