Entrepreneurs Guide to Coffee Shops

Posted by Pierre de la Fortune on July 29, 2015 @ 12:01 a.m.

Written by DC Founders

Over the past two years building my company, I have worked out of every conceivable location the house, the office, the co-working space, and by far the most time from the best place of all the coffee-shop.

But if you dont find a good spot, you can waste over 5 hours of your day and $300-$1000/month (I measured) in shuttling between coffeeshops, ordering food, and fighting wi-fi troubles. Plus you get kicked out because youre there for so long.

This pain seriously adds up. So here is my lessons learned guide to choosing the right spot:

Its never Free

The cost of working out of a coffeeshop is far from zero. For any of you that are interested, to work an 8hour day from a coffeeshop, you are expected/required to spend between $10-$30. And its usually on the high end of this range. If you dont go home for lunch or bring your own food (hehe) you are going to be closer to $50/day. This ends up around $250-$1000/month (accounting for about 20 days a month).

These are real costs, not to be discounted when you do your financial planning, and if you are running a lean startup, youd better make sure you understand this.

Wifi and Power

The biggest issues, bar-none, are wifi connections and plugs. This is the bane of everyones existence and the one definitive issue to choosing where to work.


The most consistent wi-fi is at national chains like Starbucks, with Carribou close behind. Speeds are usually limited, so youll never really fly, but youll usually have enough to work. Local coffeeshops and restaurants have great bandwidth if there are few people around (and not too many leeches from the neighborhood), and terrible connectivity.

Meaning if a small coffeeshop has a packed house and youre not facebooking or emailing, go elsewhere.


Plugs are another issue that makes a big difference if your laptop doesnt do 5hrs+ on a charge this becomes critical. Places vary. Carribou powers everything. starbucks is hit or miss. Most others vary, and youd better be fast on the draw if youre going to get that seat with power.

Awesome Tip: Here is a tip that will save you thousands of dollars, hundreds of man-hours, and improve your productivity 2X or more (not exaggeration) buy a 4G Wireless Card and a Macbook Air with 10hrs+ of battery life.

Keep an eye on your burn-rate, but if you can afford it, you will not be sorry.

Another tip: carry a mini powerstrip in your bag, youll always get in even if plugs are taken, and you can make friends when others ask to use it.


Tipping is tricky, because you dont want the relationship to be financial (you need to save those dollars). Of course its a great thing, so always do it if you can. But if youre on a serious budget, heres the way it goes:

Big chains tips are communal, and not neccessarily noticed, so tip if you know them and they see it.

Mid-size chains Often/Always if table service they dont know you very well, and youre kind of annoying if you want to be welcome youd better tip well on that coffee youve been sipping on for 3 hours 30-150% when your order is $2-$5. Dont forget, youre not tipping for the service, youre tipping so they leave you alone.

Mom and pop Depends its tricky If they have table service, then a definite yes (see mid-size). If not, it depends. If you come in often and you tip every time, your coffee costs double. Occasional can work, but usually once you start, you are always expected to, and if you stop after starting, you become persona-non-grata, thats all bad. Your best bet is to use your charm as tip (To-do: get some charm). That way the relationship is not financial. But break that rule if you can, tipping is a good thing.


If you dont want noise, stay home (or go to a public library a highly underused resource). I thrive in ambient sound, especially when I am grooving to music in my earphones. But of course there are limits. Places really differ, but here are a few general tips:

Hipster hotspots are hit or miss

Some are great, some are fun, and you usually have some good conversations (especially with that cute girl/guy across the table), but if they are popular, there are some downsides: every other night is indie-band night, a torn couch is not as good as a table, internet may not be that great, and its hard to work when youre hitting-on/getting-hit-on anyone within 10ft (:-D) thats annoying.

Busy pass-through coffee spots are a last resort If there is a lot of nine-to-fiver rush (e.g. downtown) and the place is small, youll be bothered more than you like, if you cant hide in a corner dont bother.

Avoid kids and college student hangouts (unless is a study hangout) They hang out in coffee shops without much agenda, tend to be loud, and make you wish you were at a kegger instead of squashing code-bugs.

Attitude of owners

Lets face it, startups and startup founders generally suck as revenue generators. They stay for many *many* hours, drink only coffee, take the best spots in the house, and come back over and over.

This is not the financial windfall most establishments dream of. (On the upside they do get the mystique of being associated with the hotbed of activity comprised of that one dude wearing giant earphones in the corner. So its really a toss up).Here is how to work the system:

Big chains like Starbucks, Seattle Coffee (also Starbucks), and Carribou

Big chains dont kick you out homeless people sleep there, so they allow semi-homeless entrepreneurs to type there. If you want to be frugal, you can even bring a lunch from home, this saves hundreds a week and will prevent you from having just one cookie to get that sugar high when youre already vibrating from the caffeine.

Midsize coffeeshops/chains

Often these guys can be cool, but dont wear their patience they probably havent been sued for discrimination yet so they can kick out people that dont buy drinks or bring their own lunch judge for yourself, but best to be a bit more discreet.

Mom and Pop shops

Its like this you either need to buy continuously (every 2hrs thereabouts) or you need to make friends with the owners/managers. The best is to do both.

Make sure youre on a first name basis. Tell them about your startup, what you are doing when youre there, how you are going to change the world. They will usually get on board, make you their little poster boy, and will loosen up on the buying cycle and may even slip you some coffee-freebies. They may even promote you to their other customers. But dont bring a lunch, thats offensive to an owner.

Hope this was helpful to you and evidently the procrastinator in me is satisfied so I will now go back to real work while sipping my esspresso for the next four hours at a local coffeeshop where I fix their wifi and they dont bother me.

Hang in there kids!

For more info please visit: http://dcfounders.com/entrepreneurs-guide-to-coffee-shops/

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