Café SURF: How A Startup Incubator Turned Tech Hangout In Less Than A Year

The Seattle startup scene just gets better by the day.  One of the coolest things to come out of Seattle this year has to be SURF Incubator, which opened in April and is now home to more than 40 startups.

Yes, there are other startup spots in Seattle (ones where I have thoroughly enjoyed spending my time), but the progress SURF has made in less than a year is staggering.  Over the last five months they have grown from just a glitter of an idea into a strong argument for the tech startup epicenter of Seattle.

Not a week goes by where something’s not happening in their massive office space.  They’ve thrown a raging launch party, hosted entrepreneurs from 23 countries, facilitated a number of members to join forces and become cofounders, hosted various meet-ups and weekly tech gatherings, and let’s not forget the frequent and tasty happy hours!

Community-supported space for digital startups

SURF is dedicated to advancing the ideas and passions of technology-focused entrepreneurs.

I believe the vision of SURF founder Seaton Gras and Director Neil Bergquist for a better startup experience is the main reason SURF is seeing such awesome adoption.  That, and the fact that paying an arm and a leg for office space is pretty much a non-starter for most early stage startups.

Entrepreneurs around the world can be more productive when they collaborate and have access to a broad network of business and technical resources. Working at home or in a coffee shop makes it difficult to gain exposure to fellow subject matter experts. It’s also hard to maintain momentum or gain any serious traction.  SURF can reduce the barriers of entry by providing flexible and affordable space with a robust community of resources. This reduces entrepreneurial risk and enables startups to operate incredibly lean.

Realizing people love hanging out at SURF, today they are announcing their latest concept, Cafe SURF.

Entrepreneurs who may not be ready to lease office space and typically work in low-cost locations such as coffee shops or local cafes now have another option.  SURF Incubator just created its own cafe inside the incubator’s 15,400 square foot facility in downtown Seattle and has opened it up to the public.

SURF is building the cafe to help integrate the startup ecosystem thereby helping entrepreneurs collaborate with one another and engage with the various support resources available at SURF Incubator.

Highlighting the technology and companies built within their walls.

The thing is, Café SURF isn’t your ordinary coffee shop. With the contributions of resident startups, Café SURF is Seattle’s first tech-focused, fully self-serviced coffee bar. Patrons pay just $50 per month and receive unlimited coffee, 100Mbps internet access, and designated work space.

Additionally, food and tea are available for purchase via Seconds, my company and a SURF resident startup, which deploys a text-based mobile payment system. Café SURF members can also provide feedback to the management through a text messaging comment service provided by another SURF resident; Talk to the Manager. Thanks to the various technologies from SURF residents such as Seconds and Talk to the Manager, Café SURF will be sustained as a fully self-serviced operation.  SURF has also partnered with local coffee roaster, Caffe Vita to help establish the cafe.

Café SURF members may attend open office hours with investors, mentors, and SURF Incubator’s corporate partners who provide counsel and startup services. This startup centric cafe is anticipated to become a central link for innovation and networking within Seattle’s technology community.

The technologies and services being integrated into Café SURF are outlined below:

Seconds – Deploying a text-based mobile payment system.

Talk to the Manager – Text message comments to the SURF Café management

Knotis – Online marketing, advertising, daily-deal promotion

Imaginative Design – Creative work

Equilitree – Logo and SURF Café page design

Best Practice – Space design and architecture planning

Caffe Vita – Coffee

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