Deals | Ex-Starbucks Courier Coffee Box Raises $25 Million to Expand Self-owned Coffee Chain

Deliver coffee for Starbucks? Not any more, the former “courier” now runs its own coffee chain. But why?

Screenshot from Coffee Box.
  • Founded in 2014, Coffee Box started off by delivering coffee for the coffee king Starbucks.

  • The company claims that as of April 2016, it has set up nearly 50 “coffee stations”  in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and accumulated more than 800,000 customers.

  • Coffee Box has already added to its official WeChat account its booking and operating systems.


Coffee Box (连咖啡), an online coffee chain operator, announced that it has just closed a ¥158 million (approx. USD 25 million) Series B+ round led by Qiming Venture Partners, with participation from Banyan Capital. The company had, prior to this round, completed 4 funding rounds from the investors including Eastern Bell Venture Capital, Xingtouzi and Huace Film & TV.

Founded in 2014, Coffee Box started off by delivering coffee for the coffee king Starbucks. And this business had rewarded the nascent startup in more than one way. In no more than a year, the company had managed to scoop up piles of user data, which can be translated directly into the access to the distribution of takeout coffee buyers and each customer’s preferred flavor and temperature. Riding on this advantage, the company decided to edge into the coffee chain business by delivering its own takeout coffee.

Coffee Box approaches the market in its own distinctive way, which is by setting up a small coffee shop, or a “station”, in each area identified with a strong demand for takeout coffee. A typical “station” is staffed with two baristas and several deliverymen, and costs around RMB 100,000+ (approx. USD 15.810+).

The company boasts guaranteed delivery within 30 minutes and operates in an asset-light business model. Its main spending is on rent, operation and its specialized supply chain. This has, in a way, allowed it to offer customers relatively cheap takeout coffee with good flavor. As a matter of fact, Coffee Box’s asset-light business model and distinctive positioning also mean that it can be a good bet for investors.

Ex-Starbucks Courrier Coffee Box Raises $25 Million to Expand Self-owned Coffee Chain
LIAN Zhang, co-founder of Coffee Box. Screenshot from Coffee Box.

According to the team, the company had, as of April 2016, set up nearly 50 “stations” in core commercial areas in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and accumulated more than 800,000 customers. And it claimed that it had already expanded the number of its “stations” in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to 100+ and started to make profits by the end of 2017. Its sales had peaked to approx. 400,000 cups of coffee in every single day during the “Double Twelve” promotion.

As an online coffee chain operator, Coffee Box has to constantly hone its online marketing skills, as it depends entirely on them to grow its customer base. For this reason, the company has already added to its official WeChat account its booking and operating systems. And it has also been investing heavily in social media marketing. Aside from that, the company is constantly innovating to upgrade its menu to woo customers that crave for novel taste. In 2017, Coffee Box added 30 new coffee drinks to its menu, which include the hit drinks Bulletproof Coffee and Pink Coconut.

Coffee Box was co-founded by ZHANG Xiaogao, a veteran in the area of traditional supply chain, and WANG Jiang, a serial entrepreneur in the internet industry and also an angel investor. 2018 will see the company get on the trajectory of aggressive expansion, said ZHANG, CEO of Coffee Box.

Read more: Bringing Internet Business Model to the Coffee Industry, Will Luckin Coffee Threaten Starbucks?

Writer: HUANG Xuejiao