‘The easiest way to improve quality of life in an office is with good coffee.’ When it comes to the magic bean, Stephen Rapoport doesn't hold back. ‘Good coffee is a human right. Instant is a criminal offence.’
And luckily he wants to help keep us all on the straight and narrow.
Fresh from selling previous startup Crashpadder to Airbnb, the serial entrepreneur turned a hobby into a business by setting up the coffee subscription service Pact two years ago. Guatemalan, Columbian or whatever takes your fancy, is delivered direct to your door. And for caffeine addicts out there, instant gratification (and no, not literally instant, it’s only the good stuff) is guaranteed by next-day delivery.
Looking after people is at the heart of Rapoport’s business strategy.
During the interview he spends at least half of the time wiping down the coffee bar, which is partly made from old coffee crates, and preparing the ideal cup of coffee for us. He filters one brew into a sculptured glass coffee pot, the other through an AeroPress and the third gets the ‘muscle-blower of a cafetiere’. You feel like he’s done this countless times before.
Good manners and exemplary hospitality aside, Rapoport's mission ‘to put customers at the core of the business’ isn’t just an empty cliché.
Every customer has their own account manager and every day, at midday, the entire team rings five customers who’ve joined in the last 48 hours to thank them and ask for feedback. Customers are also encouraged to pop in, watch a coffee-making masterclass, relax, use the wi-fi and talk to Pact staff about their product. Lukewarm reactions aren’t good enough; Rapoport wants customers to rave. It’s all part of giving, as he puts it, ‘thousands of customers that "Holy Shit" moment… I want to give them unbridled pleasure.’
Eighteen months on, and having closed a £2 million Series A round led by MMC Ventures in August, the team is set to expand further.
Pact are based in The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey and the mouthwatering smell of ground coffee permeates the air. Inside, the coffee bar takes pride of place at the heart of the open-plan office. The team has grown from a staff of three, 18 months ago, to 36 currently. In that time, they've burned through four Workspace offices. ‘We actually moved in to Workspace on Valentine’s Day. Moving out of my kitchen was my present to my wife,’ Rapoport jokes.
‘We chose Workspace primarily for its flexibility. The only thing you know when running a startup is that in three months you’ll either need more space or a lot less. There’s no point in being locked into a longterm lease.’
Eighteen months on, and having closed a £2 million Series A round led by MMC Ventures in August, the team is set to expand further. They are broadening the service by launching Coffeerun, a subscription service for workplaces. It’s simple: they work out how much and what kind of coffee you want for your office and deliver it. There’s demand for it: an internal LinkedIn survey revealed that employees spend an average of £40 a month on going out for coffee.
‘It’s low-hanging fruit,’ Rapoport says enthusiastically, ‘and the easiest way to improve the quality of life of your staff.’
Anyone who’s had enough of Nescafé, is sick of coffee chains or has drawn the short straw for the coffee run too many times will surely agree. They’ll never have to suffer again. Rapoport says proudly: ‘We’ve never lost a business customer. In fact, when one of or customers tweeted "Not enough coffee" one day before their next delivery, Felix jumped on his bike and delivered it in an hour.’
As with any self-respecting startup, the staff are just as well looked after as customers.
Given the unlimited holidays and a green light to work out of the office, it’s lucky their workplace is so appealing. They're currently recruiting an in-house chef. The open-plan office, with its large wooden desks and two levels, lends itself to collaboration and communication and mirrors the flat structure of office politics. Sound familiar? Rapoport sees the company as a technology startup. ‘We’re a digital startup that happens to work with coffee. In fact, we’ve been used as a case study by Reddit, Facebook and Google.’
They face many of the same problems as all digital startups.
SEIS and EIS have been good for small businesses, but they’re not without their flaws, Rapoport concedes. He gets more worked up by immigration restrictions. He’s pragmatic, however: 'The economy and the environment are secondary to internal considerations. The best way the government can help is by getting out of the way!' We can't help but agree; new and growing companies need to be empowered to get on and do what they do best.
Check out Pact Coffee