There’s an arms race in retail to produce better coffee, and one startup, Bellwether Coffee, thinks it has the solution for retailers to sell the very best beans.
The business, headquartered in Berkeley, is today announcing a $40 million Series B financing led by DBL Partners and SolarCity co-founders Peter and Lyndon Rive. The round brings its total funding to $56 million, including a $10 million Series A last summer.
The hardware and software business manufactures tech-enabled zero-emission commercial coffee roasters designed to sit in cafes, grocery stores, on college campuses and any other place people buy coffee. Purchase of a roaster, which are sold for $75,000 or leased for $1,000 per month, comes with access to an online marketplace for coffee beans. The goal is to give coffee shops the power to roast their own beans, forgoing the middle men that have historically sold wholesale pre-roasted beans at a premium to cafes around the world.
“We want to create this connected coffee experience from the farm in Ethiopia all the way to the roaster at the cafe and the customer,” Bellwether chief executive officer Nathan Gilliland tells TechCrunch.
With roughly 140 customers, Bellwether plans to expand manufacturing capabilities and grow its customer-facing team with the infusion of venture capital funding. After growing revenues 6x in 2019, the startup is also unlocking its global ambitions, with launches in Southeast Asia and Europe scheduled for next year.
Gilliland credits the company’s growth to a larger movement at play: The “premiumization of coffee,” in which consumers are in search of higher quality cups of joe.
“You saw it happen with wine, you saw it in craft beer,” he said. “You were drinking Bud Light and now you’re drinking craft beer. You see it in higher-end grocery stores pushing out these products; it’s the premiumization of the category.”
“Thirty years ago, everyone drank Folgers, then Starbucks changed how everyone thought about coffee in the 80s, then Blue Bottle took it to the next step and that’s the backdrop,” he added.
Bellwether was founded in 2013 by Ricardo Lopez. The company is also backed by FusionX, Congruent Ventures, Coffee Bell, Tandem Capital, Spindrift Equities, XN Ventures, Balius Partners and Hardware Club.