Jacob Jaber

Jacob Jaber

CEO of Philz, bettering peoples day with a cup of love (aka coffee)

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON August 20, 2015

Discussion

Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
Hi I'm Jacob and I'm super excited to be here today! So, a bit about me - at around the age of 18 I started running Philz Coffee full-time with the help of my dad. As things got moving and I found myself spending all of my energy on growing the business, I decided to drop out of college to focus all my attention on Philz. I'm incredibly proud to say that the hard work and passion is paying off with Philz having since grown from 1 location to over 20 locations across 3 markets, with more on the way :) And has established Philz as one of the best coffee shops in the U.S. My plan is to reinvent the coffee experience 1 store 1000 times. Ask me anything.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Glad you could join us, @jacobjaber! As you know, I created the Product Hunt "MVP" (an email list) at Philz on Golden Gate ave (and still go there almost daily). As a long-time fan, I've noticed a few very thoughtful, smart design decisions you've made in crafting the product and community at Philz. I wrote about them in Pando a few years ago. Can you share some other "easter eggs" or ways you've built community and such a fanatic audience at Philz?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@rrhoover hi ryan! i love design thinking and we use the methodology lots at philz. It's about "being the customer" or "empathizing." We really focused on creating the best customer experience possible but so much of that is reliant on the success of our team members which drives our focus internally on creating an amazing team member experience. Our retention rates are really high because of our awesome people, leaders and culture but we got more work to do and can't take our foot of the pedal for one second. -focus on hiring and developing a great team -better the customers days (that's our mission and everyones job descriptions - simple, powerful and effective)
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
@jacobjaber you've raised $30M in venture funding from tech investors like Cowboy VC, CrunchFund, SherpaCapital, and @SnoopDogg. Why?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@rrhoover we have an ambitious vision and are off to a great start. Raising capital allows us to hire teams and build infrastructure to have the ability to scale quality before actually scaling growth. And our investors are all fans! We really love them and they are rooting for us.
Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg@snoopdogg · The Doggfather
@rrhoover @jacobjaber he knows I have good insights into natural organic ingredients!! Digg!
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@jacobjaber what does reinvent the coffee story mean to you? What specific elements have you focused on changing versus the ones you've decided to keep the same?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@corleyh changing the way people drink coffee. My dad has told me stories about what coffee did to people in the old days. People used to gather around each other (morning, day or night) and have a cup of coffee while socializing and connecting. Coffee has become a transaction. The philz experience is an extension of that spirit. We believe that the best coffee in the world is the one that comes to your taste. We believe in bringing people together. Coffee is community and that's an experience not a transaction and that's why the energy of our stores are more aligned with the authentic nature of the coffee experience
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@jacobjaber LOVE THIS! It makes me think of my grandfather. He used to go have coffee with his friends 'in town' nearly everyday. Those coffee conversations would take all forms...but at the center was always coffee. Now when I walk into Philz I'm going to have an even bigger smile on my face. 😀Thanks for the lovely story.
Noah Lichtenstein
Noah Lichtenstein@noah_l · Partner, Cowboy Ventures
Hi @JacobJaber! Huge fan of you and @PhilzCoffee :) One thing that has always impressed me was the quality of the team at Philz. No matter what location I go to, the baristas are all friendly, knowledgeable, and distinctly "Philz." I'd love to learn how you go about building this culture and how you maintain consistency as the company expands. Thanks!
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@noah_l we are in the peoples business and our people are at the center of the experience. Scaling quality as it relates to people is really difficult but that's what i love about it. We are obsessed with hiring the right people because so much of the success of our business is reliant on the characteristics and values of the individual. Most other things can be learned. We hire nice people :)
Norm Liang
Norm Liang@normanliang · VP of Growth, Sungy Mobile
@jacobjaber I enjoy listening to you talk about discovering your passions. What are your personal passions? How did you discover them? What advice do you have for people looking to identify those passions? How do you focus on improving your own personal passions?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@normanliang I love learning, teaching and inspiring others and making impact. I like to be at the intersection of those things. I believe i'm there with Philz. Discovering passions is about discovering yourself and to discover yourself you need to play. Explore, don't be stuck on a narrow road.
Norm Liang
Norm Liang@normanliang · VP of Growth, Sungy Mobile
people talk about focused exploration. How do you focus so you don't go down every road?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@normanliang i think people have an idea of what they like so sticking in that area will allow you to narrow in on the gold..
Norm Liang
Norm Liang@normanliang · VP of Growth, Sungy Mobile
What do you do to help you grow personally and professionally?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
hey @Jacobjaber - thank you for taking the time and for your support throughout. What's the protocol for how you think about expanding? What do you need to be true in order to open another location?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@eriktorenberg 1 store 1000 times. Building a foundation that allows us to scale quality. We want to grow large while preserving and building on the quality standards we uphold today and that all comes back to people and continuing to procure the highest quality coffee. A few key ingredients we need to get right in quality and high in volume are: real estate, hiring the right people, quality training and development and the right leadership. Hope that answers your question a bit :)
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
@jacobjaber I'm drinking philz at home right now 😃. What's your coffee setup at home like? What grinder do you have? What should I buy 💯
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@mscccc nice! i go to philz :) ... i have Tesora at home which is my fav and typically french press it when i make it at home but philz is my home
Victoria Najjar
Victoria Najjar@victorianajjar
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions today! I am a big fan of Philz Coffee and have watched it rapidly expand in the last few months. What is your growth strategy for opening up in new markets / neighborhoods and how do you maintain the @PhilzCoffee quality as you scale - especially as you expand to the East Coast?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@victorianajjar hey! being relevant is important so we have "brand builders" that enter new markets ahead of our opening to connect with communities which helps build brand awareness and intel. Our first store was in the mission district in SF. So much demand built before our 2nd, 3rd, and so on.... stores we're opened which creates this local love and brand enthusiasm. It's about capturing and scaling the essence of that authentic story in new markets. Tough nut to crack but we are trying things. Bottom line is we are a local business wherever we serve and we need to remember that.
Andrzej Bakonski
Andrzej Bakonski@andrzejb200sx · Stuff
What is your view on competitors? Do you ever focus on them and try to beat them with a better product or ignore them?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@andrzejb200sx competition is complimentary in so many cases. Competition forces the world to serve people better.
Victoria Najjar
Victoria Najjar@victorianajjar
@PhilzCoffee prides itself on being sustainable and environmentally friendly - can you share a little bit about these "green" initiatives?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@victorianajjar Fortunately, our core product is compostable which is great news. Often times we offer our grounds to the local community for gardening and other purposes. Above and beyond that, we try to make compost/recycling bins convenient for customers and clear in terms of what goes where. Our cups are also compostable. We are in the process of working on making more of our products compostable.
Ryan Merket
Ryan Merket@merket · Product at Reddit
@jacobjaber I read somewhere that you don't do your own roasting or sourcing of beans. Is that true? Who does do your roasting for you? How do you maintain quality levels at scale if you are not doing the roasting yourself? Second question: I've noticed that if I leave a Philz coffee out and let it cool down, there is fat molecules on top. What type of fat/cream do you use in your coffee? And why do your baristas shake the milk before pouring it into the coffee?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@merket we have one of the most amazing directors of coffee in the world - literally. She focuses on procuring and roasting the best coffee possible. We've just secured a new roasting plant in oakland that's ~50k square feet where we will be doing all of our roasting. We hope to open it up to the public soon! If a customer wants half and half or cream, we use real cream which we love and we only need a little. We also have awesome soymilk, almond milk and lower fat dairy available. In my opinion our coffee is fantastic black as well - i recommend the New Manhattan.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@jacobjaber Do you have a typical order? What's your favorite dark roast?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@corleyh tesora with honey and cream! amazing! for dark roast i like the jacobs - not because it has my name but because it's real good :)
Daniel Morse
Daniel Morse@dfmorse23 · LearnZillion
@jacobjaber some people say that caffeine is unhealthy and addicting ... what's your response to that and how do you think of Philz in that context?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@dfmorse23 There are benefits to coffee/caffeine. There is a lot of research out there. Everything in moderation at the end of the day but given that coffee is not bad for you (as long as your not drinking 25 cups a day) enjoy it and enjoy a lot of it :). It's all about being feeling good because that makes you happy. A cup of coffee and break to grab a philz should feel good and like a break - a moment of repose. So drink it if you like it and enjoy every sip.
Adam Newman
Adam Newman@anewm85 · Founder, Ezra's
@jacobjaber I'd love to hear your thoughts on where you think the concept of the coffee shop is headed. Do you think it will continue down the path it is now or do you anticipate newcomers to the space will have to create something different to stand out? Or do you anticipate a shift towards other "third space" concepts like tea shops or juice bars?
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
@jacobjaber What's training like for a new Philz barista? They are all so awesome. Do many come to Philz from other coffee shops? Do coffee shops poach from each other? 😃
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
We've build a University - Philz University. We go through an extensive training process because there is so much to learn and equipping our baristas with the knowledge, confidence and tools to be successful. It's funny because so many of our most successful team members don't have a coffee background and honestly I kind of prefer it because coffee can be taught - we are in the peoples business first.
Mike Coutermarsh
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
@jacobjaber thats awesome :) thank you!
Suzy Ryoo
Suzy Ryoo@suzywillow · Atom Factory & Cross Culture Ventures
Hi Jacob!! Thanks for going LIVE on Product Hunt! I experienced Philz for the first time 3 years ago thanks to some dear friends at Google in Mountain View. The Mocha Tesora (medium sweet) has been my go-to ever since... :) Congratulations on the 2nd Philz in LA, and in DTLA! How has the LA expansion been going and any interesting customer stories to share? Imagine Santa Monica & Hope Street are super different, and I'm curious how Hope Street is coming along over the past 10 days! Must make time to visit soon... cc @rrhoover ^^
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@suzywillow great to heat! LA is going great for us! Those stores are really busy and successful which is great. We have plans to open more stores in Southern California. We hope to open 4-6 in the next 16 months! Stay tuned :)
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
Thanks for the great conversation! This was awesome :)
Kevin Li
Kevin Li@liveink · Co-Founder at Farmstead
@jacobjaber Thank you so much for doing this, huge fan of philz. How do you think strategically about positioning Philz as you start scaling the business outside the Bay Area?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@liveink our vision is to reinvent the coffee experience. We are literally changing the way people drink coffee through our specialized and personalized concept. Every few months we convert many latte/espresso drinkers but whats most excited is that we have so many different types of customers which we feel gives us the opportunity to share this experience with hundreds of millions of people over time. We are elevated in quality but accessible.
Stephan Castro
Stephan Castro@stephancastro
Thanks for taking the time @jacobjaber :) What are some of your favorite apps? ones you use every day, any for work?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@stephancastro phone, email and text :) i also love twitter and uber
Eli
Eli@elipstein · Head of Product, OwnerListens
@jacobjaber how do you collect feedback from customers? I've these signs all over the stores - what's that all about? Does it work?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@elipstein ownerslistens is the company. Its one of the ways we collect feedback and it's awesome. We are always trying to make it easier to stay connected to our customers.
Seth Williams
Seth Williams@sethbwilliams · Designer, Product Hunt
Hey @jacobjaber, I'm a huge coffee shop fan, so I hope to visit one of your locations one day! What would you say is the key factor in making your coffee shop experience truly special and different from others?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@sethbwilliams everyone is different so make sure to exercise your true passion and not try to be something your not. For us there is a multitude of things we do that are special and unique from the secret recipe blends we offer to the way we craft each cup to our culture of warmth, authenticity and love.
Gilad Rotem
Gilad Rotem@giladrotem · Co Founder and Coffee Drinker @CupsApp
@jacobjaber Thank you so much for doing this, huge fan like everyone here. Would love to hear your thoughts about @cupsapp - we offer prepaid coffee plans redeemable at any one of the 170+ independent coffee shops in NYC. In a way, it's the Starbucks app for independents. Thanks!
Daniel Morse
Daniel Morse@dfmorse23 · LearnZillion
@jacobjaber what's your philosophy on how to design welcoming warm environments?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@dfmorse23 Hire warm and welcoming people is a big one. We like to say our stores are like grandmas house.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey @Jacobjaber any hiring advice? What's your process / what do you swear by?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@eriktorenberg WHO? WHAT? WHY? That's what i want to get out of an interview. WHO: Who is this person. What are there values. Personality? Strengths and weaknesses? WHAT: What have they done and WHY have they done it. This tells me their decision making quality and helps me understand what motivates them.
Larry Elkan
Larry Elkan@lelkan · Self
Are you in Florida yet? Corporate stores or franchises? Thanks!
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@lelkan we'd love to be! One day soon. No franchising. We want to own our stores so we can control the experience and build our culture.
Norm Liang
Norm Liang@normanliang · VP of Growth, Sungy Mobile
@jacobjaber how do you make sure employees continue to grow with the company in the ways they want to grow personally and professionally?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@normanliang The fact that we are rapidly growing really helps. As we grow more and more opportunities arise and we really try to create a culture of being "helpful" instead of just focusing on your core function. This results in team members dabbling in other areas which challenges them, helps them learn and be more effective in a holistic sense. It also gives them the opportunity to try new things.. We have wonderful stories of many team members starting out as Baristas and now leading multiple stores or working in a critical function at the home office.
Jake Stanley
Jake Stanley@jakeastanley · Vocool
@jacobjaber I share your goal of reinventing the coffee experience. I'm currently working in a technical role for Westrock Coffee's green export company, Rwanda Trading Company. As you know, "traceability" is a big buzzword in coffee right now. Other than the basic information you might already get (general location, elevation, farm name) when buying green coffee, what types of out-of-the-box data, statistics, or figures would you or your customers enjoy knowing about the coffee you consume?
Vango
Vango@vangoart
Hi @jacobjaber ! One of my favorite parts of @PhilzCoffee (aside from a cup of black Jacob's Wonderbar) is the atmosphere in each location. My favorite is the latest location on Minnesota St. - how do you make sure each location is a reflection of the community?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@vangoapp the design of our store really begins after the store opens. We allow autonomy for our team members and community to "break-in" the store in a way that's most relevant for the community. Basically giving our people some freedom helps us blend in.
Aaron Zinman
Aaron Zinman@azinman · CEO, Empirical
Hi Jacob, I have two questions. First, will you guys ever consider doing espresso? I've had yours and others' coffee, but I far prefer espresso. Second, can you please make sure to stock more breakfast sandwiches at your 4th and berry location? They're always running out and I'm addicted to them. :)
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@azinman Espresso what so many are used to. What do you like about espresso? How do you like your coffee? I'd love to recommend something to you. Thanks for the feedback on the breakfast @ Berry - we'll get right on it.
Aaron Zinman
Aaron Zinman@azinman · CEO, Empirical
@jacobjaber I like the concentration especially mixed with milk. The wateriness of coffee can't match it -- I also believe the flavor is quite different. Coffee is just flatter to me. I'm a bit of a coffee snob and have tried it all -- sightglasses vanilla iced cold brew is the closest and probably only because they add lots of agave and vanilla so it's not really coffee as much a coffee flavored sweet drink (not what I'm looking for in espresso which I never sugar). Either way espresso exists for a reason.. It's a different product. If philz never wants to do that its your choice but it saddens me as I have to go to another cafe to get a latte to take to philz for the breakfast sandwich!!!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@jacobjaber hey! Thanks for taking the time :) As a UK resident, how would I be able to benefit from the Philz coffee experience? I'm a coffee noob but definitely getting into it, plus the team are all obsessed, don't want to feel left out! Is there any kind of international expansion in the works? 😀☕️
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hey Jacob so cool to have you answering our questions today! I had my first experience of @philzcoffee earlier this year and was instantly hooked! Do you have international expansion plan? London needs a Philz :)
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@ems_hodge So glad to hear :) We are rapidly expanding and thinking about new markets - nationally mostly but we hope to serve and international market sooner than later! Stay tuned!
Daniel Jacob Archer
Daniel Jacob Archer@dja1o · Director of Engineering at Ritual.com
@jacobjaber Hey Jacob! Thanks for creating Philz and bringing Philz to now 2 locations in LA! I love how Philz just feels like such a community environment (kinda like a real and modern Central Perk). Just wondering where you draw your inspiration from at a high level that influences your decisions, and how do you go about sharing that inspiration and vision within your team?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@dja1o great question. I believe that the only limits we have are the ones we set in our mind. People overestimate what they can get done in a day and underestimate what they can get done in a lifetime (not my quote but I love it as it touches on my passion). Philz is a happy place because at the end of the day, it's just a cup of coffee. What we really offer is connection. Our stores are a catalyst for connection and opportunity. Hell, Product Hunt started out of a Philz! People have met at Philz who are now married. Life happens at Philz and what I love doing is talking about these stories to the team because it reminds everyone how we make a difference and that's what it's all about - making a difference. Hope that answers your question
Daniel Jacob Archer
Daniel Jacob Archer@dja1o · Director of Engineering at Ritual.com
@jacobjaber thanks Jacob! btw, Iced Silken Splendor (light/light) is my jam!
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Thanks for chatting with us @jacobjaber! It was so much fun to have you! And thank you to everyone who joined! Now I think I'll go get a Jacob's Wonderbar (my favorite roast of choice)! 😻
Hristo Oskov
Hristo Oskov@unsunghero97 · Software Engineer, LinkedIn
@jacobjaber Hey Jacob! A few years ago when I first moved to San Francisco, your father was my landlord when I was renting the 3rd floor unit above the Philz Coffee at 24th & Folsom. I couldn't have been more fortunate to have Phil by my side when I started a new life, in a new city, by myself; I value my relationship with Phil greatly, and have the utmost respect for him. Philz Coffee is an amazing establishment with an unmatched culture, and unmatched coffee :) Thank you! 1. What lessons did you learn from Phil before you stepped in? What lessons did you learn after taking over? 2. How do you choose a new location to expand to? Does the tech scene influence that decision in any way?
Alexander Mimran
Alexander Mimran@amimran · Founder, Minbox
@jacobjaber Would love for you guys to have more gluten free and paleo options in your locations. Do you have any plans to do so?
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@amimran we're working on revamping food at Philz! More awesome options to come :)
Alexander Mimran
Alexander Mimran@amimran · Founder, Minbox
@jacobjaber Awesome, thanks! You should def check out Nola Bars. They're local and amazing!
Timothy Chen
Timothy Chen@timchenga · CEO Sereneti Kitchen
@jacobjaber What was your experience building a food startup in the valley that's non delivery? I've noticed that Philz takes a very careful approach in how to craft each cup of coffee, and the overall delivery of the experience by each Barista is very consistent. I am a fellow entrepreneur who is building food cooking technology. We started generating revenue and are having our first market live with consistent daily orders, but are looking for best practices in scaling the process. Specifically, how long do you wait to introduce a "food experience" process? How do you test out new menu items? How complete must your food experience be before unveiling to additional sites from alpha sites
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@timchenga Great question however I don't know enough about what your challenges are but it starts with focusing on what you want to be great at then identifying what you need to do to be great at it. I know that's sounds simple but that's because it is. Never be shy to reach out and get feedback from others but remember business is simple unless you have a product people don't want.
Christopher Leach
Christopher Leach@leachy114 · Programmer and Student
@jacobjaber Got any plans for a NYC location any time soon? Really want to try some of your coffee in person and get the full experience.
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@leachy114 come to SF, LA or DC (opening there in early 2016). We hope to serve NYC sooner than later though - stay tuned :)
Josh Muccio
Josh Muccio@joshmuccio · Host of The Pitch
@jacobjaber I love the way you talk romantically about coffee. It's inspiring! If you're going to build something that's 'world changing' you need to truly LOVE it. It's obvious that you love it and I'm VERY excited to see Philz Coffee expand to the east coast. Anyways, it sounds like coffee is a family affair for you. How do you balance life and work? Do you take time everyday to have coffee with friends/family? Do you have kids? Any crazy family stories you'd like to share? 😁
Jacob Jaber
Jacob Jaber@jacobjaber · ceo, philz coffee
@joshmuccio great question. Im not sure i'm great at the balance yet but I am really focusing on it now and happier as a result of it :) ... The thing is, I get so much satisfaction out of what I do at Philz - it fulfills so much for me so I love spending time in it and on it.
Lee Munroe
Lee Munroe@leemunroe · Designer. Developer. Maker.
@jacobjaber Big fan of Philz. I'll often work from there as opposed to the office or home, and will spot people like @rrhoover hacking on cool projects. From my pov, and many others, you provide much more than good coffee, including wifi and a nice working environment. Thanks for that :-) I was wondering what yourself and other coffee shop owners see as good etiquette here for people like myself who use Philz as a second office? i.e. how much coffee should I buy for every (x) hours I spend sitting in Philz? Cheers!
David Isaacson
David Isaacson@davidisaacson · Founder, IndieMuse.com
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Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
How do you take your coffee?
Alex
Alex@erlerks · Software Developer
Are there any plans to expand in the East bay? e.g. San Leandro, Hayward, etc