June 6, 2023

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How to Choose the Right Investor, According to a Coffee Entrepreneur Who Raised $100 Million

Seven years is a long time to wait for coffee. But that’s how long coffee startup Cometeer spent experimenting and iterating its frozen coffee product before taking it to market. Doing so required lots of investors–with lots of patience. Notable entrepreneurs who have invested in the company include the founders of Allbirds, Dollar Shave Club, Stripe, and Warby Parker.

The end result is coffee that comes sealed in a recyclable aluminum capsule, ready to melt into hot or iced coffee. The capsules are flash-frozen using liquid nitrogen, which locks in the flavors, and shipped directly to customers on dry ice. Monthly subscriptions of 32 capsules start at $64

Cometeer co-founder and CEO Matthew Roberts started the company in 2015 with a group of chemists and coffee professionals, but proving that frozen coffee was a viable product would require significant outside capital for research and development. In October, Gloucester, Massachusetts-based Cometeer raised a $35 million Series B round led by New York City-based venture capital firm D1 Capital, bringing the coffee startup’s total funding to $100 million. At first, Roberts says he tried pitching “anyone with money” before targeting coffee industry professionals who would be able to taste the difference in Cometeer’s samples and understand the barriers to their brewing and manufacturing methods. The former President of Nespresso and the former R&D director of Starbucks were quick to write checks after tasting samples, according to Roberts.

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Because gaining access to investors in the first place can be a huge challenge, Roberts suggests entrepreneurs who are fundraising use any and all means of getting investors’s attention. For example, Roberts connected with Cometeer’s largest seed investor, the Stiller Family, former owners of Keurig Green Mountain, through a cold outreach on Linkedin. “There are no rules,” he says, “but typically a warm intro works better.”  

When looking for institutional investors for the latest fundraising round, Roberts valued the fact that D1 was one of the only investment firms that flew into the Boston Area and visited Cometeer’s facility. 

“An investor needs to show that they are engaged and interested in your mission,” Roberts says. “You should be spending days, not hours, with lead investors to make sure the marriage ahead is going to work for both parties.” He adds that D1’s “competitive mentality” felt like a match and that the firm introduced Cometeer’s founders to other companies in their portfolio early on. D1’s investments in the food industry include delivery startup Instacart, salad chain Sweetgreen and plant-based chicken brand Daring Foods.

When vetting potential investors, founders should ask how they can add value beyond their dollar, according to Roberts, who notes that there is no shortage of investor capital and that it’s important to pack your round with investors that can facilitate introductions to clients, distribution partners, and talent. “I’d say recruiting assistance is the number one way an investor can help your business,” Roberts says.

While Roberts and his team no longer have to do cold outreach to find funds, he says doing so was vital in the early days, and taught him a valuable lesson about perseverance. “Raising capital is more of an art than a science,” he says. “You need to learn rejection is part of the game.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Cometeer’s freezing process and the end result. The company’s capsules contain brewed coffee and are flash-frozen using liquid nitrogen.