12 January 2018 Courier Weekly

Coffee retail moving into corporate buildings

PLUS: Property problems – FMCG swag – Mapping startup — The man behind Softbank

Coffee shops are getting into offices.

Company HQs and office developments are increasingly being favoured by independent coffee shop companies as locations for new sites.

Growing chains like Workshop, Grind and Department of Coffee and Social Affairs are among those to have opened inside corporate office buildings. Two concurrent forces are driving this trend:

  1. High-street rents are becoming prohibitive for coffee retail. Cheap rents drove much of the ‘craft coffee’ phenomenon a decade or so ago. Rents have since shot up.
  2. Office workers have for some time been opting to have meetings off-site where high-quality coffee is provided. As a result, office managers are offering cheap deals to coffee operators.

It’s expected this phenomenon will grow further as property developers see quality coffee as a means to lure office workers (and tenants), and subsidise coffee leases in their buildings.

These coffee operations are usually accessible to the general public to ensure they remain commercially viable.

(In separate news, Department of Coffee bought Tap Coffee’s three central London sites late last year and is expected to rebrand them.)

The march of FMCG merch.

Consumer brands are once again using clothing to spread the word. Its recent revival was perhaps sparked by fashion brands like Vetements appropriating the DHL logo and Moschino doing the same with the McDonald’s golden arches.

Several FMCG brands are now trying to do it themselves.

This article outlines how brands found in supermarket aisles have tried to walk the line of ‘so uncool, it’s cool’.

Fresh from a few beanies, caps and t-shirts, the fizzy drink startup Ugly Drinks is eager to do more clothing. Its co-founder Hugh Thomas told Courier: ‘We want fans to be evangelists and wearing the logo is a way to empower them.’ He said he looked to the work of brands like KFC and LA-based House Beer as well as clothing brands like Palace and Carhartt for inspiration.

London startup lands Mercedes money.

Daimler, owner of Mercedes-Benz, has taken a 10% stake in five-year old UK tech startup What3words. The startup, based in west London, has been building a mapping system, which divides the world into 3m by 3m squares and gives each a unique three-word address (Courier‘s office is at heats.atomic.parent).

It has already been incorporated into the voice-activated navigation system which Daimler intends to feature in its new cars.

It’s just one of scores of interesting partnerships for What3words, which also counts the Mongolian, Nigerian and Tongan post services, the United Nations and Domino’s Pizza as clients. The startup says many more food delivery companies, taxi apps, logistics and e-commerce businesses will be incorporating What3words into their systems this year.

Property challenger runs into problems. 

Goodlord, which wants to make renting faster and easier, made 40 of its sales and marketing staff redundant this week. Its founder and CEO is also leaving.

It removes a third of the company’s workforce just nine months after it raised £7.2m.

Several people in the property industry say the Goodlord announcement is part of a broader shaking out in the active property technology scene to come this year as weaker startups fall away or get snapped up.

Startups have been challenging all aspects of how property is bought, sold and leased. It’s been billed as a sector poised for considerable technology-driven upheaval.

Portrait of the world’s biggest startup backer.

This profile on Softbank’s Masayoshi Son is essential reading.

Son’s $100bn venture fund has become the largest and most influential in the world. He has invested in ride hailing, computer chips, co-working, robots and kale.

But it’s his way of backing companies, as described in the article, which is just as fascinating.

The 60-year-old Japanese investor adopts some aggressive tactics. He typically invests more in companies than they want or ask for, engaging in intense conversations with founders, and demanding much faster growth than they envisage. His fund is run as a ‘one-man show’.

He also has a chequered back-story, having lost $70bn investing in the dotcom bubble – he backed 800 startups, all of which failed. His investment in Alibaba is reckoned to be the foundation for everything he’s built since.