Welcome to our Simpli Press On series, where we talk to entrepreneurs in the coffee world about motivation, inspiration, and how they press on through the challenges of building something new!
Simpli Press is all about enjoying your morning coffee ritual in today’s hectic, rushed world. That’s why we developed a system with a shorter brew time and easy cleanup for more time sipping your coffee and less time waiting.
Coffee app joe has a similar goal. Their mission is to make it easier for people to get a quick cup of coffee from their local independent coffee shop. The app creates an online collective of indie shops where users can pre-order and pre-pay for their favorite drink. When they arrive at the shop, their drink is ready to go. No waiting, and no wasted time. Plus, users are able to earn rewards through their purchases on the app.
We spoke to co-founder Brenden Martin about where the idea for joe came from, and how their small team got it off the ground.
It began in — where else? — Seattle, the coffee hub of the U.S.
Brenden and his brother Nick both worked as baristas in their younger days, which gave them a first-hand look at the challenges that came with the independent coffee shop. They saw customers get discouraged and drive off from the drive-thru when they were in a rush. The brothers would even run out to take orders from the line to try to keep things moving as smoothly as possible.
It was an experience that stuck with them both, even as they moved on to other ventures.
Then in 2014, on a drive from Eastern Washington to Seattle, they found themselves in a familiar predicament. They wanted to get coffee for the road. But the lines at the local shops were too long, and they ended up settling for a blah cup of coffee from a national chain.
For the rest of the three-hour drive, they brainstormed how they could help the local coffee shop be more efficient and improve the user experience. And the resulting idea became joe.
But it wasn’t easy. The brothers didn’t have startup capital or wealthy friends with money to invest. While they tried to figure out how to fund their startup, Brenden enrolled in General Assembly’s web development boot camp where he connected with joe’s third co-founder, Lenny Urbanowski.
Lenny is a brilliant developer with an art background and startup experience. But he needed to be paid while he built the program. So the brothers had to work additional jobs in order to keep Lenny afloat.
Brenden did sales for a startup and served as interim COO for a SaaS company. And Nick took on a full-time marketing role for another tech startup. All this while they tried to get joe off the ground, and cared for their small children at home. It was an exhausting pace.
But the 18-hour days paid off. joe was funded by Flying Fish VC in August 2018, and the app launched in December 2018.
Now, joe has over 500 coffee shops on the platform, with about 100 more coming on every month. It lets independent coffee shops compete, without the massive investments of money and time required to develop their own app.
Their biggest difficulty these days is getting in front of enough coffee shop owners to share how great the platform is. But once they’re able to reach the decision-makers, it’s often a slam dunk.These coffee-preneurs are devoted to improving the coffee experience for customers, while also helping coffee shops to grow. Exciting new developments are in the pipeline over at joe, and we can’t wait to find out what they’ll be up to next!