Coffee, the not so secret ingredient which makes the wheels spin in a startup

Coffee is part of our daily ritual at CyberSwarm. We simply cannot imagine life without it. Generally, we associate it with the “aha” moment, when the wheels in our brain start moving and things begin to connect. In the morning, coffee is the charmed liquid which helps us clear our head and shake off the last remnants of sleep. At noon, it is the natural sequel to a copious lunch and an energy booster. In the afternoon it’s our guilty pleasure and the relaxation we need after a long and tough day.

Coffee is a true industry and it is considered the second most traded good worldwide, after oil. Scientific studies contradict that myth however. The Observatory of Economic Complexity places it on the 98 th spot. 1,24 billion coffee cups are consumed daily worldwide, according to Patrick Maloney, co-founder of Paradigm Coffee. No matter the statistics, the certain thing is we drink lots of coffee. And we associate it with innovation, inspiration and opportunities.

“Let’s meet for a coffee.” This is the open invitation we launch to almost everyone, and it’s difficult to say no. It’s the answer we give when we want to think better before making a decision. It’s a simple means of socializing, which implies nothing, and yet it can have a decisive impact on a business. Behind a cup of coffee, thoughts fly, sometimes just as simple thoughts, other times turned into words, dilemmas or questions we ask the other person. Coffee is where ideas and plans are born. As the cup empties, ideas are contoured more and more clearly. We can tell from our experience that at least one person asks for coffee during a meeting. And if the conversation prolongs, one cup becomes several.

“Drinking some coffee” is often another way of saying “I’m thinking”. We are by ourselves, and it’s one of the few ways to get rid of the too-many-tabs-open syndrome. The first cup of coffee of the day is actually the first break, when we can quietly build the to-do list for that day. Almost all major decisions at CyberSwarm were taken over coffee. Our office and business meeting place was at a Starbucks for a long period of time. We used to go there almost on a daily basis since there were many thoughts to order and a general vision which needed structuring every time new elements appeared.

Long conversations over a cup of coffee have saved us effort, time and money. We found out how we can improve our technology, how we can access resources we wouldn’t have thought of, that production in China is not the best idea. This is the way we always found out about things, people and experience we otherwise may have missed. We have used coffee to test the people who never made it to the team and to learn more about those with whom we collaborate tightly. We have started friendships and we have ended relationships.

Over lots of cups of coffee we found new ways of solving problems, we opened our eyes and everything suddenly became clear. We finally discovered those solutions which had been there all along, waiting to be found. When you share your ideas and your fears, you can benefit from sincere opinions and objective points of view from people who have been through the same things. As a startup, one does not afford to hire business consultants with exaggerated fees. It’s easier to call a friend and meet for coffee. The advice and help we received this way are priceless. We got truly valuable feedback from people with no hidden intentions, who simply wanted to give back.

We even have a codename for this kind of meetings: gas and coffee. Gas because most of the time we drink that coffee in another city. We prefer this informal alternative to meetings in the corporate world, where everything is rigid and you can’t skip the pre-established order. The advantage is that we can talk freely, without fighting for supremacy in a negotiation we must win. The relaxed atmosphere leads to a positive outcome. There is no pressure to reach a target, so decisions can be taken faster. Or, if no decision is taken, it still doesn’t change anything. At the end of the day, this kind of meeting does not oblige anyone. It’s just coffee.

Or maybe it isn’t. In Startupland there is a story about a CEO who pays over 10.000 € for a cup of coffee. That is because he drinks is at the other end of the world, and all expenses have to be taken into consideration. Successful collaborations are maintained over coffee, no matter how much gas you need to get to the destination and how many cups you have to drink before coming face to face with the key person you were looking for.

“Gas and coffee.” It is our invariable answer when someone is pleasantly surprised by our story and wants to learn how we got so far. Gas is the fuel for our cars, coffee is our fuel. We belong to the category who can’t function without it. “Gas and coffee” is now more than a way of solving things with utmost efficiency. It has become the trademark way we do things at CyberSwarm.

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

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