**Currently tech-trekking with my fellow Kellogg MBA’s through Seattle, Bay Area, Silicon Valley for the following week, posts will reflect our awesome schedule!**

Monday: Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon
Tuesday: Salesforce, Twilio, Linkedin
Wednesday: Intuit, Facebook, VMware
Thursday: Google, Medallia, Adobe
Friday: Apple, Cisco, PayPal


We taxonomize businesses. Ford is a car company. Exxon Mobil is an oil and gas company. And Microsoft is a technology company.

Starbucks is normally slotted into the food-and-beverage category, but I think it’s more of a tech company — if not like Google, then at least like Amazon.

Amazon started out as an online bookstore then branched into selling everything. Today, Amazon differentiates itself against other retailers with algorithms, cloud services, robots and drones — not to mention tablets, TV boxes and, soon, a 3D smartphone. Amazon doesn’t belong in the “retail store” category. Likewise, Starbucks started out selling coffee (it initially sold Peet’s coffee, actually). But now Starbucks is essentially a technology company.

Tell me more!

Wireless charging…
Wireless charging has been stuck in the mud for years. Mainstream acceptance is always coming next year. But somehow, next year never arrives. A few high-end phones support wireless charging, but for the most part, it’s still a nonstarter.

Never mind that the company is supporting only one of the competing standards (Power Matters Alliance) and therefore most smartphones won’t be able to take advantage of its wireless charging service.┬áThe important thing is that Starbucks is going big and being very visible about wireless charging. It will stimulate demand and drive conversations.

Indoor location beacon…
Starbucks is likely to add iBeacons to all of its stores, making it possible for you to order a drink in advance and then auto-notify the barista when you walk in the door. Your drink will be ready by the time you make it to the register.

The Internet of Things…
While the Internet of Things is a somewhat distant promise for consumers, Starbucks is charging forward with it aggressively.

Many Starbucks stores have super high-tech Clover coffee machines, which connect to the cloud to communicate the performance of the machines — and to track customer preferences. Starbucks is also working on smart refrigerators that track the expiration dates of milk and other items inside, smart thermometers, smart door locks and other devices in stores where data on their current states can be uploaded.

All of his data is accessible and crunchable from headquarters.

Mobile e-commerce…
Starbucks is a giant in mobile e-commerce. The company’s mobile transactions exceeded $1 billion in 2013, according to one estimate.

High-performance wireless data…
Starbucks is working to be a leader in Wi-Fi hotspot performance. After offering AT&T Wi-Fi to customers for years, Starbucks is bringing in Google to offer super high-speed access — probably faster Wi-Fi than the vast majority of its customers have access to anywhere.

There are also credible rumors that Google is working on a Starbucks app feature that will automatically log users in to the Starbucks Wi-Fi the second they walk into the store.

My 2 cents:

Starbucks once diagnosed superior technology as a means to attract more customers, Starbucks’ capitalizing on its tech assets of old follows a trend we see now ammongst many “non-tech” companies: find ways to leverage one’s data, storage capacity, and existing technological assets as a differential for the customer, a gold mine of information, and a leg up on the more “old fashioned” competitors.

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