ACE Startup Feature – Cafebond

When Demand Takes the Lead

Aggressive growth plans are in the pipeline for specialty coffee startup and much of this is centred around what customers want. Co-founder Keyis Ng shares more.

In just one year, has grown at such a staggering pace that co-founders Keyis Ng and Eugene Chen probably no longer have time to stop and smell the coffee beans — but they are clearly enjoying every moment of their entrepreneurial journey.

This journey started rather innocuously as a holiday to Melbourne in 2015. There, the long-time friends tasted what they describe as “the best cup of coffee in [their] lives.” After returning to Singapore, Keyis hoped to recreate the taste but shipping fresh coffee beans from Australia proved to be cost prohibitive. This sparked the idea for, which gradually took shape as the co-founders conducted extensive market research.

“Talking to potential customers gave us a great perspective on the type of coffee they want. Many Singaporeans are already familiar with Australian coffee and could name their favourite cafés. We curated a shortlist of roasters that we wanted to work with and started knocking on doors,” said Keyis, who also revealed that repeated rejections helped them fine-tune their proposal until 13 of these roasters signed on.

With this initial network of partners in place, came online as an e-commerce retailer of specialty coffee beans in June 2016. But their direct-to-consumer model soon took a turn.

“As consumers and coffee lovers ourselves, going B2C was a natural decision. What we didn’t expect, however, was to have companies coming to us, asking that we supply coffee for their offices. After being propositioned a few times, we decided to cater to this demand with Cafebond for Offices,” shared Keyis. This quickly expanded to Cafebond for Cafes as well.

Now, just a few months after its first anniversary, is taking a leap into the offline space. Its first brick-and-mortar outlet, The Bean Shop, is set to open in Singapore’s upscale Millenia Walk shopping mall very soon. And again, this was inspired by customer demand.

“We’ve been exploring the idea of a physical store for quite some time, actually. While part of the reason is because there is a segment of customers who prefer the offline retail experience, we’re also motivated to strengthen our brand awareness and create mass appeal. We believe that growing the market for specialty coffee and broadening our reach will be important to our long-term sustainability,” explained Keyis. And with the recent softening of retail property rental prices, the co-founders agreed that now’s the time.

Growth for is also happening in other ways. For one, the startup continues to build on its brand promise of offering “Asia’s largest selection of specialty coffee”. Keyis reveals that new roasters from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, London, Tokyo and Taipei are expected to join its family soon.

Market expansion is also in the cards. In June this year, established a new office in Kuala Lumpur and expects to be operational in Taiwan by the end of the year. This is in part thanks to the support of government-led initiatives.

“In Singapore, we benefited from SGInnovate. In Malaysia, we’re part of the MaGIC startup accelerator programme and in Taiwan, we’ve been invited as one of just 10 global startups to participate in the Taiwan Innovation & Technology Arena (TITAN) programme, which will help us set up operations there,” said Keyis.

“With so much support available to startups these days, there are also more options when it comes to chasing growth. At, we choose to work harder, move faster and always keep our ear to the ground.”

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