Robert Rudnick is one of three co-founders of Coffee Circle, a provider of high quality and socially-conscious coffee across Germany. Uniting the principles of social responsibility and fair trade with a passion for high-quality coffee, Coffee Circle sells coffee sourced from Ethiopian farms, as well as brewing equipment and other accessories, and donates a portion of profits towards various development projects in Ethiopian coffee-farming communities.
The winning startup team of betapitch Berlin 2012 will receive coffee cups from Coffee Circle, as well as 1 kg of Germany’s best coffee.
What inspired you to found Coffee Circle?
We were inspired by a trip we had taken to Ethiopia. One of our co-founders, together with his brother, had started an organisation over there which helped found a school for orphaned girls to learn skills for the job market. We had been helping him with the final stages of the project, right before the school was to open. During our time in Ethiopia, we tried the local coffee, which we found to be exceptionally good. At the time, we were looking for ideas for a project on which we could start a company. We had been really interested in food and espresso, but not so much in filter coffee, which is how it was served there. After tasting the Ethiopian coffee, we decided that it was so good, that all we would have to do is import it, and it would then sell itself with its quality alone.
Doing good through selling coffee was not our original aim, but, after seeing how poor the living conditions of Ethiopian coffee farmers were, we decided we wanted to help them out as well. We then decided that we wanted to not only sell good-quality coffee to customers but to bring them closer to the product, and make them part of the “circle”, as we call it, giving them a say in how the company is run and in how we spend our money. We give one Euro from each purchase back to the coffee farmers, and our customers can choose which project they wish to support.
So there is as much of an educational element to Coffee Circle as there is one of providing consumer goods?
Yes. We have to educate our customers about what makes good coffee. Many of them go to the supermarket and choose their coffee based mainly on the packaging and all the funny words printed on it. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of people thinking they know more about coffee than they actually do. There is a huge difference between the coffee you can buy from us or from other small roasters, and the coffee you get in supermarkets. It’s very hard to sell coffee through the internet, because people often assume they know more than they do about coffee, and are skeptical towards any form of online advertising. What we do to attract customers is simply show them how we work. We try to be very transparent about our process – we show them pictures of every step, and explain to them how coffee is grown, harvested, and roasted; and what kind of effect each of these processes has on the coffee, on the farming communities, and on the environment.
At the time of your founding, was there much of an interest in high-quality and socially-conscious coffee in Germany, as there had been in North America for several years? Since Coffee Circle was founded, have you noticed an increase in awareness?
When we founded Coffee Circle, there wasn’t much of an interest in socially-conscious coffee in Germany. Concepts such as fair-trade, or the idea that coffee could be a truly high-quality product, were unknown to a lot of people. Though a few other companies centered around high-quality coffee have started up since our founding, we find we still have to reach out to a lot of people who may not yet be used to the idea of buying coffee online, or who may not know just what sets our coffee apart from the others.
You work based on the principles of fair trade and direct trade. What exactly is your relationship – as Coffee Circle – to the coffee-farming communities in Ethiopia?
We’re based mainly on direct-trade, though the concept is still virtually unknown in Germany. Our principles are very much connected to those of the Fair Trade labeling organisation though.
Our projects mostly have to do with education or health. In 2011, we completed 5 projects: we built a well, equipped a health-station, supplied a school with furniture, supplied another school with books, and built a sports facility. Focusing on health and education would ensure that our work would not only help the communities initially, but would have a bigger impact on their ability to eventually help themselves.
Before founding Coffee Circle, we had already had some experience doing development work: Moritz [Waldstein-Wartenberg] had been working extensively in Ethiopia, and I had also done some development work in South Africa as part of my studies. Together, we decided to take our experience and come up with three founding principles for our work. First, we decided that we wanted to meet with the coffee farmers and their families on the ground, and base our projects on that – not only on what would be convenient for us. Second of all, there should be no dependency on us. We wanted to have a lasting impact on the communities, but without any running costs that they could not pay back themselves. Finally, we decided that the impact of our work should be measurable, and that we should be able to see just how successful our projects would be.
Finally, what’s one thing you expect to see at this year’s betapitch? What would you like to see more or less of?
One thing I do not want to see is copycats (Editor’s Note: Rest assured: there will be no copycats at the final round of this year’s betapitch, as they will all have been disqualified!), nor do I want to see companies based on a simple idea without much thought. However, I’ve seen a few betapitches, and participated in the first one, and I know that there have been plenty of companies that have combined great original ideas with a creative and innovative use of technology and other resources.
Want to become a member at betahaus l Belrin? More information here!
Let’s start with the big one. Anyone who has ever moved houses before knows there are tons of tiny expenses that suddenly add up to a very expensive relocation. And that’s just for you and your stuff.
When you start an office from scratch, you’ll have to invest in everything from new furniture to office amenities. You’ll need to outfit meeting rooms and stock the kitchen. Sign a monthly contract with the internet provider. Decorate. Even if you have a lot of these things from your old office, you’ll have to hire someone to help you move it and use up hours of your time getting everything set up.
One of the best parts of moving your team into a coworking space is that most of these costs are already covered in your monthly membership. You’ll move into a fully-furnished space with everything you need to get to work, AND you’ll know exactly how much you have to pay from the time you move in.
In addition to the betahaus locations, we've formed a close relationship with some of the world's best coworking spaces. With your betahaus membership, you can work from any of our partner spaces for 5 days per month.
Republikken // Copenhagen, Denmark // Vesterbrogade 26, 1620 København V, Denmark
Le Laptop // Paris, France // 6 Rue Arthur Rozier, 75019 Paris, France
utopic_US // Madrid, Spain // Calle de la Colegiata, 9, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Nest 71 // Saravejo, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Milana Preloga 12, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Toolbox // Milan, Italy // Via Agostino da Montefeltro, 2, 10134 Torino, Italy
Edspace // London, England // Block D, Hackney Community College, Falkirk St, London, UK
Bios // Athens, Greece // Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
CoWorx // Kristiansand, Norway // Markens Gate 8, 4611 Kristiansand, Norway
CRU – Loja / Cowork // Porto, Portugal // Rua do Rosário 211, 4050-524 Porto, Portugal
SPARK // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Bleiburških žrtava, Mostar 88000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
StartUp Armenia Foundation // Yerevan, Armenia // 0019, 1 Marshal Baghramyan Ave, Yerevan 0019, Armenia
Tøyen Startup Village // Oslo, Norway // Hagegata 23, 0653 Oslo, Norway
Smart Coworking // Prague, Czech Republic // Václavské nám. 806/62, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
Lighthouse // Tel Aviv, Israel // HaHaroshet 14-16 Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Isreal
Fueled // New York City, USA // 11, 568 Broadway, FL 11, New York, NY 10012, United States **Maximum 3 Days
Capital Factory // Austin, USA // 701 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701, United States
Público // Mexico City, Mexico // Puebla 403, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Area Tres // Buenos Aires, Argentina // El Salvador: El Salvador 5218, C1414BPV CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina // Soho: Malabia 1720, C1414DMJ CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
HubBOG // Bogota, Colombia // Cl. 98 #18-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
CIT // Taipei, Taiwan // 10452, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, 玉門街1號
Of10 // Mumbai, India // Prudential, Ground Floor, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076, India
Kibar // Jakarta, Indonesia // Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin No.1, RT.7/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10310, Indonesia
Midori.so // Tokyo, Japan // Midori.so Nakameguro: 3 Chome-3-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0042, Japan // Midori.so Nagatacho: 2 Chome-5 Hirakawachō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0093 // Midori.so2: 3 Chome-13 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0062, Japan
Launchgarage Innovation Hub // Manila, Philippines // Level 2, Industria Mall, Circulo Verde, Calle Industria, Bagumbayan, Quezon City, 1110 Metro Manila, Philippines
Independent Studios // Melbourne, Australia // 39/40 Porter St, Prahran VIC 3181, Australia
Urban Station EGYPT // Cairo, Egypt // 2 Wadi El Nil Mohandeseen, Cairo, Egypt
Nairobi Garage // Nairobi, Kenya // Nairobi Garage, The Mirage, Chiromo Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
BONUS: Cowork & Relax at the Coliving Space, Coconat // Brandenburg, Germany // Klein Glien 25 14806 Bad Belzig, Germany // Get €10 off your stay
Did we mention this was going to be easy?
Just kidding. We definitely did.
But, look. Your space will be fully-furnished from the day you move in. We’ll have the WiFi up-and-running and printers online. The meeting rooms will be ready to go. The kitchenette stocked with mugs and freshly brewed coffee. And you’ll have the support of our coworking team. They’ll provide everything from reception to package handling to space maintenance. They’ll get you oriented in the space and make sure you have what you need to get to work.
New office without the downtime.
Some office spaces have a one-size-fits-all approach, but that's not really our style. The reason no two betahaus locations look the same is because they’re locally designed. And we give our Team Space members this same opportunity to customize their space.
Choose a room with a view of the city or one on the ground floor with easy access to the garden. Change the lighting fixture or bring your own bookshelf. We want teams to be able to white label, decorate, and really make the space their own if they want to.
And if you’re really looking to customize, Team HQs allow teams to collaborate with our architects and coworking team to create a space that is completely bespoke. Whether it’s additional meeting rooms, unconventional seating, or a yoga room, we apply our 10 years of experience in building functional workspace to your creative vision to create something that’s just right.
Probably the biggest benefit of coworking is community and events. Now we know it may not be the first thing you’re looking for as you seek out your next office space, but bear with us.
Imagine using your lunch breaks to chat with someone in your industry. Meeting freelance developers at after-work beers. Networking with investors at BETAPITCH. Pitching at our weekly betabreakfast and getting support and feedback on your new ideas.
betahaus has spent the last 10 years cultivating a community of people who we genuinely like working with. And when you join, your team will become a part of it, too.
" People matter! Community was always what we were all about. ‘’
In June we launched #PeopleInbeta - our monthly blog post series in which our Content Manager - Vihra interviewed teams and freelancers from the betahaus community to present the variety of creatives we have in ‘haus, to understand their missions and get some useful advice for our audience. We talked on topics such as sustainability (with PlanA) , decentralized digital identity (with JOLOCOM), curated music experiences (with Bespoke Sounds), freelance photography (with Sara Herrlander), full-stack development (with Obst Digital), design (with LAUDO) and much more.
In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ.
Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture.
Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails.
This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.
‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)
''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’ - Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus)
This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.
Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.
One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.
This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.
We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.
Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.