“ Subscription services can bear a resemblance to the story of Goldilocks: Sometimes you end up with way too much of what you ordered, risking spoilage. Other times, you run out faster than planned. The answer, according to one company, is a scale” (Wallace, 1).
Bottomless, a new Seattle upstart, created a coffee subscription company that makes the reordering process automatic and predicts the days you’ll need a new bag of beans to arrive at your door by using a smart scale to determine when you’re running low. The company knows exactly what you want, when you need it.
After each use, coffee subscribers place their bag of beans on a wifi-enabled scale, sending data and analyses of consumption activity. The service includes the scale and starts at $5.99 per month with coffees that range from $12 to $20.
The pandemic resulted in a skyrocket of e-commerce purchases, increasing the demand for subscription and delivery-based services, therefore helping boost the coffee subscription company with more people stuck in their homes.
As of the week of Friday, October 23rd, Bottomless counted 6,000 customers. Last year around this time, their customers counted up to only 750.
With COVID influencing the way people view technology and online services, the trend of buying products online has increased dramatically and will most likely continue for a few years.
“The company has come a long way since its inception in 2016 when Herrera and co-founder Michael Mayer — neither of whom had backgrounds in hardware development — conceptualized and invented the smart scale that would serve as Bottomless’ backbone. In true startup fashion, the duo bootstrapped the firm and spent the early days hand-soldering 3D-printed scales in their tiny apartment. They partnered with some roasters and signed up a couple hundred customers” (Wallace, 8)
At eighteen years old, Herrera emigrated from Peru without any knowledge of english at the time. She held different jobs until she was able to attend university in Portland, Oregon. Herrera grew up believing there was no other route to success other than hard work; She applied those lessons and skills she had learned during her upbringing to her career.
Bottomless received venture capital backing, business connections and mentorship after landing in the Winter 2019 cohort at Y Combinator, the legendary Silicon Valley startup accelerator. The company was able to afford their first manufacturing run earlier this year in which they said goodbye to handmade scales.
“What has resulted is a “premiumization” of coffee purchases at retail and grocery stores, said Jim Watson, senior analyst for beverages research at Rabobank. People are spending more for whole bean coffee and pricier grounds, he said” (Wallace, 14). While grocery stores do carry a good selection of specialty and premium coffees, most of them are from global and national brands. With COVID-19, the importance of shopping local has been emphasized along with the opportunity to tap into local roasters.
Helping local businesses and being an online subscription service has worked out in the companies favor, but drastic economic shifts from the early part of the pandemic has caused instability in the finely-tuned system.
In spring, some roasters experienced higher turnover after stark drop-offs in sales, so new employees had to be retrained on the Bottomless process. When the USPS timelines got rocky, Hererra and Mayer rebuilt their machine learning models. In addition to the shaky times COVID brought, existing customers that suffered from job loss were forced into cancelling their Bottomless subscription.
Now, eight months into the pandemic, these aspects stabilized and the company is seeing steady growth in new customers and sales. “The activity is fueling optimism for a future where Bottomless could expand its technology into other product categories such as pet food and personal care” (Wallace, 19).
To find or subscribe to bottomless, click here.
This blog post was written by Krista Pham, our intern.
The article that inspired this piece can be found, here.