San Diego Business Journal

Two San Diego-based coffee startups, called Vendibean and Perfecto Coffee, have pivoted their business strategies to provide a “touchless” coffee experience for local businesses to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Vendibean was created by sister and brother duo Teal and Tristan Cooper in 2017. Co-Founder Teal Cooper said she wanted to create a different experience than the traditional powdered products that most people associate with coffee vending machines.

Headquartered in Miramar, the coffee startup makes vending machines that brew espresso-based beverages at the push of a button.

Nearly 70 Machines Deployed

Selling into the corporate vertical, its machines can be found at some of the world’s best places to work. In total, the company has nearly 70 machines deployed in between San Diego and Orange counties. Including UC San Diego and Palomar College’s campuses, as well as corporate customers in Amazon, HP, Cox Communications and Volcom.

Earlier this year, Vendibean set a goal to reach 240 machines by the end of the year with expansions into Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. The founders Teal and Tristan Cooper were also in the midst of fundraising, seeking to grow their team from five people to 25.

However, when the coronavirus hit, everything was put on pause, Cooper said. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for everyone. We started the year off with a lot of traction and it felt like the rug was ripped out from under us.”

Temporary Setback

Seen as a temporary setback, Vendibean introduced its latest iteration that involves zero contact coffee. For example, workers can now order their coffee, simply by hovering their finger over the selection instead of pressing it.

“Our touchscreen allows you to hover your finger over the selection at centimeters away,” said Cooper. “You can get anything from a coconut milk to a mocha to a latte. In addition, we also removed the cup window so you can put your mug in without coming into contact with anything.”

Vendibean competes in a competitive office coffee market, between Keurig pods and large coffee pots. The company sources its technology from a European company that makes automated espresso machines, and chooses local roasters, such as Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, for its beans. Cooper said, the quality of its drinks is what sets the company apart.

Most of its revenue comes from selling its coffee product through the machines. At retail sites, customers pay for each cup of coffee, which is brewed at the push of a button. It also offers a subscription-based plan for offices that want to offer gratis cappuccinos to their workers.

“We are super excited that we were able to pivot during these challenging times to help optimize companies’ breakrooms for COVID-19 when they return to the office,” said Cooper.

This month the company began installing its first machine in the Los Angeles area and has seen traction with its latest touchless option. Cooper said, many of its accounts are slowly starting to get back into the office.

Perfecto Coffee, was founded by local entrepreneur and retired U.S. Marine Bruce Long. Long brings over 15 years of experience serving in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton and Air Station Miramar.

Due to several back injuries during his time of service, Long was forced to retire and that inspired him to become an entrepreneur. Similar to Vendibean, Perfecto Coffee offers an office coffee solution through a mobile application and fully automated espresso machine.

Users can conveniently access espresso-based drinks that are coffee shop quality beverages throughout the workday, by simply placing their order from their smartphone and walking over to their espresso machine.

Launched Mobile Unit

Long said his team also had to pivot from its original business model, which included getting its espresso kiosk inside of organizations. Last month, the early-stage company launched its mobile coffee unit which can be parked in front of any local businesses, workplace, or even gyms.

“Overall, there has been a lot achieved in the last 4 months despite the pandemic situation that has been and continues to be around us and our potential customers,” Long said. “Our business has been totally restructured, new products added, plus new marketing strides to enhance the brand and garner response to the Perfecto concept.”

Unique compared to other fully automated coffee machines on the market. Long said the company offers real ingredients inside its espresso machines such as sugar-free syrups, organic milk, and whole bean options as well as additional flavors like chocolate truffle and chai.

“Our premium coffee selection meets every demand with our internal automatic dosing station and fully customizable recipe options in under a minute,” said Long.

The company is currently in talks with three large organizations with two potentially leading to kiosk sales and a distribution arrangement, said Long. Successfully weathering the storm, Perfecto Coffee’s long-term plan is three fold.

“Our goal is to continue to build out our brand recognition, launch our mobile application, and secure our first machine on a Marine Corps or Navy base in San Diego,” Long said. “We have had very positive results with the people who tasted Perfecto Coffee,” said Long.

Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Long now resides in San Diego and plans on retiring here. “San Diego has always been dear to our hearts and we would love to grow Perfecto Coffee here to be a pillar within the coffee industry.”

Consumers can also purchase Perfecto Coffee’s whole beans through its online website. Founded last year, the startup employs two people and was a graduate in the Founders First Capital Partners 2019 business accelerator program, among several other programs.