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?
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!
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.
When you talk business startups, it’s often said that team comes first, and then an idea with the market it will impact. The team at FliteBrite is complimentary in a crazy sort of way and we’re lucky to have some of the top talent around working together to bring FliteBrite to life.
One of the team’s latest little side ideas was to all listen to an audiobook by Seth Godin, called We Are All Weird. Ben has listened to many of his audiobooks, such The Icarus Deception and Tribes, and seems to swear by Godin’s writings. Anyways, it was an easy file exchange and has inspired the title and slightly off-topic nature of this short story.
Ok. So as you listen and learn from Seth, one interesting connection we’ve noticed is that the friendly craft beer community, is absolutely full of fun people who enjoy being weird. Not an alienating type of weird, but a weird that challenged the status quo and what it means to be normal. Normal is boring. People want weird.
No longer are we the mass crowd all drinking the same lagers. In fact, it’s almost like the funkier someone can brew up a great craft beer, the more we all appreciate the effort and that’s so cool!
From homebrewers to the biggest breweries in town, it feels like everyone who is passionate about the beer they brew, has made a choice to break loose from the status quo. Like so much of our world in the connected era, choice is everywhere, attention is almost like a currency and tribes grow faster with so much available communication online. It’s more interesting choosing to be weird. Being weird means you’re choosing to challenge the status quo in whatever way that may be. It’s more interesting to make your passion something that also results in a paycheck, and we’re sure you enjoy working with your team who can also be supported through your leadership.
The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass, and the never ceasing tide of weird.#WeAreAllWeird
— Ben McDougal (@BENovator) August 25, 2016
To stand out and to have more people talking more often, and more in tune with the beer and brands you create. The craft beer community has definitely been one of the very best parts of building FliteBrite and we know many of you are in the restaurant, brewpub or bar scene. It’s fun, haha! It’s also challenging and modern breweries are not a small investment to start or easy to run. It takes a true commitment to bring a decent sized, profitable brewery to town. Even more resources and expertise can be required if you choose to tap into the opportunity of distributing your craft beer in cans or bottles. In short, the craft beer industry is a growing industry where owners and management must stay smart to survive, but stay ahead to thrive.
Fortunately, many of these folks are going big and everyone loves it all. Serving craft beer is almost a stacked bet if you’re passionate about your business. People don’t ever seem disappointed with too much choice when it comes to craft beer and they’ll keep coming back as you expand the options you serve on your tap line! Why not get weird, creative and have fun with your brews on tap! The best part? You’ll generate more intrigue (and profits) as you also serve more beer flights on smart paddles that make you the absolute talk of the town.
— Ben McDougal (@BENovator) August 25, 2016
You’ve brewed a taste unlike any other and for the first time, your thoughtful brand, creative names and quick features of all your brews can now be truly connected to the beer lovers you create. People have never seen anything like FliteBrite! They’ll remember you being weird and also unlock a new level of connected loyalty towards your brand.
Yes, leasing a collection of smart paddles costs a bit more than paper and pencil or messy chalkboards, but these things sell more beer, make you look awesome, generate valuable data and introduce a new level of customer engagement. Whether you’re the owner, head brewer, marketing guru, management of bartending staff, you’ll see your brand being represented the way you want through the interactivity of a beer flight, while helping to support a more connected, entertaining and even educational beer flight experience.
FliteBrite is proud to be building our technology within the craft beer community and are having fun connecting with establishments throughout the country, who are all ready for the future of beer flights. Let’s chat about you bringing some fresh weird into your establishment today! Let us know how many paddles you want on our order form here: http://www.FliteBrite.com/pre-order/