Our Modern World: Blue Bottle $20m Sale and Ensuing Media Bonanza
A few days ago, pioneering media gossip rag TechCrunch (founded in the early 2000s, sold to AOL in 2010 for $25 million) broke the story that Blue Bottle Coffee had “raised close to 20 million” thanks to investment from the adventure capitalists at True Ventures and Index Ventures. Here’s the SEC filing form for you to go over with your lawyer friend – it basically says that a fellow named Bryan Meehan is now the president and CEO of Blue Bottle, as part of a group of investors who now own a controlling stake in the company.
Drama, right? Only sort of. Oliver Strand, whose business reporting is the journalistic equivalent of a sure-footed billy goat, breaks down the deets over on the NYT Diner’s Journal:
Mr. Meehan is the Dublin-born entrepreneur behind Fresh & Wild, a London chain of organic markets sold to Whole Foods in 2004, and Nude Skincare, a line of natural beauty products. He now lives in Marin County, Calif., and the Blue Bottle Coffee investment group he leads draws from the Bay Area’s high-tech executives. It includes Tony Conrad, a founding member of True Ventures and the founder of About.com; Kevin Systrom, the co-founder and chief executive of Instagram; Kevin Rose, a general partner at Google Ventures and the founder of Digg; and Mike Volpi, a partner in Index Ventures, formerly of Cisco Systems.
Reached on the phone in Dublin, Mr. Meehan said that James Freeman, the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, would continue to occupy a central position in the company. “James promised to me that he’s going to spend the rest of his life growing his business,” Mr. Meehan said. “He’s the founder, and he’s still running things. My role will be chairman of the board.”
Mr. Strand goes on to quote James Freeman as saying “I’m still going to make decisions about where or if we open new shops, what the new shops look like, what the new shops feel like.” Which is kind of all that matters, right?
It’s one thing to say, “Hey, I’m selling the shop and moving to Timbuktu.” That’s not what James Freeman is doing. Wouldn’t it be super cool to build up your own small business from scratch, a small business that you’d put literally your entire life and soul and blood and sweat and brain into, and then be able to turn around and say, “Yes, please, $20,000,000 sounds fine, and I’ll keep running it and making it awesome just like before” - doesn’t that sound super cool? That’s pretty much what James Freeman got to do last week. We’d do it in a freaking heartbeat, and you probably would, too.
This breaking news was covered by The Wall Street Journal, who dubbed the transaction “a frothy new deal” and quoted True Ventures investor Tony Conrad as calling Blue Bottle “the Apple of coffee.” WSJ treats Blue Bottle’s partial sale as part of an ongoing trend, in which “tech cash pours into food start-ups,” or something. Last, Blue Bottle’s sale was posted about around an hour ago by Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine, in a feature that largely just paraphrased Mr. Strand’s piece.
So if you’re lucky enough to write about coffee, business, or the coffee business for a living, the last 36 hours have been a real bumpercrop of Blue Bottle sale news, for which we can all proudly file and invoice. Winner in the Blue Bottle Sale Journalism Sweepstakes goes to Oliver Strand, for actually picking up the phone and calling Mr. Freeman, Mr. Meehan, and other involved parties for his feature. Loser in the Blue Bottle Sale Journalism sweepstakes goes to Sprudge, for being jet-lagged and sick and felled by our schedules, and thus unable to, if not break the story ourselves, then at the very bloody least beat Nick Brown to it. Blogging is a lot easier when you don’t leave your house.