Some of the coolest stories in entrepreneurship right now, dont involve bits sites like Facebook or LinkedIn but rather a new wave of companies leveraging the startup ecosystem, tools, and mindset to remake the world of atoms.
Im thrilled to say two of the best, and most fascinating, examples of this trend are coming to Pandoland our big annual event in Nashville this June. And, by coincidence, they also happen to be two young brands that I rely on to help me cope with my own entrepreneurial journey.
Weve just confirmed that SoulCycles founders Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, and Blue Bottle founder James Freeman and investor Tony Conrad, will be joining our near 30-person-strong, insane line up of speakers. (Get your early bird tickets here before the price ticks up again)
SoulCycle has become an addiction for celebrities, founders, housewives, and seemingly just about everyone else in a dozen or so major cities across the US. And dont think this is a women-only trend: I was first turned onto it by Rebel Mouses Paul Berry. Twitters Dick Costolo is such an enthusiast he brought a SoulCycle pop up to CES this year. On the surface, its just spinning classes. But Rice and Cutler have been masters of the details, crafting a 45 minute experience thats somewhere between an expensive exercise class, cheap therapy, and a cult.
Its success has spawned legions of copycats. Big questions remain over whether SoulCycle is a fad, how many cities can stomach the $30 per class fee, and how the brand can grow from here. (Rice and Cutler are also doing a PandoMonthly in New York next month, where we will focus more on their personal journey.)
Just like SoulCycle seems to be just another spinning class, Blue Bottle seems, on the face of it, like just another retail coffee chain. But James Freeman has always had a bigger vision, hoping to out-Starbucks Starbucks by not being much like Starbucks. VCs believed him enough to bet $20 million on the company. Tony Conrad of True Ventures who will join Freeman on stage is such a fan he makes sure to hold a cup of Blue Bottle on stage and in nearly every photo opp.
There are a new wave of roasters getting big cash these days, whether its Stumptons partial private equity buyout or Sightglasss backing from Jack Dorsey. But Blue Bottle has bet it can go big in a way the others havent with the recent round, and its doing so on quality, sure, but also on brand, experience, and product extension that makes those CDs in Starbucks look like a core part of a coffee business. Like, ahem, a painstakingly conceived coloring book about coffee or $150 pajamas. No T-shirts and mugs though.
To be sure, theres a fair bit of obsession about the coffee itself. As Michael Copeland wrote in Fortune:
It’s coffee that is obsessively sourced, with provenance so detailed that buyers like Freeman can not only tell you the names of some of the people who pick it but describe the shade trees under which it grows. It’s coffee that is painstakingly roasted to bring out aromas and flavors described by terms like pea shoot, dried banana, and hay. And because the precious organic beans deserve no less, the coffee is brewed in elaborate glass contraptions imported from Japan, or slowly hand-poured into individual drip filters, using kettles with spouts as slim and graceful as a swan’s neck. For an extra 50¢ or a dollar per cup, and an extra five or 10 minutes in line, Blue Bottle elevates your coffee experience well above anything you’ve had before, or even what you thought was possible.
Call them the Walt Disney of spinning and the Steve Jobs of coffee. They are not only the twin fuels that keep many an entrepreneur in New York and San Francisco moving, but amazing entrepreneur stories in their own right. No matter what you are building, you will be able to learn from these masters who obsesses over every detail to remake things we already took for granted. Most important, they dont fit the normal 20-something YC kid mold.
Get your tickets now. Many more announcements coming soon. You do not want to miss this event.