It sounds weired to say so, but still, rather than just serving people with nice coffee, sometimes café also could serve as a sign for the prosperity of one industry.
Back in 2009, Chinese internet business experienced tremendous growth with a series of hallmark events including Shanda Games went public and Shanda Interactive Entertainment acquired Hurray!, Xiaonei(means ) rebranded itself to Renren in an attempt to approach to a broader user base, Google China head Kaifu Lee quitted to establish incubator Innovation Works etc. One other relatively insignificant but profound event is, the setup of BetaCafe in Hangzhou by some internet guys. And beta, represents the philosophy and practice of doing web product by the motto of “Release early and release often”, like Google with Gmail.
According to the founders of BetaCafe, the place is intended to act as a venue for peers gathering, industry workshop, its target customers would be people who work in internet business. Alibaba which headquartered in Hangzhou boosted the local internet business environment, BetaCafe gradually became a regular venue for web products manager, UI designers, coders and other from internet business. Also it is said that Alibaba executives frequented the place. After two years of operation, in this February, BetaCafe opened its branch in Beijing in the China Technology Exchange Plaza in Zhongguanchun area of Beijing. Kaifu Lee’s innovation Works also headquartered in the same building.
Then two months after BetaCafe Beijing branch store opened its doors to customers, Garage Café announced its existence with a dozen of people of consequence came celebrating its opening and since then has been attracting more and more people with its unique concept of open office space and its offerings of innumerable industry events.
Later on comes the 3WCafe, whose brand name directly suggests its internet nature.
We Serve Both Elegant Coffee and Better Environment
According to one of the founders of 3WCafe, compared to the other two similar cafés in Zhongguancun, 3W cares more about the quality of coffee and grace and comfort of the environment. The decoration cost is like over 1 million RMB (US$ 154 thousand), and they spend 2500 yuan (US$ 386.5) on a chair, the founder disclosed.
Also, they differentiated themselves from the other two as an exquisite hangout place, a gathering venue, whereas Garage Café is more of an open office space for startups. Garage Café founder Su Di said in an interview that they were considering turning 80% of their seating into fixed office space, with the remaining 20% for casual clients. In contrast, 3WCafe welcomes casual clients, and, has no intention to turn itself into another office space.
3WCafe has a splendid list of stockholders, including executives from all those big internet companies, venture capitals including Tencent, Sina, Northern Light Venture Capital, Sequoia China, Kingsoft, Google China, Innovation Works and Qunar. You can check the incomplete list here.
3W is fully-equipped with facilities like projectors, wireless microphone, comfortable sofas, a big LCD TV which featuring customers’ Sina Weibo posts associated with 3WCafe, such as check-ins.
The Zhongguancun based cafe is poised to be one of the venue for internet related events, one of the founders said so.
On top of being an event venue and gathering place, since the founders of 3WCafe are well-connected and come from a disparate array of different positions associated with internet, be it development, product design, business development or investment, the café is also considering invest in some projects while leverage its resources to help its portfolios grow.
So maybe next time don’t just talk about your projects in the office, talk about it in public in 3WCafe. By doing so, you may land an investment.
Douban and Coffee
One legendary story about Chinese internet and café is, Yangbo, the founder of social rating site Douban, wrote the first line of Douban codes in a Starbucks near Douban Hutong. That might be the initial association of Chinese internet and coffee.
And now, Starbucks becomes more and more crowded, new cafes like Beta, Garage and 3W sprang up around the Chinese Silicon Valley, Zhongguancun. Although none of them has broke even yet, their stockholders seem couldn’t care less about this issue. What concerns them most is, how to leverage their resources to influence and improve Chinese internet environment across the board, by hosting more productive events, workshops, by bridging the gap between capitals and entrepreneurs, and by facilitating more projects.