Denver popcorn startup launches with $12 million in the bag

This story first ran on BusinessDen.com, a BizWest news partner.

Jonas Tempel and Brad Roulier want to make popcorn cool again.

The Denver entrepreneurs have spent 20 years working together in the nightlife and music industry but, at 52 and 48 years old and each with kids, the longtime friends decided to “pursue more G-rated ideas,” Tempel said.

This week the duo introduced their new popcorn brand Opopop with the launch of their first product, Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels, which are pre-flavored microwavable popcorn kernels.

“The last known innovation within the popcorn industry was the air popper, which was introduced 40 years ago in 1979,” Tempel said. “We realized this is a sleepy category with 100-year-old brands just sitting in holding companies.”

He added, “There are some new companies chasing different health trends, like SkinnyPop, or introducing ready-to-eat-popcorn, and that’s interesting but it’s not innovative. We didn’t want to just make ad campaigns on bags. We believe popcorn should be eaten warm and fresh.”

Opopop’s Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels come in six flavors, including classics like “Fancy Butter” or the more unique “Salted Umami” and “Vanilla Cake Pop.” On Opopop’s website, customers can purchase three family size bags for $45 or a “Discover Kit” for $40, which comes with a branded microwave popcorn bowl and six small pouches of each flavor.

The kernels are individually flavored using a “super-secret we’d-love-to-tell-you-but-then-we’d-have-to-kill-you, proprietary flavor delivery process,” Opopop’s website says.

Tempel said that the inspiration for the making of Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels came from M&Ms, which, in the early stages, are “tumbled” in a coating pan, a machine that resembles a cement mixer, and rotated so every treat is exposed to the same amount of chocolate.

Tempel and Roulier first came up with the idea for Opopop in 2016 over a large bowl of popcorn. Tempel had made a nonchalant comment about the lack of innovation in the industry, and “it just kind of stuck,” he said.

The duo had met years ago while DJing and later in 2004 founded Beatport, which is essentially iTunes for DJs, before selling it to SFX in 2012. They also owned Beta Nightclub, which they sold last year, in downtown Denver.

In between the two ventures, Tempel was founding CEO at Beats by Dre, where he led the early development of what ultimately became Apple Music.

“We had a big ego reset coming out of the music industry as fairly well minted businesspeople,” Tempel said. “In the music industry it’s kind of who you know, so my pedigree was immediately established with my experiences at Beats by Dre, and I didn’t have to say anything else. But then I step into this world, and they’re like ‘Cool. What do you know about food?’”

After looking at some potential financial models for Opopop in 2017, the founders decided to take their idea a little more seriously.

They created a team including President Sarah McDowell, who had worked for General Mills; Alex McEvoy, who handles shipping and logistics and previously co-founded Wheat Ridge-based Deke Digital; and Chuck Lepley, chief marketing officer, who was previously Boulder-based Sphero’s director of marketing.

“Every job I’ve ever had, with the exception of one, I’ve been a CEO,” Tempel said. “So, I’m comfortable guiding businesses from idea to execution, and I love building good teams.”

Tempel and Roulier’s first idea for Opopop is still in the works. They plan to introduce the flagship product, which they would not disclose but described as a “popcorn machine,” in the next two years.

Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels, which the machine needs to work, were born in the midst of the flagship product’s design process, Tempel said.

This story first ran on BusinessDen.com, a BizWest news partner.

Jonas Tempel and Brad Roulier want to make popcorn cool again.

The Denver entrepreneurs have spent 20 years working together in the nightlife and music industry but, at 52 and 48 years old and each with kids, the longtime friends decided to “pursue more G-rated ideas,” Tempel said.

This week the duo introduced their new popcorn brand Opopop with the launch of their first product, Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels, which are pre-flavored microwavable popcorn kernels.

“The last known innovation within the popcorn industry was the air popper, which was introduced 40 years ago in 1979,” Tempel said. “We realized this is a sleepy category with 100-year-old brands just sitting in holding companies.”

He added, “There are some new companies chasing different health trends, like SkinnyPop, or introducing ready-to-eat-popcorn, and that’s interesting but it’s not innovative. We didn’t want to just make ad campaigns on bags. We believe popcorn should be eaten warm and fresh.”

Opopop’s Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels come in six flavors, including classics like “Fancy Butter” or the more unique “Salted Umami” and “Vanilla Cake Pop.” On Opopop’s website, customers can purchase three family size bags for $45 or a “Discover Kit” for $40, which comes with a branded microwave popcorn bowl and six small pouches of each flavor.

The kernels are individually flavored using a “super-secret we’d-love-to-tell-you-but-then-we’d-have-to-kill-you, proprietary flavor delivery process,” Opopop’s website says.

Tempel said that the inspiration for the making of Flavor Wrapped Popcorn Kernels came from M&Ms, which, in the early stages,…