Coffee Chats is a no-code platform that enables anyone to make money hosting coffee chats or office hours. You can create your site, customize it, schedule, and charge for your time all without writing code. It’s perfect for those who want to find a few extra hundred in cash or strike out and launch a consulting business. $9/month. Think: Shopify for consultants.
Chris Tung is the brains behind Coffee Chats. He is a unique and diverse individual with a real desire to help people and to make the world a better and more connected place.
How did you come up with your product idea? Was there another person or a situation in your life that made you want to create it?
I have been blessed to have great mentors in my life, but I quickly realized that others have not been as fortunate, so I’ve always made it a priority to make my time available to help others. In 2016, I decided to teach myself to program so I could help more people and help others who wanted to give advice connect with those who needed advice. This product was Huttle, which though had some moderate success with college students and recent grads (CNBC article). Ultimately. Though I was unable to scale it.
In 2019, I decided to adapt Huttle to a marketplace model like Gigster or Uber and launched Advisely.co, but this too could not scale as two-sided marketplaces are incredibly difficult. So, after Advisely didn’t work out, I said I’m done with this space and spent more time on my profitable Shopify app, Shoppy: A Better Slack Bot.
But then, COVID hit, everyone went inside, and the idea of in-person coffee chats vanished. And I was sitting at home one weekend, and the desire to take another run at advice came back into my mind. I learned a lot from Huttle and Advisely, and this time I took a different approached rooted in the success of Shopify. And Coffee Chats was born!
How is your product different or unique?
Coffee Chats is different than calendar tools like Calendly and X.ai because we allow users to 1) create a unique site that 2) can be personalized without writing code and 3) can be hosted on your own custom domain. Calendly and X.ai are great if you want to embed their products in your existing sites, but Coffee Chats is perfect for those that want to pay 1 monthly charge for a site that can do it all. Think: Shopify for consultants.
Is this your first entrepreneurial venture?
No, as mentioned, I launched Huttle and Advisely in this advice-connection space before but both failed. Outside of these products, I also built Shoppy, which is profitable and continues to grow. I co-founded Threadbase.io, which was a no-code tool to build your own Reddit-style community. My co-founder and I sold Threadbase in 2019.
Was there anything in your past (childhood, young adulthood) that made you a better entrepreneur?
My dad taught me that we only have so much time on Earth, and with the time we have, we should help others as much as we can. I think that’s been a core part of who I am, and it’s why I’m hugely thankful to the mentors who have given their time to help me and why I want to do the same for as many people as I can.
Tell me a bit about your past as you see relevant (where are you from, where did you go to school?)
I grew up in the Bay Area of California and have a B.A in English with minors in Asian American Studies and Economics from UC Davis.
Tell me a bit about you. (Hobbies, favorite entertainment, favorite vacation spots)
Hobbies: Programming, video games (currently playing Hades, Persona 5 Royal, and finally playing the Bioshock trilogy), and poker.
Favorite vacation spots: New York (I lived here from 2011-2015 and will always consider this city my second home), Tokyo (went pre-COVID for my honeymoon and would love to go back), and London.
When did you decide to become and entrepreneur? What were the circumstances in your life at the time?
When I first met Cam–who would become my co-founder on Threadbase and has been a programming mentor to me ever since. In 2015, he asked me what side projects I had on a walk to lunch. At the time, I was fully invested in marketing and never even knew side projects were a thing. I didn’t have an answer, but I asked him what he was doing. He told me he was working on building Go using some archaic programming language I now forget.
But that conversation opened my eyes to the idea that outside of work you can use that time to build/code/launch products that could be helpful or entertaining to people. My wife was also in culinary school at the time learning a new skill. After that conversation with Cam I decided to learn how to program and the rest is history.
Tell me a bit about your company or team (do you have any other people working with in team or you working all by yourself?)
It’s just me. I launched Coffee Chats on June 1, 2020.
Did you invest any money in your business? Were there others that funded it?
Nope. Entirely bootstrapped and the only amount of money used so far is on server cost, but with paying customers now, Coffee Chats is now profitable.
What helps you to stay on your path and follow your goal during tough times?
Advice-giving is a vertical I’m deeply passionate about and so each time I have a coffee chat with someone who needs advice, or I book time with one of our new site creators and ask them about their experience I’m inspired by all of their stores. Knowing that 1) I’m giving advice to people and 2) other people are starting to give advice to others or launching their businesses on Coffee Chats keeps me going.
What were the best decisions you made when you were starting your business?
Starting small. Coffee Chats initially launched as a way to just book time with me but a waitlist to eventually allow people to make their own sites. This allowed me to validate the product was working for me before going bigger.
What were the worst decisions you made when you were starting your business?
Overly investing in the wrong kind of feedback. After talking with one interested user, I built a product feature that took a week just for his use case, which ultimately wasn’t relevant for other users. Thankfully, a lot of the code used there was reusable for other things, but it still was a week of time I could have used on something else.
What advice have you found indispensable in running your business?
Prioritize retention. Whether that’s through new product features, 1:1 user feedback sessions, or sending a thank you email when people find a bug, retention is the thing that will make or break your product.
Going forward, what are your plans for this product or for other entrepreneurial pursuits?
I want to focus on making it as easy as possible to launch a site, personalize it, and charge for chats without writing any code. Shopify is the NorthStar so if I could build something 1/10th as good I consider myself successful.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who just starting their journey?
Just ship it. So many people build things in a vacuum, waiting for it to be perfect. Just ship the thing and get it in front of people. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but only by making yourself vulnerable and sharing your product will you get the users and feedback necessary to put you on the path to success.
Chris is a unique visionary who’s desire to give back and share knowledge has led him to creating this wonderful platform. It is truly a step forward towards resuming communication and connection in a world that has little.