Student Life

Coffee Catch
The java’s free—just hand over your data

By Joshua Danielson ’20 / September/October 2018
September 11th, 2018
Photo of Shiru Café
Photo: Frank Mullin

Shiru Cafe on Angell Street, which opened in February, has become a hit with Brunonians for its free coffee. The catch? Students register with Shiru online and  give info about themselves, such as field of study, skills, and job interests. Shiru can then share that data with corporate sponsors looking for employees. The model’s been successful overseas: Shiru has more than 20 cafés in India and Japan, where it claims 100-plus sponsors including Microsoft and JPMorgan. Sponsors have yet to sign up here, but Shiru’s already working on a second location near Yale. Providence general manager Keith Maher says he expects more than 75 percent of Brown students to register with Shiru by fall. We got feedback from some students: 

What’s not to like? 

“I like free things, I like coffee,” says James Okun ’20. “Yes, you’re selling your data to corporations, but generally people don’t care and just want free stuff. My data is already out there from career fairs and talking to different companies. College kids are on a budget, so I think it’s nice to have free coffee close to campus.” 

Fun job, win-win business model 

“I started working for Shiru over the summer and really enjoy it,” says Vanessa Garcia ’19. “I like talking with people about what they do each day, and I enjoy making latte art. We’re sponsored by companies looking to hire Brown students. They’ll only reach out if they’re interested in hiring you. Really, it’s a huge win-win for everyone involved.” 

Why cooperate with Big Brother?

“There’s a general sense that Shiru is not inherently evil but that it’s  playing to students’ weaknesses to get data,” says Erin Malimban ’19. “Giving data away to get coffee and a place to sit bothers me. It’s disrespectful to the ethos of Brown, where people do things they want to do as opposed to being tracked down by a company.”

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Related Issue
September/October 2018