Specialty Coffee Company Blank Street Raises $25 Million

By Annie Baker ● Oct 17, 2021
  • Blank Street — a high-growth and small-format specialty coffee company — announced a $25 million Series A funding round. These are the details.

Blank Street — a high-growth and small-format specialty coffee company launched in Brooklyn, NY – announced a $25 million Series A investment led by General Catalyst and Tiger Global, along with additional strategic investors including Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa (Founders of Warby Parker), Jeff Raider (Founder of Warby Parker and Harry’s), Joey Zwillinger (Founder of Allbirds) and global real estate firm Tishman Speyer. Following a $7 million seed round earlier this year, the new Series A funding will help fuel Blank Street’s rapid retail expansion, with a focus on evolving its vendor partnerships and technology capabilities.

In August 2020, Blank Street had debuted its first location, a mobile coffee cart, at the Wythe Diner in Williamsburg. And following a year of significant growth, the company now operates 14 locations throughout New York City: a mix of micro-footprint brick-and-mortar spaces — about the quarter of the size of an average cafe, and mobile street carts in partnership with EV Foods — which produce zero-emissions and zero-sound.

Currently, Blank Street can be found in Williamsburg, McCarren Park, Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, DUMBO, Cobble Hill, SoHo, Washington Square Park, and the Upper East Side.

Along with fueling Blank Street’s ambitious goal of operating 100 locations throughout NYC by the end of 2022, the new funding will spur the launch of “Powered By Blank Street,” a wholesale partnership agreement designed to empower local vendors to sell in new neighborhoods without the hassle of finding expensive storefronts – providing their own labor, or managing day-to-day operations. And the company will debut this new model with Brooklyn-based King David Tacos (KDT), where KDT’s coveted breakfast tacos will be served alongside Blank Street’s coffee and tea drinks. Multiple “KDT Powered By Blank Street” mobile carts will roll out throughout NYC in the coming weeks.

Another priority is Blank Street’s commitment to elevating the customer experience through innovative technologies. And its order-ahead mobile payment and rewards app accounts for up to 20% of transactions company-wide, a percentage they’ve maintained as they’ve scaled into new markets across New York City. And with the booming on-demand economy, the funding will enable Blank Street to expand its app capabilities as more high-quality local vendors come onboard.

Blank Street was founded by two immigrants: Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha. They moved to the US to attend NYU and Columbia, respectively. And while in college, they began to study the coffee culture in New York City.

Soon after graduating, Menda and Freiha had co-founded Reshape, a NY-based venture capital fund with $100 million of assets under management. And they had their eyes on a cluster of high-growth, mobile-first, food-retail businesses making waves in Asia like Kopi Kenangan in Indonesia and the Chinese brand Heytea. And both brands achieved explosive growth by selling high-quality coffee and tea from tiny retail spaces.

KEY QUOTES:

“I grew up in a culture where we mostly drank coffee at home, so it was a revelation to come to NYC, one of the most caffeine-saturated cities on earth, and see coffee vendors on every street corner. I noticed my friends going to Starbucks for the convenience, Dunkin’ for the price point, and specialty coffee shops for the quality. But as students, we couldn’t afford a $6 cappuccino every day. What we needed was a one-stop shop: a place to get exceptional coffee at an accessible price point, crafted with speed and efficiency.”

— Co-founder Issam Freiha

“We realized the opportunity in the U.S. was quite Greenfield. We could take high-quality products, starting with specialty coffee, and make them more convenient and affordable through our unique approach to real estate. By shrinking our location footprint, and therefore shrinking our fixed costs, we could offer specialty food and beverage at a lower price point than our competitors — and scale up much faster.”

— Co-founder Vinay Menda

 “Blank Street is reimagining the way we interact with local commerce by connecting the digital and physical worlds. They’ve figured out exactly what we New Yorkers want from our daily coffee routine: high quality products, ultra convenience, and fair prices.”

— Neil Blumenthal

“Blank Street has quickly established itself as the newest contender in NYC’s high-growth specialty coffee race. While they’ve quickly created an impressive coffee business, I was drawn to the way the founders are reimagining the entire micro-retail experience for urban customers. I look forward to being on this journey with the entire Blank Street team as they continue their expansion throughout NYC and across the U.S.”

— Youngme Moon, newly named Blank Street board member and Harvard Business School professor