Category Archives: Networks

Networks of independent agents…and coffee

A few days ago, Laura Colvine said this on Twitter:

David takes on Goliath – Cups: A Coffee Startup Taking on Starbucks

The link pointed to an interesting and well-written article by Alison Griswold titled “Cups: A Coffee Startup Taking on Starbucks“.

In brief (and much less well-written than the original), the story is approximately this: Cups, an Israeli startup, offers bulk subscriptions (5, 10 or 20 cups) and monthly all-you-can-drink monthly subscriptions to customers of participating independent coffee shops. It uses mobile app technology to facilitate coffee shop discovery and location, subscription management and payment. Cups pays the coffee shops per cup, albeit at a highly discounted price, but assumes the risk associated to high consumption by monthly subscribers.

I like this idea very much: I like how technology is used to facilitate an idea that mostly plays out in the “real” world. I like how this idea seeks to level the playing field for small independent agents in a highly contested place. I like how the independent agents’  individual strengths and characteristics are preserved in this scheme. I like how this sustains and maybe even enhances diversity in this difficult environment.

(I have no problem with Starbucks or large corporations. This is not a rant against them. But I also value diversity very much.)

I wonder whether, no, I’d bet that similar approaches could work in other contexts. What type of business will be next?

Note: I understand that Cups can be understood as a shared platform and the independent coffee shops as pods in the sense that Dave Gray wrote about in The Connected Company. Cups and the independent coffee shops are participating in a shared enterprise as described by Tom Graves in Mapping the Enterprise (and his other books and his blog).