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.
The Craft Brewers Conference was absolutely huge in 2016.
Brewery owners, taproom managers, restaurant owners, franchisors, vendors and craft beer enthusiast all came together for one of the largest craft beer gatherings in the world. It was an absolute pleasure being a part of this annual event and strategically sharing our innovative beer flight paddles with the industry. Check out the Brewers Association’s CBC16 recap, then enjoy our fun little recap on what went down in Philly.
One day after this Tweet dropped, we had the opportunity to tour three different Philadelphia breweries and one great spot in New Jersey. The craft beer flowed as we started at the St. Benjamin Brewing Company taproom. After an interesting tour, it was neat to fire up the week with how much the team at this taproom loved our smart beer flight paddles.
After a few beer flights and more conversation that has us excited to collaborate with this brewery, we cruised over to the Double Nickel tasting room in New Jersey. This is an example of a brewery that’s going big from the very beginning. They have a large brewing system, a great tasting room and are already starting to distribute their brews in cans all around the region. One interesting thing we learned about was how the state of New Jersey has certain educational requirements for taproom visitors. In short, if only craft beer is served, the establishment must provide an educational experience for visitors wanting to enjoy craft beer in tasting rooms. It’s an odd law, but the organic education that FliteBrite provides made it clear that our beer paddles solve real problems for New Jersey craft beer establishments. After a great time in New Jersey, we finished our tour at Bar Hygge and the Dock Street Brewery. This was a great time and a neat chance to build relationships with a few east coast breweries.
After recovering from a full night of brewery tours, it was time to get CBC underway. After eating our first cheesesteak and checking in at the venue, we stopped by the Orchestrated Beer gathering at Strangelove’s before heading to the CBC opening party. The opening event was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This place includes the stairs that Rocky ran up in those epic movies. Needless to say, there were a lot of people having fun posing with The Italian Stallion. After a fun chat with Ballast Point and talking with industry allies at this massive party, we hit the Sierra Nevada after-party to sample their Beer Camp project for the first time. Beer Camp is the ultimate example of breweries collaborating, so it was a perfect way to finish a great day.
The first full day of #CBC16 did not disappoint. Along with a few educational sessions, we spent most of the time interacting with everyone on the massive trade show floor. Our team decided that this was not the time to formally unveil our technology with a vendor booth on the show floor, but this was still a great opportunity to see what types of vendors attend this event and how to best interact this this exploding industry and within the craft brewing community.
After an entire day on the show floor, things got interesting. Our team is actively involved within the startup community, so with Philly Tech Week going on while we were in town, we had a neat opportunity to sneak away from the craft beer world to attend the Philly Startup Leaders community-driven event, Entrepreneur Expo, which turned out to be packed full of awesome entrepreneurs. After engaging with tons of amazing entrepreneurs, we cruised across town for the #IowaBeerSocial hosted at Devil’s Den and the Lagunitas after-party. Celebrating with all our friends from the Iowa craft beer community was definitely a highlight and with the brewmaster from Firetrucker Brewing celebrating his birthday, this turned into a night full of fun and tons of amazing brews.
The aggressive Wednesday night led to a slow start on Thursday, but we made our way to the Philadelphia Convention Center to finish exploring the Craft Brewers Conference. The show floor was so massive, it literally took two days to walk, so we had another great day interacting with vendors and sharing our electronic serving system with a few more craft brewing professionals. Even with a 5AM flight home the next morning, we still enjoyed dinner with leaders of the Philadelphia startup community and went up in the One Liberty Observation Deck to finish this adventure 54 stories above the city of Philadelphia.
#CBC16 was obviously terrific. Along with enjoying a crazy amount of craft beer and having an absolute blast, we also met tons of amazing new friends and had all sorts of meaningful interest in FliteBrite. This was the perfect way to “soft launch” our craft beer flight paddles and our team haw already starting filling pre-orders from breweries throughout the country. In fact, it’s neat to know that CBC lead to our first customer! The Waiki Brewing Company is serving great craft beer in Hawaii and we met at the Craft Brewers Conference.
We continue to accept pre-orders with plans to ship our first round of paddles nationwide this fall. Our crazy first experience with the Craft Brewers Conference was epic and you know our crew is already planning big things for CBC 2017 in Washington DC. Here we come friends.
The team at FliteBrite has been in the lab building something we believe will change how craft breweries, restaurants and bars connect with their customers and we are heading to Philadelphia to unveil FliteBrite to the world at The 2016 Craft Brewers Conference in May!
During this soft launch at #CBC16, we’ll be offering deep discounts to early adopters and look forward to establishing industry allies from around the world. Along with learning a ton, we are formally unlocking the ability to pre-order your beer flight paddles at #CBC16! We’re also excited to be a part of the #IowaBeerSocial and all the crazy after parties throughout Philly. Although the hangovers will be nothing short of epic, the nationwide connections will be outstanding.
Wait! There’s more…
As if it was our destiny, Philly Tech Week 2016 is also going down while we’re in town! As entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts and community builders, it will be a treat to also connect within the Philly startup community. One event we’re already excited about is the #PSLExpo, presented by Philly Startup Leaders. We’ll be on the prowl for other chances to plug into #PTW16 and can’t imagine a better blend of two events for the moment we share FliteBrite with the world.