Friday, October 7th, 2022
In February of this year, I moved to Austin to double-down on building cofipass in a city that is near and dear to my heart. As an alumni of the University of Texas, I recall the countless hours that I spent frantically studying or writing my senior thesis at Bennu, a 24-hour coffee shop near downtown. I wanted to build a more local and intimate network of work-friendly coffeeshops in a single city, before attempting to scale the marketplace globally, which is a much more gargantuan effort.
While I was able to score ample conversations with friends and family about the demand-side of the marketplace, I was lacking clear perspective from the supply-side, independent coffee shops. After rather frivolous attempts to cold call/email coffeeshops, I decided that there was no better way to understand the incentives of an independent coffee shop than to work at one myself.
Instead of walking up to cafes and attempting to pitch a hypothetical product idea (it turns out that coffeeshops get pitched all sorts of stuff on a daily basis, including mushroom coffee and chlorophyll water?), I began asking people if they were hiring, and I found a part-time gig! Since May, I’ve been working as a barista at Cuvee Coffee, a chic work-friendly cafe in Central East Austin.
Working at Cuvee has taught me so much about what it takes to run a successful independent business. Compared to high-octane SAAS companies, you’d be surprised just how much it takes to keep a cafe operation smooth and functional. Every day, remote workers, college students, and neighborhood locals, trickle into the shop. They order iced oat milk lattes, Americanos, and drip coffees, all to find an open seat, and tap into their flow state.
In the mean time, I synthesized the rich user feedback from my initial “soft launch” back in December 2021, and agreed that the only way to best address the needs of cofipass users was to build an actual app, from scratch. It took me a few months to quickly grow out of the “low-code” stack, turning away solutions like Bubble in favor of undertaking the larger effort of actually building an app.
Along the way, I recruited two close friends of mine to help with software engineering, while I began building designs on FIGMA to map out a clear frontend vision of what a true marketplace-app for work-friendly cafes should look like. After long conversations about what drives users to sign up for new product experiences, we decided to build what's known as a “progressive web application” (PWA).
Unlike typical app-stores apps, PWAs have a much cleaner path for new users to try your product, as we learned that there’s often a severe drop off in sign ups or “cliff,” when attempting to get people to download yet another application on the App Store.
So where are we now? Well, today is a special day! I had a friend reach out earlier this week about finding a place to work in Austin, and got the clearance from the Cuvee team to pilot our inaugural cofipass booking. Alice received a calendar invite for her cofipass reservation for Friday from 2-4 PM, arrived promptly, and checked into her reservation using the cofipass beta app.
After more than a year of working on something that was just a mere idea, it’s an absolute pleasure to see someone in person to come, use your product, and rave about the quality of their user experience. While it’s been over a year, moments like these remind me that every day is a new challenge, and there’s so much left to accomplish.
Looking forward, the cofipass team is hard at work to release the public-facing web app to the world before the end of this year. We have multiple shops in Austin waiting to try our “cofipass reserve” product on a larger scale, and are also testing another product called “cofipass rewards” to build a tech-enable loyalty/rewards engine between independent coffeeshops and their customers.
With over 280+ cafes in our database across 20+ cities in the United States and India, cofipass is already on the run. Our 125+ beta users have been hard at work, both working on their own endeavors as well as checking into our app for over 130+ distinct work sessions at various coffeeshops. As we get closer to our hard-launch, please do not hesitate to try our functional beta by signing up here. And if you’re interested in reserving a seat to work in Austin, just reach out to me directly and I’ll schedule you a reservation myself!
Thank you to all that have tuned in to our cofipass journey thus far, and stay tuned for bigger moves just on the horizon.