The official debut of our beer festival app was flawless and it was so exciting to have #ICBF vendors, attendees and our friends from the Iowa Brewers Guild all enjoying this fresh way to track, rate and share tons of amazing craft beers.
“The Bens” arrived early to confirm the beer list’s accuracy in our app and to install our smelly signs (see below, haha!). Once doors opens, we met up with industry allies and sampled tons of outstanding beers before leaving early to finish celebrating our beer festival app working flawlessly to allow 3,200+ thirsty attendees to track their craft beer adventure in a whole new way!
Throughout the day, Ben McDougal (left) made a special effort to track every single one of his beer tastings. Click to see his full tasting list, but when it was all said and done, he personally visited 27% of the vendors and drank just 9.7% of the available beers being served. That was still 21 different beers, which Ben continues to revisit when he sits in front of large Iowa tap lines.
Coconut Migration from SingleSpeed Brewing was McDougal’s personal “best of show”, while he returned to Lark and 515 Brewing for a few different hoppy concoctions. It’s also clear he was on the prowl for DIPA and along with his tasting notes, Ben racked up 15 different Untappd badges from all his check-ins.
Our ability to give beer enthusiasts a fun and accurate way to learn more about their festival favorites (which they used to forget after the second beer tasting) is just so damn cool! Speaking of cool…
“My favorite part has been seeing so many people using what we built!” -Ben Sinclair
The most intriguing thing was that our app tracked 4,419 total beer check-ins, rated by 1,291 different users! The most popular beer style was IPA, then sours, NEIPA and pale ale. The highest rated beer was 6th Anniversary Stout from Backpocket Brewing, while vendors with the most beer ratings were Barn Town Brewing, Confluence Brewing and 515 Brewing. It’s also interesting to consider that an attendee’s rating at a live event may actually be more of an “experience rating” based on the vendor’s presentation, paired with the actual beer being rated. The traffic timeline was also neat and here’s post-event data the Iowa Brewers Guild shared after the event.
This type of meaningful data, generated by an easy and fun tool for beer loving attendees, has us very excited. Our ability to setup any beer festival with a smart flight experience gives vendors a quantifiable way to showcase their craft beers with thirsty attendees and truly may turn out to be the key to a more sustained business.
One super cool side effect is how our beer festival app also unlocks meaningful conversations with breweries and brewpubs. We walked around the festival before gates opened and took a moment with each beer-serving vendor to confirm their beer list was 100% accurate in our app. With a total of 362 different beers served, there were a few changes we did on the fly and people appreciated us stopping by. More of those types of interactions will begin to connect the other side of our smart beer flight platform into more taprooms, bars and restaurants as well!
Startup life requires weird marketing to connect smart people with new ideas. Below are a few more highlights from our app’s debut beer festival, including this sign we put on every one of the 25+ port-a-potties! Fortunately, the installation was early in the day, haha! It felt a bit dirty, but we were committed to making sure everyone knew how to access their own smart beer sampling experience.
Jokes aside, the Iowa Craft Brew Festival felt like the beginning of something special. Our team is energized and we have more paying customers eager to invest in this handy tool that will soon enhanced even more craft beer events nationwide. Cheers!
— FliteBrite (@FliteBrite) June 16, 2018
Do you organize events where craft beer tastings are featured?
So many folks who read this will have built their own business. Entrepreneurs know how key community support can be for startups. Our company and the members of our team have been so fortunate to be fueled by wise allies who want to help, organizations built to push startups forward and a community of fellow entrepreneurs passionately building things they care about.
We’re lucky to have built #SmartFlights in Iowa.
Did you know our paddles are manufactured right here in Iowa? We think that’s kinda cool and although it’s taken over two years of serious persistence paired with hard work on all fronts, we’ve solved problems for craft beer establishments and the thirsty consumers they love.
Along with product development, the engaged network of friends nationwide is so meaningful for this venture, but Des Moines knows it’s cool. We define the word supportive here in the Midwest and that’s what makes building big ideas in Iowa so much fun. The energy one can derive by accelerating others is hard to match, so along with tapping into so many great connections, we’ve always stayed dedicated to bringing others together. Another fun fact is that all three of our founders originally met back in the early days of 1 Million Cups Des Moines. So much as changed since the early days, but our team’s collection of paired skills is special and we have a connected community to thank for that.
Along with endless mentoring support, real financial investments from throughout Iowa has allowed us to build magic. We built on our founder’s investments by earning a big state grant and winning cash rewards at a variety of business pitch contests. It’s been an adventure unlike any other and whatta treat building a new era of smart flights.
As we now brew FliteBrite to the next level, we just wanted to take a moment to say thanks again to all who have supported this adventure. We appreciate our family, early adopters, all the introductions to restaurants, brewpubs and brewery hot spots that need smart flights nationwide, community leaders looking to connect us, an industry full of awesome people brewing art and now even strategic investors ready to make some money.
Jump on this flite. The future is brite.
We beamed into the Kauffman Foundation, a mothership for entrepreneurship, to announce BIG news for our company! As you saw in the video above, Ben’s pitch is baked to perfection and the entire Q&A is included in the full-length video. After our reveal at 1MC Des Moines and the 1MC Fargo experience, #1MCKC completed a trifecta of epic 1MC adventures.
After meeting everyone at 1 Million Cups Kansas City, Ben stayed in KC to attend the national 1MC organizers summit. #1MCOS was an amazing opportunity to connect with leaders from around the country and we’re thankful to have such an active community builder leading our team!
36 hours of pure energy later, Ben drove back to Iowa just in time to join Sinclair for a pitch to win up to $25,000 in the finals of the John Pappajohn Venture Competition. Winners will be announced next week, but no matter the results, it was a pleasure sharing our story and we’ve worked hard to earn these business-building opportunities.
Looking ahead, we’re about to deliver 20 smart beer flight paddles to our first national establishment, so stay tuned for news on where smart beer flights land next!
At the core, I believe community builders are passionate about the art of connectivity. Accelerating others energized us all. #1MCOS
— Ben McDougal (@BENovator) September 7, 2017
This short video includes the full discussion and was shot live inside the studio. This isn’t the first time you’ve seen us sharing our story on air, but it is one of the best!
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!