In an ongoing Life After Launch series, we interview various alumni about how they’re doing and what they have been up to since their time at Launch.
Who are you?
I’m Tom Fitzgerald, the founder of Siply, a mobile app that curates the best coffee shops in Vancouver then gives you crazy savings on your drinks. I’m also the founder of VancouverCoffeeSnob.com, Canadas biggest coffee shop blog.
When did you join / leave Launch?
August – October 2018.
Are you still working on the start-up you were at Launch?
Yep! Although currently most coffee shops are closed so I’ve pivoted temporarily into providing pro-bono consulting services for cafes so they can have a fighting chance at surviving the city-wide COVID-19 lockdown.
How is it doing?
Ignoring the COVID-19 lockdown situation, Siply is going great. We launched our open beta in May and have 3000 users using the app so far, all organic. Revenues have grown about 25% a month since we started and we’re inches away from finishing version two of the app, which will be our full “coming out of beta” launch. We’ve spoken to more users than I can remember and gotten loads of great feedback to help us build out our new version.
Who do you still keep in touch with from your Launch days?
Sam of course, that guy is everywhere! He’s even using Siply which is nice. So we can creep his account and watch what drinks he’s buying and target him with hyper-specific Facebook ad’s to freak him out.
What was the biggest lesson you learned during your time at Launch?
Everyone finds this entrepreneur shit hard. It’s really easy to read websites and listen to podcasts about how successful people are. They all make it look easy. In reality, it’s really fucking hard to build a business. Hanging out with other business owners at Launch was great to see that it’s not just me finding the whole experience insanely challenging.
What is one piece of advice you can pass on to fellow #launchcrew members out there?
Go to the events. Especially the pitch practice. Then go pitch at external events. Stop saying you will and then not doing it. Pitch your mum right now. Seriously, pick up the phone and pitch her. Then pitch at Volition and VanTech and anywhere else that will listen to you. Eventually, you’ll need to do it and actually ask for money, so you might as well start practicing now. Plus it’s nice to be able to rattle off an elevator pitch when someone new asks you “what do you do”. Look me up on LinkedIn and pitch me if you have to.
Also, don’t try Sam’s instant “coffee”, it’s actually a jar of lies that tastes nothing like coffee.
What do you recommend right now for those reading that want a good cup of joe?
Right now the more we stay indoors the quicker this COVID silly business is over. So head over to this blog post here to see who is delivering coffee at the moment.
How has COVID affected the coffee industry?
The effects have been monumental for the coffee industry and pretty much any hospitality-based business. Over the space of about two days coffee shop sales dropped 80% on average. 75% of coffee shops across the city are now indefinitely closed. Most workforces were laid off. Coffee shops have been rapidly pivoting into delivery services and online events, but it’s incredibly difficult to compete in these areas. The largest issue to their survival seems to be rent payment. Many landlords are not allowing rent abatement or forgiveness, so cafe owners are unsure what to do next. At the moment there have been no useful Government steps to assist with this.
This, of course, trickles down to the roasters, who no longer have orders to fulfill. The green bean suppliers. The logistics companies that delivered the beans. All the way down to the coffee farmers who have no one to sell to.
What can we do to support our favourite coffee shops?
There are a few things:
1) Buy something from them on their online store, ideally a gift card that gives them money in their pocket right now. Instagram is great to see where this is (usually a link in their bio or use this list). Buy as much as you can and tip if you have the money to do so.
2) Engage with your brand on social media. They need ALL the encouragement they can get right now. DM them something nice.
3) If you are more interested in helping out your barista directly, consider donating to: www.vanfbc.com. It allows hospitality workers to tap into the fund for up to $150 to help pay for their rent, bills and other such expenses.
4) Finally, when this is all over, head back to the coffee shops! Cancel your vacation and instead plan a cafe crawl around the city! Tip BIG and order so much coffee that you test the limits of your caffeine tolerance! Hug a barista when ‘social distancing’ is a term of the past!
When Siply becomes a unicorn, can you buy us beer?
If we become a unicorn I’ll buy you a damn brewery!
What else is new?
I mentioned earlier that I’ve pivoted into pro-bono work for coffee shops. If any are reading this and need help setting up webshops and gift cards or need consulting services for community building, marketing and strategy please get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m sure I can help.