This start-up is trying to make office coffee cool again
As one of the biggest names in the coffee world, Dunkin' Brands, reports that business is sizzling, one start-up in New York is looking to tap in to America's love of the caffeinated drink by redefining the way we think about coffee in the office—and some of the most innovative companies in the city are taking notice.
Joyride Coffee Distributors was founded in late 2011 by brothers David, Noah, and Adam Belanich, who started selling coffee and frozen yogurt from a Stumptown Coffee Truck in downtown Manhattan. Within a year, they brewed up a bigger idea for Joyride.
Seeing an opportunity to revitalize typical office coffee pots and packets, which they contend leave much to be desired, the brothers sought to bring high-quality artisan coffees like Blue Bottle, Stumptown and Joe Coffee directly to the break rooms and kitchens of New York offices.
The brothers noticed a trend that catered to craft beer and wine connoisseurs, a niche market of artisan-quality products, and adapted it for coffee lovers.
Using a soft-subscription model, the Belaniches and their 10 employees now provide coffee equipment to offices spanning from tech to finance. Coffee is delivered within 48 hours of being roasted, about once every two weeks, and come either freshly ground and ready to brew or in the form of premade "cold brew." Cold brew is gaining favor among coffee connoisseurs, as the production process never heats the drink, unlike normal iced coffee, which is brewed hot and then cooled.
Joyride's cold brew is perhaps one of its most innovative aspects. It's delivered either in 64-ounce growlers or much larger kegs, which are tapped and installed in clients' offices inside "kegerators" that are specially designed to keep the coffee cold. Workers self-serve the cold brew just as a bartender would pour a cold pint, and that adds a "cool factor" to the service, said David Belanich, the eldest of the three founding brothers.
The kegerator concept was actually inspired by client demand, Belanich said.
"They were using the growlers which took too much fridge space," he said. "That's when Joyride came up with a self-contained 5-gallon home brewing keg, usually used for beer making at home."
"I think they enjoy this a lot because it's so different and fun," Belanich said of the kegerator. "There's this sense of doing something naughty because it is kind of like beer."
"One such client—we won't say who—had employees doing afternoon kegstands at its office, ultimately resulting in a bit of damage to the machine—but fortunately, the Joyride team was able to fix it."
After digging through the data of the coffee cycle, Joyride said it found a way to provide a cost-efficient way of consuming coffee, starting with the cups. After weighing out Keurig K-cups and Nespresso pods, it determined that, pound-for-pound, the cost of its product was cheaper for customers.
The company soon racked up big New York clients, including Twitter, Foursquare, Buzzfeed, IAC, Third Point and Gilt Groupe.
David Belanich ultimately attributes Joyride's success to the quality of the coffee, although its popularity within New York's tech scene certainly didn't hurt. This year, Joyride has seen rapid month-over-month growth, and is expanding its warehouse and distribution center headquartered in Queens.
"We've been able to succeed as a business because we've been able to attract these companies and keep them," Belanich told CNBC. "We didn't plan to start with tech, we just had some early success and pursued it."
But how exactly does a start-up get the attention of NYC's hottest tech firms and ultimately add them to its client roster?
Aside from the intrigue of office kegs and trumpeting the quality of the coffee, Joyride's early success is largely dependent on word of mouth referrals, particularly within the start-up community. "We like to support entrepreneurship in New York since we're part of that community," Belanich said. "I think that's why they respond so well to us. We're enthusiastic about what they do."
(Related: Dunkin' Donuts goes to California)
—By CNBC's Deborah Findling and Uptin Saiidi with Paul Toscano
The Starters is a CNBC web-series that brings you behind the scenes of your local tech start-ups. No matter where you live, there is a company in your city trying to change your life. Follow us on Twitter @StartersCNBC