Doing business in a coffee shop is the normal. Jin Sun Ahn and Jae Ho Synn, co-owners of Irvine’s Coffeebar Byul, let us observe a day at the office. coffeebarbyul.com
“People use the Bitcoin machine. It’s been gaining traction since we installed it about 4-5 months ago. Both buyers and sellers. Besides actual transactions, however, it’s surprising how many people are aware of Bitcoin, and want to talk/learn about it. That ATM is probably the most photographed thing in the shop.”
4 Reasons Coffeebar Byul Has a Bitcoin ATM
“1. It’s a social and cultural phenomenon that’s here to stay, and there’s something attractive about being “the first”.
2. Before we got the Bitcoin ATM, we accepted Bitcoin for transactions. Getting the ATM seemed to be the logical next step: Bitcoin interchangeable with physical USD currency.
3. Jin Sun and I want Byul to be a place that’s forward thinking and progressive: modern. Whether it’s equipment, recipes, or visual aesthetic, we want the shop to manifest that point of view. One day I had a long and interesting conversation with a UCI computer science professor who taught a course jointly with a UCI anthropology professor—about money, with an emphasis on Bitcoin. There’s apparently a lot of interest; maybe we’re approaching a tipping point.
4. We want our customers to be interested/amused/delighted when they come to the shop. Maybe even learn something fun. It might be a small detail such as our cocktail bar ice cubes that are perfect cubes, less surface area, harder, clearer, melt slower, and minimize dilution. Or it might be the Bitcoin ATM.”
Forward Thinkers | Mobilizing Apparel
Brian Garofalow is co-founder of an app for designing and ordering custom T-shirts. yoshirt.com
What inspired Yoshirt?
Yoshirt is a vehicle to modernize certain elements of the apparel industry: cut down development cost, remove the reliance on inventory, and build a personal relationship with consumers. One of my co-founders, Franky Aguilar, built the app with the intention of allowing users to become apparel designers and to actually purchase and see designs turn into reality.
Why an app?
An app allows us to scale distribution at a very low cost.
Any secrets to getting featured in the Apple store?
We just passed 1 million downloads. We saw early and aggressive organic downloads—our engineering team built a quality product and our customers liked their products. Several members of our team are ex-Apple employees; talking about Yoshirt in the right circles certainly helped.
Forward Thinkers | Investing in Women
Entrepreneur Kim Kovacs, a managing director of the SoCal chapter of Golden Seeds investment company and partner of Hardesty LLC, says women are overcoming obstacles and making a big impact as entrepreneurs.
How hard has it been for female entrepreneurs to get money to start their own businesses?
Women have a couple of challenges. We start a lot of companies that are lifestyle-related. If women were starting bio or tech or lifescience companies at the same rate that men are, I’d see women getting investments at the same rate as men.
What particular challenges do female venture capitalists face?
I’d say the No.1 is track records. Most institutional investors—not necessarily individual investors—want to put their money with a firm that has a record. We don’t have the 30 years of experience.
What do you look for in a female entrepreneur as a potential CEO?
We look for someone who is passionate and focused. Very good entrepreneurs are social and they reach out. Good CEOs are coachable.
Forward Thinkers | Sharing Tools
Mechanical engineer Mark Lengsfeld left behind a company position to start Build It Workspace in Los Alamitos. builditworkspace.com
Who works at maker workspaces ?
Pretty much the entrepreneur and inventor types. They’re trying to make a product themselves that’s cleaner and presentable for investors.
Why did you leave your job as a project manager to open a maker space?
Part of it is I have my own patentable ideas. I found the 9-to-5 (job) getting in the way of that opportunity. The other piece of it is I had bought my first 3-D printer, and I discovered a culture with it—the maker culture. From a business standpoint, that space is a way for me to get more uses out of the equipment.
What fields are changing because of 3-D printing?
It’s getting into all types of areas. Right now we’re seeing the initial crop (of printers) that use food. And I remember seeing a 3-D printed ear, made with human cells.
The build-it-yourself movement that began in the Bay Area has spread, with shops where people can walk in and make almost anything. Maker spaces are equipped with innovative technologies, such as 3-D printers and laser cutters. Not just for hobbyists, they’ve become offices for everyone from jewelry designers to inventors.
Worklab CC is a 1,000-square-foot space in Huntington Beach that never closes. It was founded by Heesoo Lee, an R&D engineer and project lead at Pixar for 14 years. The CC stands for “Create collaborate” and “collaborative consumption.” worklab.cc
Factory eNova is among Orange County’s smaller venues—1,300 square feet—yet it has the environment of a charming cafe. It was the first O.C. location to offer a public laser-cutting and engraving studio. It has a new gallery space, above, and studio to display and make prints on wood. Book as little as 15 minutes or buy a monthly membership. “People can come in and make something themselves or we can make it for them if they don’t have the time,” says eNova co-owner Seth Inyang. factoryenova.com
Urban Workshop in Costa Mesa is on the other end of the spectrum. At 18,500 square feet, it’s the third-largest maker space in the U.S., says owner Steve Trindade. Urban Workshop has equipment to do sewing, automotive repair, electronics, machining, plastics, engineering, silicon molding, and more. urbanworkshop.net
A new segment of the population has zero interest in a traditional job. Whether on a quest for variety, excitement, or autonomy, these local giggers are anything but boring. <<expanded interviews!>>
“I launched Ivysport out of my house. Those three years I lived off home equity and savings, it was a huge gamble. But I could be my own person and own a business that wouldn’t be taken away soon.”
“Everyone can be an entrepreneur, it’s about where you’re coming from, how to surround yourself … the one skill you need is self-awareness.”
“OC is incredible, we have so much talent, but the zeitgeist doesn’t exist here. There’s not a lot in the way of startups. That’s a little tough, when you have the energy, success begets success; there’s a lot of help that goes around when you build an ecosystem around entrepreneurials.”
Jennie Cotterill, jenniecotterill.com
Lead guitarist with the band Bad Cop/Bad Cop
Maker of wedding-cake toppers
Illustrator for Nike, “Parks and Recreation” TV show, Great Park Gallery
Curator for Hurley, F+ Gallery in Santa Ana, Quiznos
“As an artist and creative person, I don’t have to feel self-conscious about working for myself.”
“I’ve met and keep meeting people, and work is regular, and people are calling me. I’m able to say ‘no’ to things—which I didn’t do when I was desperate and younger.”
E-commerce photographer for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Arcade machine restorer
Comic book store employee
Cinema Attack! co-founder
Seller of taxidermy
“I do a lot of side things that are hobbies that I kinda make money off of … these are the ways that allow me to live the life I wanna live.”
“People are now are a lot smarter in a broader sense than they’ve ever been, the internet makes things so much more accessible, you can youtube any topic and find out how to do it wrong or right.”
“I just started taking pictures at parties, it gave me something to do; there was no better way to meet girls. I can’t tell them that I’m a roadie, or that I work in a comic book store. This was the 90s, being a nerd wasn’t cool yet. But everybody wanted to have their picture taken. RVCA really liked my photos, then they asked me to shoot for them. At that point I felt like I was getting away with it, so I had to learn how to be a photographer.”
The Co-Working Life
Pay by the hour, day, or month to share an office with like-minded folks who network, find community, and innovate.
PeopleSpace, Irvine. O.C.’s “slice of Silicon Valley,” as one of PeopleSpace’s more than 60 members calls it, attracts mostly high-tech startups waiting for the revenue stream to kick in. It’s a nonprofit organization. The giant room has white walls, unfinished ceilings, couches upstairs, and a ping-pong table downstairs. It offers 24-hour access, plus hackothons, mixers, and meetups. peoplespace.us
Eureka Hub, Irvine. This is incubator heaven. Founded by Ergo Capital Partners’ Peter M. Polydor, the 7,000-square-foot office and co-working complex is focused on tech, entrepreneurs, and potential collaboration among businesses. Start-up youngsters mix with CEOs at weekly events in the downstairs assembly area. eurekahub.co
CrashLabs, Costa Mesa. This new storefront co-working setup has custom-designed long tables, high-tops, conference rooms of varying sizes, some with Apple TVs, and—standard at co-working sites—a lounge with beer in the fridge. A 1960s-era phone booth is fun for selfies and privacy while Facetime talking. thecrashlabs.com
Batch, Santa Ana. One of O.C.’s oldest co-working sites (and smallest, with room for only 20 workers at a time), Batch’s character comes from the Sam Spade-cool but still-scruffy downtown 1899 Hervey-Findley Building. Founder Sarah Armstrong has almost doubled the space, and now there’s a conference room. Attracts designers, illustrators, PR specialists, and techies. batchdtsa.com