We unleashed #SmartFlights at The 2017 Craft Brewers Conference!
After years of development, it was surreal to officially unveil our company and the future of beer flights at the industry’s largest event of the year. As you may have seen in our CBC17 preview article, this was an important event where we wanted to make a big impact. As you can see in the photos below, we had an awesome booth, enjoyed all sorts of adventure and loved sharing our innovative product with tons of attendees from all over the world. Like we did in our CBC16 recap, let’s take you on a ride through our trip to Washington DC. Hang on…here we go!
After arriving the night before, our three-person team packed up and rolled into downtown DC. The venue for CBC was once again massive and after checking in, we hauled everything to where we’d call home the next three days. Setup was smooth and our hot little booth looked sweet!
Once setup was done, we found a random spot to grab some beers and do some final prep work. The “remote office” we chose became the destination for everyone from North Carolina, as the NC Beer Happy Hour got underway. We tapped in and meet a bunch of great people, before heading to the night’s big event.
The opening reception at CBC is always epic and this year was no different. We arrived at the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of American History, where of course, great craft beer was served, but also tons of fun things to experience. After some time there, we strolled out to the middle of the national mall. This was a special moment, as Ben, Sinclair and Jake all enjoyed a few brews and stood in between the Washington Monument and our nation’s capital. From there, we headed to the second location for this fun gathering. Once inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the night came to life. We had way too much fun closing things down, met some cool cats and captured some epic photos that we’ll enjoy forever.
With very little sleep, it was time to do what we came there to do. Booth 1640 became a little hot spot in the massive expo hall and it was awesome to see so much interest in our new technology. We met all sorts of brewery owners and industry professionals and even plugged our product into a few other booths throughout the event. Thanks again Grandstand, Barth Haas Group, Brewd and Sahm! In short, Day 1 was a great start to our three day adventure in DC!
Day 2 was the best day of CBC17. Our booth buzzed with activity all day long and our after party with Sam Adams and Digital Pour was a hit. As you can see below, one obvious highlight was meeting the crew from Sam Adams. One of the fathers of craft beer, Jim Koch, actually had a chance to play around with our product and had fun snapping some photos with Ben. Penn Social was an awesome host and we even came up with a new way to use our smart paddles within the beer trivia event. Thanks again to our friends (and booth neighbors) at Digital Pour, Penn Social and Sam Adams for such a fun evening.
Once we closed down the party at Penn Social, our crew flew over to catch the end of the Iowa Beer Social. It was awesome to walk into a room full of friends, Ben turned on his electronic shoes and the night got a little out of control from there.
The final day of CBC was a struggle. You could tell that all of the 13,000+ attendees were exhausted from such a crazy week and the mood throughout the event felt like zombieland. Nonetheless, we pushed through and generated another day full of new introductions and continued interest in our electronic serving system.
Along with meeting new friends from Beer Advocate, one highlight came right at the end of the show. We had packed up our booth and were walking off the show floor. As we walked past the Brewers Association’s area, Ben stopped to say thanks for all their help. As he randomly walked up to say hello, they were literally in the middle of talking about FliteBrite, with our promo paddle in their hands! The timing of our visit could not have been scripted any better, so Ben took some time to share our story and walked them through the world’s first electronic beer flight paddle.
We crashed back at the house and had a fun evening of reflection. Friday we did a little sight seeing and left DC with a mixture of emotions. Our formal unveiling had gone big at the Craft Brewers Conference, we had a bunch of breweries, restaurants and bars from throughout the country sign up for a free trial, and there was an exciting sense of accomplishment, but we also heard all sort so of valuable feedback and know there’s a lot more work to be done.
The simple fact that we’ll be in our nation’s capital for the largest gathering of brewers is awesome, but we’re stepping it up this year and are ready to take orders from nationwide attendees.
To make it easy to secure your own smart beer flight paddles, we’ll be hanging out in one of the hall’s hot spots, Booth 1640. In fact, here’s your first look at the Craft Brewers Conference 2017 Exhibit Hall and where to find FliteBrite on April 10-13, 2017!
You heard it here first.
Inside the exhibit hall, we’re literally next door neighbors with our friends from Digital Pour (1636) and just a flight glass away from Grandstand Glassware & Apparel (1837). We can all enjoy two beer stations (red) on each side of our booth and being able to stop by all sorts of other friends in the exhibit hall this April. BREWD (1023) will be in the house, along with other friends like Track Track Malting (654) and Draft Magazine (424)!
Along with your first smart beer flight experience, we’ll be giving away fun swag at Booth 1640. We’ll have our new customer coasters on hand with a new collection of shirts and a few more surprises for the first breweries and restaurants who secure their own fleet of electronic beer flight paddles.
With a fun booth in the heart of DC’s largest exhibit hall, we are ready to deliver, but you know we’re just as excited for the after parties. In fact, we’re excited to announce a special event we’ll be hosting with Digital Pour at Penn Social on Wednesday (4/12) night! More details are on the way, but #SmartFlights will be paired with trivia and a ton of fun. We’re also excited for the annual #IowaBeerSocial, as that’s always a great time to connect with all our Iowa allies!
After CBC16 in Philly last year, the FliteBrite crew can’t wait to reconnect with everyone and we’d invite you to follow our #CBC17 adventures. Take a peek at our matte black beer paddles before the rush of CBC17, then connect with us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re attending the Craft Brewers Conference in DC, we also invite you to shoot us a note so we can reserve you a time to experience one of the hottest new brewtech products on the show floor.
Cheers to this exciting announcement for our company, the monumental opportunity and all the people who make craft beer so much fun!
These electronic beer flight paddles have been thoughtfully designed and meticulously manufactured to look amazing, be cost effective and super durable.
The sleek look paired with our interactive color touchscreen allows you to showcase your craft beer in a whole new way! You can order your fleet now or apply for our free trial program. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at how the world’s first smart flights have evolved.
We began with a clear paddle that was a beer nerd’s dream.
This fully-functioning prototype introduced the world to smart flights, affirmed our vision of a more engaging customer experience and turned out to be perfect for showcasing the wi-fi enabled technology built inside the paddle. This clear prototype taught us what customers wanted. It also confirmed what brewery and restaurant owners had to have. It would even be used in the wild as we conducted research to quantify smart beer flights.
As cool as it looked, this clear paddle was not made to hold up in the harsh environment behind the bar. It was also not designed for true manufacturing. As our electronic technology evolved, we continued to refine what the future of beer flights would look like, how it would feel and how the entire experience would flow.
This bold new embodiment that we’re formally unveiling here, is the result of countless hours talking with industry experts, listening to customers, learning from mistakes and passionately polishing our innovative platform overall. These matte black paddles are built to serve a more engaging beer tasting experience, while providing the most brand-boosting way to serve fractional pours. Welcome to the future of beer flights!
The four pockets are carved out to allow a wide variety of flight glasses to pass through (2.025″ diameter) and evenly catch each glass when the paddle is lifted up. This lightens the paddle and eliminates craters that collect stale beer and even mold.
Centered between the four pockets, we’ve dedicated a space just for you! Working together, we’ll provide a sexy little icon sticker to showcase your brand in a big way.
Overall, this 2×2 layout provides a more stable feel by ergonomically distributing the weight of full flight glasses closer to your hand. It is also thoughtfully paired with the 2×2 layout of the color touchscreen built into the handle. Fastened your seat belts. This is where things get super exciting.
Our patented touchscreen technology provides a balanced experience right out of the box and truly brings FliteBrite to life. At first glance, you’ll realize it’s not your smartphone, but once you begin clicking around, you’ll realize it doesn’t matter. We’ve utilized a lower resolution display to make our product affordable, but with intuitive design, we’ve implemented fast-loading graphics and accurate information that’s fun and easy to understand for anyone.
One of the best features of our interactive touchscreen, is the ability to update it over the air, right from your online dashboard! This allows us to continuously enhance the touchscreen, while ensuring you always have the most up-to-date experience.
We’ll hold off on sharing too many details on the online dashboard, but know it’s what puts the “smart” into smart flights as it manages all your smart paddles, magically updates your menu with single clicks, builds social media campaigns and tracks some crazy cool analytics.
You’ll be blown away with how much your customers enjoy the smart flight experience.
FliteBrite’s smart beer flights fuel the virality of what people naturally enjoy sharing by tapping into accurate details for each brew and giving your customers a fun way to share, track and even rate the beers they love. By connecting with a more informed customer, you can increase loyalty and boost engagement that will positively expand your brand.
We have poured our hearts into building this product and we’re so proud to share that starting today, our matte black paddles are ready to ship nationwide!
Contact Us to learn how easy it is to serve the best beer flight in town!
Traveling to Fargo in January may not seem like a natural destination to bring FliteBrite, especially as we prepare for our nationwide release, but Fargo has the largest 1 Million Cups event in the country and they’re friendly community is full of innovative entrepreneurial energy.
While our team stayed back to continue polishing our new matte black paddles, our fearless leader flew north to present FliteBrite in front of a full theater of inspired entrepreneurs at 1 Million Cups Fargo. Since we had so much fun sharing our full team’s pitch at 1 Million Cups Des Moines, we thought it may be fun to showcase this lone wolf pitch as well.
Along with a terrific 1 Million Cups experience that was featured in this Emerging Prairie article and a mini explosion of Twitter activity, we had a terrific time connecting with tons of entrepreneurs, craft beer lovers and energized community builders during our 48 hour visit to Fargo.
One big highlight was our visit to the North Dakota State University Research & Technology Park. It was great to see how NDSU is supporting student entrepreneurs, while also advocating for innovation with more established brands.
Another highlight was working inside The Prairie Den and attending a community celebration called 1 Million Thanks. This was an annual event that recognized entrepreneurs, encouraged innovative action and continued to build the #ilovefargo mentality.
In addition to our presentation at 1MC Fargo, our visit to NDSU and the 1 Million Thanks event, we tapped into local hot spots like Fargo Brewing Co., JL Beers, Drekker Brewing Co., Würst Bier Hall, No Bull Smokehouse, Junkyard Brewing Co. and the Front Street Taproom. Everyone truly seemed to like smart beer flights and it will be fun to see who is first to serve a brighter beer flight in Fargo!
Thanks again to Greg, Annie, Lindsay, Aaron, Brent, Shane, Zach, Corey, Jessie, Callie and the entire Emerging Prairie community. This was a trip we won’t forget. Cheers!
As part of a TS Bank’s community reinvestment initiative, this second annual event brought entrepreneurs together to compete for a share of $27,500. After moving through the preliminary round, our team was selected as a finalist in this Shark Tank-like competition.
We arrived at the event and really enjoyed meeting startup community builders from Omaha and Council Bluffs. Under the bright lights, Ben, Ethan and Sinclair presented a 5 minute pitch and then answered questions from a panel of four judges on stage.
It was challenging to share all that we’ve been building in such a concise way, but everyone clearly understood the opportunity that smart beer flights provide beer-loving consumers and the craft beer industry as a whole. Here are the results!
FliteBrite – $10,000
Lien Waivers – $10,000
Terva – $5,000
Wicked Apples – $2,500
Once again, congratulations to all the finalists. Our team truly appreciates the top prize of $10,000, but also how this type of community-driven event supports the startup ecosystem overall. Special thanks to TS Bank, Revela, Startup Omaha and all the partners who gave us a meaningful boost as we prepare to deliver our first round of nationwide pre-orders this month. Cheers!
With a computer science in hand, Ben considered California before returning to Iowa to build the Internet back in 2004. He conceptualized websites and built online visibility for other business owners and did so for 10 years before retiring from web development. He then joined a progressive Des Moines home builder to build his own marketing and innovation position. He enjoys the team and digital marketing work in residential construction, but he’s also blessed with the freedom for “BENovator” to build communities. Within the Iowa startup ecosystem, his organizing efforts for 1 Million Cups Des Moines and dmStartupDrinks takes a special energy, but Ben is always ready for the next adventure.
With his conscious effort to build innovation that works within a market that’s meaningful, Ben McDougal has also fueled an entire entrepreneurial side to his career. Yes…there’s way more!
Ready? Here’s the weird part of Ben that makes him interestingly awesome.
Starting with a 3v3 soccer tournament way back in the day, Ben would build and then sell that business after 2 years. One of the main reasons was that Jet Set Studio went online in 2007. For almost 10 years now, Ben has built friends, community, a video game social network, a video game tournament search engine and interactive gaming events throughout North America. eSports, Guitar Hero, Halo, Madden, Call of Duty and the magnetism of video games overall, has combined to create a crazy ride for Ben and his creative work through Jet Set Studio. In fact, it’s super cool that we’ll have a little video game aspect at our big FliteBrite booth we’re about to announce for the 2017 Craft Brewers Conference in DC!
Ben wants to change the world and loves the adventures in life. He also enjoys golf, Seth Godin, audiobooks, capturing electronic music, travel, tech, the art of the pitch, wine, craft beer, photography, accelerating others and spending time with his wife and new baby girl.
Ben is our community builder at FliteBrite. He’s the social media, website building, search engine optimizing, storytelling, brand developing assassin on our team. He’s basically the nerd you need to know and he said that he hopes you’ll connect with FliteBrite on Instagram, haha!
Ben keeps FliteBrite’s fresh ideas flowing, communication rolling, content expanding, sales growing and business building. Big ideas take the next level of innovative effort and this guy unlocks our overall company in a way we’re so excited about. With such an amazing team, Ben, Sinclair, Jake and I have had so much fun building the future of beer flights. We always say the customer discovery has been a blast and we’re excited to now have the only smart beer flights online nationwide.
We write all this, but face it. It’s likely you know this guy who’s passion is the art of connection. By bringing great people together for so long, Ben’s engaged network is an entrepreneurial tribe of energized, passionate business owners nationwide. He’s the type of influencer that wants to hear your story and ideas, but FliteBrite and the value of beer flights is his favorite topic, so you can expect at least a short update on these smart flights the next time you connect with him.
Ben McDougal is an idea machine who intelligently builds things that work on a timeline of now.
This company would not be here with out him and I know he believes the age of FliteBrite is now. He’s strategically built our company to support something big and his entrepreneurial leadership is easy to see. He’ll have a beer flight with you anytime and makes it a good time, every time. Thanks for all you do bro!
After a semester of planning, we established a real-world research project that pushed our electronic technology into the wild for the very first time! In collaboration with our friends at Exile Brewing Co., which is a Des Moines-based restaurant, taproom and brewery that distributes craft beer throughout Iowa, we were able to compare one week of “business as usual”, to one full week with smart beer flights online.
Our team and the MBA research team were given full access to financial data and surveys completed by actual customers as they compared beer sales, customer responses, social media activity, staff feedback and overall sales. We began seeing live data flowing into the online dashboard for the first time. It was crazy cool. In fact, if you’re willing to squint, here’s the actual survey! The results were just as tasty.
It’s hard not to notice the intriguing results from this valuable research. The cool part is that there’s even more super interesting data we’re excited to connect you with as you bring smart flights to your brewery, restaurant, taproom or bar. [ORDER NOW!]
It was also absolutely amazing to see live beer flight data flowing into the real-time online dashboard. You can also bet Ben, Ethan and Sinclair enjoyed the craft beer industry’s first smart beer flights served in the wild. Want a fun story? Ask about the Exile’s beer called “Jesus on a Forkilift”…for lunch, haha! One of our favorite quotes came from RJ Tursi, owner of Exile Brewing Co., during the research process as he said:
“People are loving the smart flights, both staff and customers. It’s a kick ass product.”
On behalf of the FliteBrite family, we’d like to thank Kenton, George and James for their commitment to outstanding research. We’d also like to thank Wade Steenhoek and the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business for giving us this opportunity to continue quantifying smart beer flights. Last, but certainly not least, thanks again to RJ and the entire crew at Exile Brewing Co. for being the world’s first establishment to serve a brighter flight of craft beer.
Contact Us to learn how easy it is to bring smart beer flights to your business!
We’ll be back soon everyone 🍻 pic.twitter.com/BU0JPSFkyO
— FliteBrite (@FliteBrite) October 26, 2016
The FliteBrite team revealed smart beer flights to a packed house at 1 Million Cups in Des Moines, Iowa. Enjoy the epic experience for yourself, as Ben McDougal, Ethan Davidson and Ben Sinclair share a concise presentation that features all three of our co-founders on stage.
The audience came to life as they listened how FliteBrite provides a more engaging beer flight for breweries and restaurants nationwide. With so many engaging features, FliteBrite truly does offer educational entertainment that brews a more loyal customer and it was awesome to finally share what FliteBrite is all about!
The 30-min. community Q&A is not included in the pitch video, but the caffeinated crowd had a huge response with great questions and anticipation for FliteBrite. The team did an awesome job introducing this news that the craft beer world would soon be enjoying brighter beer flights!
Check out more photos from this special 1 Million Cups event and thanks again to the Des Moines community for all the support and this amazing opportunity. Cheers!
Ben Sinclair, known on our team just as Sinclair, is the magician behind what makes FliteBrite the smartest way to serve beer flights.
Sinclair has always been into electronics. Sinclair was there when the web first appeared, and has been building the Internet even since. As mobile apps started taking over, Sinclair began creating fun things that brought your smartphone to life. Uppward was an app that allowed you to connect with fellow flyers on the airplane and then came Offspring, a micronetworking app for families to share memorable moments. He would eventually help launch Shift Interactive into a progressive web and mobile app development firm in Iowa, before making a move that would lead him to join the co-founding team at FliteBrite.
Sinclair has been a master at software development since the beginning of time on the Internet, but deep down, he had always wanted to tap into his interests in electronic engineering. FliteBrite’s beautiful balance between intuitive software and interactive hardware was a perfect fit! FliteBrite truly came to life when Sinclair blended his tech-savvy skills with the innovative mind of Ben McDougal and the manufacturing expertise of Ethan Davidson.
You’ve seen our smart beer flight experience, right?
FliteBrite’s interactive touchscreen adds entertaining education to craft beer flights and Sinclair has been the in-house magician behind it all. Sinclair’s sharp focus on optimizing FliteBrite’s user interface and electronic engineering truly puts the “smart” in Smart Flights! His handy work allows our electronic serving system to be ultra fast, easy for anyone and super durable with outstanding battery life.
Along with building so many awesome features and optimizing the FliteBrite platform overall, Sinclair used his wizardry to build FliteBrite’s awesome online dashboard. Whether it’s single-click menu management fueled by Untappd, tracking valuable flight and customer data or slick social sharing tools that tap into the natural virality of the taproom experience, Sinclair has built a powerful platform that allows our customers to unlock a new level of customer connectivity.
Like the rest of the FliteBrite crew, Sinclair is a sharp entrepreneur with tons of interesting hobbies. Besides enjoying a pint of craft beer, Sinclair digs being a Dad, astronomy, fine dining, ham radio, all things Apple, backpacking and the occasional Miami Vice. As our Chief Social Officer, Sinclair keeps our team fresh with good times and tons of laughs.
Sinclair makes FliteBrite special and we’re lucky to have him on our team. His crazy smart development effort has fueled our efforts to provide a new level of entertaining education at breweries, bars, brew pubs and restaurants nationwide.
Ok. Let’s begin with a co-founding member of our FliteBrite team, Ethan Davidson.
Along with Ben, Ethan has been a part of this idea of serving a brighter flight of beer from the very beginning. Let’s rewind and get to know Ethan. Although a marketing degree from the University of Iowa was his initial idea for a career in school, Ethan would graduate and actually jump into high-end carbon fiber manufacturing.
How many folks do you know who helped build the world’s most aerodynamic triathlon bicycle, haha! Ethan had the opportunity to expand a team building these crazy fast triathlon bicycles called Dimond bikes. As he tuned his skills in team building and the advanced world of manufacturing, Ethan also plugged into the Des Moines startup community by jumping into one of the organizer roles for 1 Million Cups Des Moines back in 2013.
Ethan is fun to be around, likes to say yes to adventure and has great stories to enjoy over happy hour. If you are with him, please snag a quick beer flight for him. Ethan enjoys a good time and understands how big this product can be for so many.
As we built ideas into our electronic serving system, Ethan would make a job shift from the bike manufacturing world and join a new team focused on plastic manufacturing. BeraTek Industries was creating some slick products in a variety of industries and kept growing as a company. In fact, this is the Iowa-based team we had just selected to refine our product for the craft beer market!
So imagine that. The co-founder of your company, who’s unique expertise is a part of our detailed-oriented manufacturing process, creates an opportunity to join the team who is about to help us ship our first round of pre-orders! Ethan continues to keep the team realistic as we prepared for our nationwide product launch.
This transition also brought a renewed energy for innovating with fresh ideas. With this smart beer flight paddle about to change the craft beer game, Ethan has keep the focus on ensuring our beer paddle are ready to stand up to what can be a brutal world behind the bar. Ethan loves breweries and a beer flight any day, but he also plays soccer, basketball and is probably more athletic than you, haha!
So along with staying focused on bringing our beer flight paddle to life, Ethan’s job transition to Baratek also spawned a neat opportunity for Ethan to move to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although it’s been a challenging transition and we’ll miss him in Des Moines, Ethan and his wife Sarah are excited to bring FliteBrite to our friends in Cedar Rapids and all of Eastern Iowa. We’re thankful to have ETHANergy on this team and his effort to evolve our product’s real-world durability.
Looking ahead, Ethan may be at the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington DC with FliteBrite next year and is always down for coffee of happy hour chats. If you do connect over happy hour, Ethan likes IPA brews, but is down for anything when pairing beer flights. Throw in a pale ale, then a brown ale, completed with one of his choices. Naturally, be sure to only enjoy this beer flight with a pair of our smart flight paddles and ask Ethan to play badminton, ping pong, soccer or basketball to make yourself feel out of shape, haha!
In fact, why wait? Hit him up with an email through our contact form. He’ll be happy to share the story of FliteBrite and hook you up with some paddles starting Fall 2016.