The Art of Using Free Coffee to Grow Your First 1000 Customers — and why VR is awesome (even though it makes me nauseous)

Daniel Lee
4 min readMar 17, 2017

Just last week, something geeky and fun happened.

At least 100+ cameras took this — @DX3 2017 Credits: Selftraits

A 2-day tech/digital experience conference event: DX3 held in Toronto Metro Convention Centre. That’s it. The product sold itself and I signed up for it in a jiffy upon getting notified by my good cousin.

Just the thought of feeling the pulse of the tech industry, getting to meet new faces and learning fresh perspectives is super exciting.

Looking at the agenda and speakers rotating around the event, I zoomed into topics that sounded interesting:

  • Growth (which I’m covering in this story)
  • Machine Learning & Creativity
  • Digital Experience (DX) as Consumer Experience (CX)

Cliff notes for what I’ve learnt from Dan Jacob

How to: Grow Your First 1000 Customers (Breather)

Credits: Breather — via BostInno

Talk about the hockey game before you talk about hockey stick growth

  • Breather is a “think — Airbnb for working spaces”
  • Think: Hyper Local Context — build relationships on a 1 to 1 basis in a targeted locale
  • This being my favourite — picked up a 2-hour tab, paying for people’s coffee at a relevant location; Quantum Coffee —you’ll never know who you’re going to meet e.g. decision makers for xyz & people naturally would want to speak to you and to give you their most important resource: time and attention
  • Find creative ways to have people talk about what you do and don’t be boring e.g. host a DIY donut bar v.s. bulk ordered sandwiches — you’ll be surprised the powers a funky looking donut can have. Find Trojan Horses to infiltrate water cooler talk
  • Tap into channels like Meetup to organize e.g. Office Managers Meetup groups for a highly targeted audience and generously give out free working spaces for these Meetup events
  • Think Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans — let these 1000 people that you have met and infected (directly or indirectly) with your fun personality and awesome value be your advocates
  • Summary: to paraphrase Dan Jacobs — @djacob Growth Manager for Breather — have fun, meaningful conversations with a targeted group of fans who could benefit from your service and if hockey stick growth is the intended target, then why not start by talking about the hockey game first? Scale at one person at a time.
  • Challenge: What are some, welcoming ways to get a stranger (targeted stranger within a locale you are trying to reach) to want to spend 45 seconds to speak to you? Chances are, anyone could be a decision maker for xyz who could benefit your startup #ThinkGuerilla


Why VR is awesome (even though it makes me nauseous)

Slipping on a pair of Oculus headset sitting at the Interactive VR Lab corner — made me nervous.

Why? Horror movie experience, 360 degree VR style produced by Sid Lee — that’s why.

Taken by the awesome Samsung team at DX3!

I’d probably not do it again, but move on to other fun exciting things like skiing! Yes, skiing in Banff! The Samsung team had a booth in the show floor and I tried their VR skiing experience (even had ski poles to hold on to and a fan blowing into my face!)

Well played, Samsung.

Although it wasn’t present, Samsung has launched a series of VR initiatives titled: #BeFearless — where they challenged VR users to tackle their greatest fears e.g. Public Speaking. I’d love to try that, and I can see how tapping into these on-demand experiences can help with personal growth. Well played, Samsung.

Other uses of VR that I thought was fun & useful were:

“Stepping” into United Airline’s soon-to-be-built Polaris business class and lounge. I spoke with the team who curated this experience, and learnt that it was made to assuage fears from the airline’s stakeholders due to a delay in rolling out the new 787–10 Boeing Dreamliner airplanes.

And boy, immersing myself in this experience via permission marketing (of sort) is sure effective and persuasive — I’d actually want to experience the real thing.

Lastly, what made it nauseous — a commonly experienced symptom when putting on VR headsets — usually happens when the rendering (loading) for a 4k quality video has a lag time of 4 milliseconds and this minuscule split second disconnect from movement and the actual loading of the picture. Solution? As suggested by a member on the Invent Dev team using VR with Real Estate — while I explored my fantasy million dollar home — try loading the experience on a lesser quality at 1280p instead.

As Henry Ford said: Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger…

My takeaway? VR is awesome. After all, if Abba — yes, the Swedish hit group is making a comeback by announcing their 2018 ‘virtual experience’ tour date, this whole Virtual Experience Economy is just going to get bigger right in front of our eyes (or ears, etc… you get it)




Daniel Lee

Amateur kombucha-maker. I love street food & art - plus sharing thoughts on #Growth #Tech #Onboarding