How the tech elite’s addiction to fancy coffee turned Blue Bottle into a tech startup

Blue Bottle’s fancy coffee shops have long been a favorite haunt of Silicon Valley’s movers and shakers.

So at some point, a who’s who of prominent venture capitalists decided that since they were pouring money into everything else, they might as well fund their preferred baristas too. Never mind that they had little experience in the coffee business.

That act of “entrepreneurial camaraderie,” as one investor described it to TechCrunch, set Blue Bottle on the cash-paved path that ultimately led to its reported $500 million sale to Nestle this week.

“They went from a cottage, taste-good artisan activity to a much more professionalized activity,” one early investor told the Financial Times on Thursday. “That’s the huge change in the five years since we invested.”

Blue Bottle isn’t the only Bay Area coffee chain to benefit from the artisanal caffeine craze among tech’s monied elite. You don’t even have to look far to find evidence. 

The curb outside Blue Bottle’s shop in San Francisco’s financial district is frequented by a Philz coffee truck, another formerly local institution that’s raised a total of $75 million from another set of major funds and celebrities like Jonah Hill, Snoop Dogg, and Jamie Kennedy. A few blocks from Twitter’s headquarters in the city’s tech hub, former Blue Bottle employees operate a coffee shop called Sightglass with funding from Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

Butter-infused Bulletproof coffee has raised $28 million in venture capital to build new shops, and the owners of a Bay Area coffee shop called Four Barrels told the San Francisco Chronicle that they are approached weekly by investors.

A coffee shop might look a little odd next to companies like Snapchat, Slack, or Uber on a portfolio sheet. But at a time when everything from vegan mayonnaise to condoms in the mail are considered tech startups, the defining line seems to often come down to what investors think is a good idea. 

And while they might profess a cold,…

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