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Student startup BrewBike poised to expand to other universities

Student-run coffee company closes $800,000 seed round

BrewBike, a student-run coffee company founded at Northwestern University, has closed an $800,000 seed round and will use the funds to expand operations in the Chicago area and to other universities.

Since its launch in the fall of 2016, BrewBike has sold more than 35,000 cups of its signature cold brew and generated more than $150,000 in sales.

The company got its start (and its name) from a bike serving cold brew coffee on Northwestern’s campus. Guided by founder and then-freshman Lucas Philips, the company later opened a micro-retail shop in the School of Education and Social Policy’s Annenberg Hall and launched cold brew subscriptions for on-campus Greek organizations. 

“Before BrewBike, college students either had to drink bad coffee in the cafeteria or stand in long lines at Starbucks,” said BrewBike founder and chief growth officer Lucas Phillips, who will begin his senior year at Northwestern this fall. “BrewBike solves that problem by bringing coffee to college campuses in the most convenient ways, every day.

Key investors

  • Mats Lederhausen, founder and CEO of BE-CAUSE, LLC; chairman of Rōti Mediterranean Grill; and former managing director of McDonald’s Ventures (Chipotle, Pret A Manger, Boston Market and RedBox)
  • Deborah Quazzo, managing partner of venture capital firm GSV AcceleraTE; and co-founder of global services firm GSV Advisors
  • Matt Matros, founder and CEO of Limitless Coffee; and founder and former CEO of Protein Bar
  • NUseeds, Northwestern’s $4M pre-seed/seed investment fund supported by philanthropic donations to Northwestern. The fund aims to accelerate the successful launch of innovations from Northwestern students and finance the most promising early-stage student ventures
  • Venetia Kontogouris, former managing director of Trident Capital who has held leadership positions at IBM, AT&T and Cognizant

35,000coffees served

40students employeed

$800,000raised in first round

Philips received $10,000 and 10-weeks of entrepreneurial learning during the company’s first year of operation when he participated in the 2016 Wildfire Pre-Accelerator at The Garage, Northwestern’s hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. Now beginning his 11th quarter in The Garage’s Residency Program, Philips cites the University resource as instrumental to BrewBike’s growth.

“We wouldn’t be here today without the resources and help of Northwestern University, especially those of The Garage,” Philips said.

In January 2018, Philips recruited CEO Randy Paris, a recent graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

With their new partnership, BrewBike made the finals of Booth’s New Venture Challenge and placed 2nd at Northwestern’s VentureCat competition. In the summer of 2018, BrewBike was one of four Chicago-area startups chosen to participate in the Pritzker Group Venture Fellows Program.

Of the more than 250 startups incubated at The Garage, 17 have hosted funding rounds. Of those, six have raised more than $1 million, and one raised more than $20 million. Students say the top three skills developed at The Garage are networking, leadership and creativity.

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