Through MyCoffeeWorld, coffee pioneer Pascal Schlittler and a group of investors provide entrepreneurial equity, hands-on support, and business expertise to innovative coffee start-ups.
Even before falling for the coffee industry, Pascal Schlittler had a mind for building businesses. He started his first company at 22 years of age while still in university, and from there, built a successful career, leading him to the position of CEO of Lenovo Switzerland. When the opportunity came up to work with Eric Favre, creator of the Nespresso capsule system, on coffee capsule start-up Mocoffee, Schlittler jumped at the chance to apply all he had learnt about business and build this new company from the ground up.
“To be an entrepreneur and building things is in my DNA,” Schlittler says. “We started Mocoffee in a little shop here in Zurich and really embraced that start-up feeling. If you told me back then that five years from now, I’d be selling it to a large Brazilian group, I would have said, ‘yeah, we’ll keep dreaming’. But it happened.”
After selling Mocoffee in 2017, Schlittler wanted to share his talent for growing businesses, and after consulting for several companies, created investment platform MyCoffeeWorld. But MyCoffeeWorld does more than invest. The platform offers hands-on support and research and development, currently taking on the form of cuppings and blend development for coffee capsule technologies.
“For me, it was very clear that I really enjoyed the coffee industry. It took me from Hong Kong to Rio de Janeiro and I saw the entire world. It was so fascinating. On one side, we have interesting technology, and on the other side, there is passion and a natural product,” Schlittler says. “I was working for and with people and very often had to do things the way they wanted. I decided I want to shape an organisation or develop a structure the way I want, to create my own coffee world.”
MyCoffeeWorld allows Schlittler and a group of industry professionals to contribute to companies with not only money, but experience and connections within the coffee industry. Others involved in the platform include strategic adviser Hans Gattlen, former CEO of Franke Coffee Systems and former Chairman/Co-owner of Egro Coffee Systems, and Harold Hunziker, former CEO of McDonald’s Switzerland, who brings experience in gastronomy and scaling businesses.
“Hans is also shareholder and Member of the Board of Roasting Plant, supporting the company since the very beginning” Schlittler says. “He is our Chairman at Stoppani, where we build, among other things, modules and machines for the coffee machine and food and beverage industries.”
Hunziker also owns the Swiss licence of the premium Italian panini brand Panino Giusto, and was responsible for its successful launch in Geneva. Schlittler says this demonstrates the active work of the entrepreneurs in the group.
“I started analysing the entire scene of venture capital and start-ups in Switzerland and its surrounding countries, and found that very often, investors jump from one topic to another. I thought if I really focus on coffee, with my experience and know-how, I could offer something these ‘business angels’ weren’t,” Schlittler says. “The coffee world is not well organised to support start-ups, especially in Europe. It’s getting better, but is nowhere near the United States, where you see these extremely successful fundraisers gather millions. Sometimes we have these great ideas here [in Europe], but they struggle to find the right people to help move them forward.”
Schlittler says he is not the only one to express this sentiment. Through MyCoffeeWorld, he works closely with Professor Chahan Yeretzian of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences Coffee Excellence Center, who sees many innovative ideas go to waste.
“Very often I meet these young entrepreneurs who have beautiful ideas, but they really don’t know how to handle the fundraising and the financing of the company,” Yeretzian says. “I’m not a businessman in the classic sense, so I can contribute from a technical point of view, but MyCoffeeWorld has the potential to act as a hub where people can receive help establishing a network within the industry and building their business.”
MyCoffeeWorld has already aided several start-ups and small businesses to reach new levels of development and investment. Schlittler says his great success has been with Algrano, the online green bean trading platform that provides producers with greater autonomy and buyers with full traceability.
“Algrano has seen three-digit growth rates in the past 15 months. This is absolutely amazing. Our focus was on supporting the sales and marketing department. We helped the founders to establish a business message and structure the sales team. Great work by the founders sped things up,” Schlittler says. “A few big companies discovered they were buying coffee that was wrongly declared, putting their brand reputations at risk. Algrano operates as a wonderful compliance platform providing full traceability. We can’t take full credit for this massive success, but we helped Algrano prepare for this growth.”
Also seeing a positive growth in 2019 was American coffee chain Roasting Plant, which opened its first store in the United Kingdom in January, and has a second store in London opening soon.
Schlittler says the Droops dissolvable coffee capsule concept has also had “fantastic momentum”. Schlittler presented the concept at the AMI Capsules 2019 event in Berlin in September, where it received a great deal of interest from the many industry figures in attendance.
“The capsule industry is creating a huge amount of waste. We’re talking about 60 billion capsules that have to be disposed of every year. [The industry] has to look at solutions that produce less waste,” Schlittler says. “Droops offers this with a degree of flair and creativity this is going to prove popular. Under my guidance, with consultation and generating huge momentum, a multimillion deal was signed for the further development of the solution in October.”
Another MyCoffeeWorld project that has piqued industry interest is Mastercoldbrewer.
“We’re currently in discussion with several major companies from Europe, Asia, and North America about leveraging our unique manufacturing method ‘spin cold brew‘ and our brand and product concept RE-Coffee on an international scale,” Owner Roland Laux says. “The options range from licensing for production, co-packing, collaboration in distribution to acquisition.”
Currently, Schlittler’s attention is focused on MyCoffeeWorld’s latest project with F&P Robotics, adapting its Barney robotic bar system for the coffee industry.
“We’ve made a deal with a prominent manufacturer to use their machines in the barista Barney, using their digital intelligence so the robot can communicate directly with the machine,” Schlittler says. “We’ve also developed the sales message, marketing, and communications. Now, we need to bring it to market.”
Despite the individual successes of the companies, Schlittler sees the real value in how these companies can complement each other’s offerings.
“Very often I see entrepreneurs with an excellent idea, but one product alone is often not enough to run a business. But if you look at MyCoffeeWorld’s projects, you’ll see a lot of complementary services. For instance, Algrano could be used to purchase green coffee for the other companies. A focused network can really develop the synergies between these organisations, helping them all grow and flourish,” Schlittler says.
“The next stage of MyCoffeeWorld is to develop an alliance of industrial companies, similar to those you find in the airline industry. All these companies remain independent but work together and complement each other.”
Schlittler says with the right guidance and support, this type of investment hub or think tank could provide a focus that’s missing in the coffee industry.
“Many of the coffee industry professionals in my circles are investing in start-ups, sometimes in the same projects and others not. If we could pool our resources, it would provide us with a safety net, and these innovative ideas with greater funding,” Schlittler says.
“I hate the idea that to start a business, you have to bet everything and risk your entire life to move forward. If someone has a good idea, they deserve a setup that can give them the lift they need to make it a success.”
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