In August last year, homegrown coffee technology company Morning announced that it closed its pre-Series A funding round at US$1.27 million led by zVentures, the corporate venture arm of Razer.
Then just last month, it announced that it has raised another US$5 million in a Series A round led by East Ventures.
Other notable investors in the round include zVentures, P9 Capital, Wee Teng Wen of The Lo & Behold Group, among others.
According to Morning, it will utilise the fund on two fronts — to develop and diversify their product offering, and to expand their global presence.
Morning has grown and expanded its presence from Singapore and Southeast Asia to the United Kingdom, with plans to continue its global expansion over the next 12 to 18 months.
Meet the founders of Morning
Morning was first founded by Leon Foo and Andre Chanco back in 2018.
Prior to Morning, Leon is already a veteran in the coffee industry and has been running his own coffee empire. The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) graduate is the man behind cafes like Chye Seng Huat Hardware and PPP Coffee (formerly known as Papa Palheta), as well as Stellar-M, which imports leading coffee machines and equipments such as Synesso and Baratza.
Meanwhile, Chanco kickstarted his journey with coffee by learning the ropes at PPP Coffee. He returned to Manila in 2013 to open pioneering specialty roaster called Yardstick Coffee.
The duo came together and wanted to turn the spotlight on the coffee capsule landscape to prove that convenience and quality can coexist. This spurred them to launch an online marketplace featuring coffee capsules from the world’s most celebrated specialty coffee roasters.
We curate our roasters and coffees to ensure there’s diversity and variety, giving customers access to roasters halfway around the world and vice versa. For example, a Korean roaster we onboarded saw massive success in Singapore, a market where he doesn’t even have a presence yet.
Connections like this get us incredibly excited and we endeavour to continue to scour the world for the very best to bring to our community.
– Leon Foo, co-founder of Morning
However, Andre has since stepped down as co-founder to focus on his other personal pursuits.
Following his departure, 31-year-old Bowen Chiou — who has been involved in Morning since day one — joined as the company’s co-founder.
Leon first crossed paths with Bowen, who was running his family’s manufacturing business, handling projects for prominent precision coffee equipment such as Acacia and Hiroia, while meeting with potential manufacturers in Taiwan.
Bowen was compelled by Leon’s vision and the business’ unique proposition that he eventually decided to join him on his journey.
Revolutionising the coffee industry
Morning is essentially a coffee tech ecosystem that combines a marketplace of the world’s best specialty coffee capsules with a coffee machine, called Morning Machine, that has precision-brewing features.
In 2018, it raised a seed round of US$2.2 million to kickstart its design, development and production process.
Sharing more about its development process, Leon said that they borrowed features from professional coffee equipment to equip the Morning Machine with a wider breadth of brewing parameters — from temperature precision and weight output calibration, to pressure profiling.
“At the same time, we understood that the average capsule coffee drinker would not be interested in fiddling with all these variables. [As such], the Morning Machine is IoT-enabled to draw on a repository of roaster-designed recipes via the Morning mobile app that allows you to brew quality coffee at the touch of a dial.”
Currently, the app serves as a repository for over 1,000 roaster recipes developed by their community of 60 leading coffee roasters. In the next few months however, users will also be able to discover coffees and buy them on the app itself.
In the recent years, we’ve witnessed a swell of demand for convenient single-serve coffee. Many specialty roasters have responded to this trend by putting their quality coffee in capsules, but there wasn’t really any capsule hardware that could do it justice.
We wanted to build an ecosystem that delivered convenience without compromise, but could also connect our user to the incredible community of specialty coffee roasters around the world. Empowering customers to discover and enjoy new coffees, while simultaneously giving roasters the ability to dial in recipes to a customer’s machine from wherever they were in the world.
– Leon Foo, co-founder of Morning
That was how they came up with the idea of Morning Machine. Interestingly, it was first introduced as a Kickstarter project in 2020, which quickly reached its fundraising targets in merely 48 hours. Their goal was S$80,000, and they ended up raising more than 2.5 times of that.
“The Morning Machine was the first of its kind and there were so many novel features and tech that went into it that we felt the Kickstarter audience would really appreciate. It also gave us an opportunity to recruit these early adopters who were incredibly passionate about giving us feedback to improve,” shared Leon.
“When we first fulfilled the Machines, we organised a “Backer’s Breakfast” virtual event where we got to meet and brew capsules with some of our backers all around the world. It was an incredible experience and I’m so grateful for their support.”
Since its official launch in mid-2021, the brand has sold 4,000 of its IoT-enabled Morning Machines in almost 30 countries. Last year, it also clinched the Red Dot Product Design Award, as well as launch a limited-edition Machine colourway in collaboration with local design brand Beyond The Vines.
Overcoming business challenges
According to Leon, one of its biggest business challenges is navigating the post-pandemic logistics and supply chain landscape.
However, with the steady growth of its team and their accumulating experience, they have since built trust with their suppliers and are able to anticipate and adapt to changing developments.
“From an audience perspective, the pandemic has actually helped make us more relevant. Global home coffee consumption has increased tremendously and customers are increasingly investing in better home coffee solutions, and we’ve definitely benefited from that behaviour,” he added.
Additionally, fundraising has also been a constant challenge for Morning.
“[It’s hard to find] the right investor fit for an ecosystem business model with global ambitions like ours. We were incredibly fortunate to have Razer, one of the world’s leading lifestyle gaming hardware brands, and East Ventures, one of Asia’s top VC funds, share our vision as key investors.”
Despite these challenges, Leon remains optimistic about the coffee landscape in Singapore, describing it as “very vibrant” and “active”.
Because it’s such a bustling cosmopolitan city, convenient quality coffee is an essential component of the average Singaporean’s lifestyle. Every Singaporean aspires to be a home owner and every home needs a coffee machine — that has allowed us to really find an audience here in our home market. That being said, this same behaviour exists consistently all around the world, which is what we have our sights set on.
– Leon Foo, co-founder of Morning
Its ultimate goal is to build Morning into a household name, creating a “world-class ecosystem” that makes better coffee accessible to a wider community and nurture an interest and appreciation for specialty coffee and roasters.
Featured Image Credit: Morning