Robin Boe of Fore Coffee, a Buzz From Your Phone: Startup Stories
8 April 2019
As one of the world’s biggest coffee producers and exporters, Indonesia has an incredibly strong culture of coffee drinking. From the modest warung kopi (coffee stalls) to international coffeehouse chains, the caffeinated beverage is an inseparable part of the daily lives of many Indonesians. This is what inspired Robin Boe to build Otten Coffee, an e-commerce platform that carried coffee-related products, and then establish a “digital coffee” startup called Fore Coffee in August 2018.
“I’ve been a big fan of coffee since forever. I started learning about coffee four years ago when I was living in Medan, North Sumatra. I learned about the process of coffee making, from picking the beans to brewing, directly from the farmers, which I found very fascinating. And that’s how I started to delve into the coffee business,” Boe said.
Fore Coffee is the first coffee startup in Indonesia that integrates data, a mobile application, and technology to offer a full offline-to-online experience for coffee-drinkers in Indonesia. The mobile app allows customers to order a coffee and pick it up at an outlet of their preference, or have it delivered it to their location.
Fore Coffee now has 34 outlets across Jakarta and aims to open more than 100 outlets by the end of this year. The startup raised USD 8.5 million in a Series A round in January, and its investors include East Ventures, SMDV, Pavilion Capital, and Agaeti Venture Capital. Considering how young the company is, it’s growing at an incredible rate.
“We saw that the digital ecosystem in the food and beverage industry in Indonesia has developed well, thanks to online food delivery platforms like Go-Jek. We believe that technology can make things more efficient, including simple activities like drinking coffee,” said Boe.
Inspired by the emergence of Luckin Coffee in China, Boe believes that the future is bright for coffee businesses in Indonesia.
“I think that Indonesians’ coffee culture is at a mature stage where people are more aware and curious about single origin coffee, its original flavor, and its brewing method,” Boe said.
“Compared to China, the quantity of coffee shops in Indonesia is still far behind, but we are heading there. We believe that China and Indonesia have similar behaviors in terms of consumption and technology trends, so we are optimistic that this O2O concept is also acceptable for Indonesian coffee connoisseurs.”
However, Fore Coffee claims that it is not too keen to follow in Luckin Coffee’s footsteps, considering that Indonesian and Chinese consumers don’t shop online in the same way. “In China, most of the purchases are made online, while the cashless purchasing is a relatively new concept in Indonesia,” Boe said.
Even so, it seems like Fore Coffee’s app has had a pretty good start. Launched in December 2018, the app now has more than 465 thousand registered users. Boe said that 70% of Fore’s orders are made through the app while the rest are from ride-hailing platforms and walk-in orders. Fore Coffee is partnering with Go-Pay and Ovo for payments and is open to adopting more platforms.
According to Boe, Fore is best known for its pandan latte. The chain also offers seasonal latte flavors to ensure there are rotations in its menu—the company’s best-selling drink right now is Fore’s rose latte.
If Boe has his way, he’ll take the flavors of freshly brewed coffee from the most experienced baristas, and place them into your hands, all after a few taps on your phone. But he realizes that a big part of coffee culture is the socialization that takes place when people come together in a coffee shop. Boe respects that, which is why Fore’s locations are set up like neighborhood joints.
Even so, the chain’s customers still prefer to order their drinks via Fore’s app, mainly because they can take advantage of the promotions that are available to customers who place orders online. This way, Boe says, Fore can map out its customers’ behaviors, refine its app, and make new, better drinks in the future.