Singaporean Man Opens Cafe Where Everything is Free — Except Time

A Singaporean man has set up a cafe business where everything — coffee, snacks, Wi-Fi and more — but time is free of charge.

Jonathan Ye founded Coffeemin, which combines “coffee” and “minutes,” soon after being shooed by a waitress while he watched a video on his phone in a New Zealand cafe.

Apparently, he learned that the Singaporean culture of hogging cafe seats with a single drink won’t work overseas. He told the Vulcan Post:

“Western culture accepts paying for services such as time […] and staff clear the table the moment we finished, so as to pressure customers to continue spending or leave.”

However, it was the Russian concept called Ziferblat, which essentially is a time cafe, that inspired the creation of Coffeemin.

“I decided to bring the [concept] to the city. People could have a home away from home, with the freedom to just pay for the time they spend there,” Ye said.

With the help of 10 friends, Ye managed to pull off a SGD $250,000 ($180,245) capital and kicked off his business in just two months.

Now, Coffeemin stands as Singapore’s and probably Asia’s first and only time cafe, charging customers SGD $6 ($4.30) for the first hour and SGD $1 ($0.70) for every following 10 minutes. A full day costs SGD $30 ($22).

Inside the cafe, customers can make and drink Arabica coffee, eat snacks, play pool and Xbox games, read books, surf the web and watch TV, among many others.

But as with many startups, the return of investment is easier to hypothesize than actually observe. On top of Coffeemin’s losses in its first 14 months, competitors sprang with their own time cafes.

Ye got it all together by keeping Coffeemin’s rates low, urging customers to treat the cafe as their own home and placing it close to Lockdown SG and V-room, which are companies he also founded.

The cafe currently has two branches. It sets its eyes on a membership program, akin to a gym membership, so that “Coffeeminions” can visit any outlet and just relax, Ye said.

Photos via Jonathan Ye/Coffeemin

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