How coffee shops helped my startup

Written on 4th August, 2012

Right now I’m sat in a great coffee shop in Tel Aviv writing this blog post. It’s got a casual feel to it which is relaxing, yet there are people here with laptops hustling away. I come here every Saturday to work on my personal project of helping others through my blog posts and emails.

Recently Jason Shen wrote an awesome post on the importance of coffee meetings in Silicon Valley, and it prompted me to think about the role coffee shops have played for me as an entrepreneur in the last couple of years.

What I’ve realised is that they’ve actually been a big part of my lifestyle and have served me very well as places to both get lots done and have important meetings.

4 amazing things that happened in coffee shops

Only when I looked back at the journey of Buffer so far across four very different parts of the world did I notice that even whilst moving around and being within very different cultures, so many of the key milestones were achieved in coffee shops. Let me explain with four examples:

Getting advice from amazing people

When we first arrived in San Francisco last year, before we had funding, we were pretty clueless about the fundraising process. We came across Mat Johnson, an AngelList Scout, and we reached out to him to see if he’d be willing to chat to us about fundraising and AngelList.

He replied back and suggested we meet at Coffee Bar in the Mission. We had an amazing and helpful meeting, casual yet purposeful and succinct. After the meeting, Coffee Bar went on to become one of my favourite places to work from and we even hosted our “Buffer & Coffee” meetups there.

How we raised funding from coffee shops

After AngelPad demo day late last year, we focused 100% on closing our seed round for a couple of months. I’m not sure how it has worked for everyone else, but for us coffee shops had a key role in our seed round. We had meetings with over fifty angel investors in dozens of different coffee shops across SF, from SoMa to The Mission and South Beach to Hayes Valley.

The coffee shop environment was perfect for raising an angel round. It was great to pitch investors in the relaxed environment of a coffee shop, we just pulled out a laptop and ran them through our deck. In particular South Beach Cafe, right around the corner from the AngelPad office, is the one place we met many investors and advisors who we were lucky enough to get on board. Here’s how we ended many of our emails with investors:

We’d love to meet and explain our vision for Buffer in more detail. Would 4pm on Monday at South Beach Cafe work for you?

Perfect for developing partnerships and strong connections

We’ve also met people in coffee shops in order to discuss partnerships for Buffer and make some very cool integrations happen.

We met Linden from IFTTT at his local coffee shop The Grove and discussed how a Buffer action in IFTTT might work, as well as the whole flow for a user. Within a couple of weeks it was done and available to both of our userbases, and it has been one of our best received integrations to date.

A great environment for helping others

As some of you may know, I love to help others on a frequent basis, and I’ve found it’s a key thing that makes me very happy.

I almost always meet founders in coffee shops when I’m doing a 30 minute session to help them with their biggest startup challenges.

The atmosphere of a coffee shop makes it easy to quickly get into a very open conversation, where we can really get into the current specific struggles the other person is having. I’ve found I can almost always use my own experience or knowledge of other people’s experience to help them with some concrete steps forward.

Have coffee shops helped you in any way for your startup or personal projects? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Photo credit: Martin Fisch