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Interview with iZettle Product Manager, Mario Sanchez

Interview with iZettle Product Manager, Mario Sanchez

In November 2019, iZettle introduced the "Ocean Reader," the world's first card reader made from Oceanworks Guaranteed recycled ocean plastic. It provides identical functionality as the company's popular iZettle Reader 2, which provides quick, easy, contactless, and highly secure card payments for hundreds of thousands of small businesses. The only difference is that the Ocean Reader is made of 75% recycled plastic comprised of discarded fishing nets and ropes from the North and Baltic Seas.

Each Ocean Reader recycles and reuses half a square meter of intercepted fishing nets. Compared to using virgin materials, utilizing recycled ocean plastic avoids creating 1.13 pounds of carbon emissions and conserves 1.48 kWh of energy for each reader. Removing and recycling this waste from the ocean also reduces the damaging effect of floating "ghost nets" on sea life, which kill millions of marine animals each year, including sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and seals.

1. What's the most difficult part of being a product developer?

I would not say that being a product developer is difficult, but it is fun and challenging. The main challenge is to get a product that your customers love, that adds value to society, and that customers are willing to buy. 

2. Do you think sustainability will be a central focus of product development in the future?

Of course, and you can see the trend picking up now. It is common to see more and more companies looking at sustainable materials, and sustainable processes to manufacture their products. It is time that we all, small and big companies, look into better and more sustainable ways to make our products.  

iZettle Ocean Reader

3. What was the process of developing the iZettle Ocean Reader?

Normally, a new product development is based on a need in the market, a requirement from our customers, or something that we can improve and generate value. The Ocean Reader would satisfy all of the above: there is a need to turn into a more sustainable way of doing product development, our customers appreciate that we consider the environment when making new products, and this is definitely an area where most product development companies can improve. 

The iZettle Ocean Reader, was the result of a Hack Week project at iZettle. This is an event we run twice a year, in which during one week people at iZettle can devote their time to work on a project they believe in. During that week, we started contacting ocean plastic suppliers, started discussions with the factory and got their buy-in, started discussions with our engineers, created a marketing plan, started sketches of the packaging, leaflets, etc. Basically, we gathered up a list of activities we needed to do if we wanted to launch.

After Hack Week, the whole team was super enthusiastic about the project, and we were all convinced we wanted to make it real, even if it had to do it on the side of our normal responsibilities.

At this point, we got some sample material from Oceanworks and started doing tests in our injection factory. The first samples looked pretty, but the main issues were in the mechanical aspect of it, the shrinkage of the plastic and the surface resistance was not easy to control in production. We continued iterating with the help of our manufacturing experts and Ocean Works, until we got some parts we were satisfied with. It took about 7 iterations to get there.

In parallel, and since we saw that the production was feasible, we started working on the packaging and materializing the go-to-market plan. 

4. How did you find working with ocean plastic in comparison to virgin plastic? Were there any major differences?

As the iZettle Ocean Reader was a pilot project, we did not make new moulding tools specific for this material, but instead aimed to use the same tools as for our normal production. Those tools are not optimized for the ocean plastic, which created some challenges. To overcome this, we needed to compensate the material to behave in a similar way as the material we normally use, so as to get a proper result. 

5. If you could be any sea creature what would you be and why?

I think I would be an octopus. It moves in smart and creative ways, and always adapts easily to new environments.