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This Startup Is About Drinking. Need I Say More?

bevvyFact: Americans like to drink. Bigger fact: More and more Americans are moving away from Budweiser and piña coladas to craft beers and fancy cocktails crafted lovingly by mustachioed mixologists.

 

 

You may sense a hint of derision in my writing, but that’s only because I grew up in Vermont – craft beer capital of the US – and lived in San Francisco – expensive cocktail and mustache capital of the world – and have become a tiny bit jaded about expensive alcohol.

 

If I’m being totally honest, though, that’s more because of my wallet and less because of my tastes; Miss Emma does love a well-mixed Summit Cocktail from NOPA.

 

Jay Hung is another San Franciscan who loves booze. He loves it so much, in fact, that he started Bevvy, a “living catalog” for other discerning booze hounds. Jay is way better at explaining exactly what Bevvy is and why it’s so awesome than I am, so I’ll leave him to it.

 

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What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?

Bevvy is a passion project made for people who drink by people who drink. We publish a vivid, living catalog of cocktails, spirits and beers and we insisted on building it while having a few. We’re in a second golden era of drinking, and more people drink cocktails, spirits and beers than ever before.

 

But most people tend to drink what they know, or what’s most popular at the moment, missing an entire world of amazing libations. Bevvy seeks to change all that. What’s a Bees Knees look like? Will I like a Widow’s Kiss? Does a Corpse Reviver 2 taste sweet? How’s about a Rattlesnake? A cocktail menu is like a dating site without photos – creative names sound cool and sophisticated but does little to tell you what it tastes like. Bevvy makes drinks come alive with beautiful pictures, descriptions, backstories, ingredients, preparation info, and more.

 

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What’s the greatest thing about your company? Why is it better than the competition?

Big data is coming to booze.

Bevvy’s key differentiators are: Data-driven approach. Many existing cocktail sites are editorially-driven, and recipes are posted as an article. Bevvy dives deeper into the relationships a drink has with its many facets. Our model breaks down a drink into the recipe itself (i.e. Martini), relations to original recipe or forked/derived variations (i.e. Vodka Martini, Mexican Chocolate Martini, etc), background info on drink including historial and pop culture context (i.e. Old Fashioned is a classic and also Don Draper’s drink of choice), who’s liked this drink, what drink menus have people saved this recipe to.

 

Highly Social.

Many existing cocktail sites/apps offer some interaction like commenting or liking, but we want to go much further than that. Sharing, notifications, activities are built into the DNA of Bevvy, because drinking is social, and we want Bevvy users to quickly be able to see what’s trending, what their friends like, when new cocktails are added pertaining to their liquor profile, who are the people involved, and more.

 

Forking & Variations.

Recipes (food or drinks) evolve thru modification. Whether that’s substituting an ingredient, modifying the preparation, or something else. Cocktails have evolved over history in this fashion. But there’s no service that captures that well, and we want to change that.

 

Like you can fork a repository on Github, users can fork a recipe on Bevvy and add their own twist.

 

Crowd Sourced and Curated.

We built Bevvy from the ground up to be user-generated with curation to maintain a level of quality. Users can submit their own recipes, fork an existing recipe, upload their own photos to other people’s recipes they’ve made, have others upload photos to their owned recipes, provide tips, backstories, or add links to related external urls.

 

Recommendation Engine that Learns over Time.

While we’re not quite there yet, we are working towards making solid recommendations to users for drinks they may like thru data analysis and crowd sourcing. This will include eventually cocktails, spirits as well as beers. Imagine being accurately recommended new cocktails based on your flavor profiles, or drinks you’ve liked. Or because you like Macallan and Glenlivit we think you’ll also like Glenmorangie, and 2000 other Bevviers agree with this.

 

Drink Menus.

Bevvy users can create drink menus with any combination of drinks. Menus can help plan for an upcoming party, capture drinks you want to try, or even a reflection of actual drink menus at bars and restaurants. Bevvy staff is starting with San Francisco and creating drink menus for local establishments, with photos, and moving outward from there. We feel drink menus is a very interesting way to look beyond a single drink that is very easy for everyone to consume.

 

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What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?

First computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000 with a membrane keyboard and 2k of RAM (that’s right, 2k – not a typo). I was 9 years old, and had a 16k memory expansion pack and thought I was the coolest kid in town. My first experience with “online” came in the form of BBS, and I was around 14 or 15. I first came on the web at age 21.

 

When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?

Am on vacation now in Maui! This will be the first project I launch while ON vacation. Wife has not been thrilled with the coding and prep for launch this past week, but she’s been supportive.

 

A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?

In looking for my next project, I knew I had to do something I was truly passionate about, otherwise the motivation would wane when things got tough (and it ALWAYS gets tough). And while it may sound bad, I have a passion for drinking. I love my cocktails, I love my spirits, and I love my beers. In the past 7-8 years, I have helped build 5 major recipe/food oriented sites including 3 in the top 10: Food Network, Yahoo Food, Recipezaar, Cooking Channel, and Food.com (rebranded Recipezaar).

 

Cocktails have been in a renaissance the past decade, and the resurgence is in large part due to skilled bartenders using fresh, new ingredients in creative ways to come up with new drinks. I wanted to apply my past experience building top-10 food sites now to booze.

 

Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.

Oh man, where do I start. The early days I knew I wanted to do something in this space, and with the recipe format, but the project was a hodgepodge of ideas that was not well connected and all over the place. Bouncing the project off of others was met often with confusion and people not getting it. Since then, we’ve been able to focus on a core strategic direction and feature set and Bevvy is much more cohesive as a whole.

 

A few months into the project, I had found a cofounder who was a great complimentary fit and had the same passion for cocktails. It didn’t last long as he decided to pursue his own original startup. Fortunately, he remains an advisor and continues to help influence the product and contribute ideas.

 

But one of the hardest things was coming up with a list of spirits available in the world. You’d think this was fairly easy to get in today’s data driven world, but it was not easy at all. I had an idea that spirits were sold in stores, so getting my hands on a UPC table should get me a list of the booze products, except public UPC data is not very accurate nor complete. I called buyers of restaurants and hotels trying to get my hands on the lists they purchase their alcohol from, and that failed. I tried getting my hands on databases for POS systems and that failed. I finally came across a list of alcohol products sold in three different states/provinces, and merged the three lists into one as not all states sell the same products.

 

To complicate matters, I had the birth of my first child during the time I was compiling this data. In fact, I had written a small tool to help me curate and merge the three lists of alcohol products sold in the three provinces, and curated over 4000 spirit products in the hospital while my wife slept after giving birth!

 

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How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowdfunded? Where’d you get the money, man?

Bootstrapped! Currently self-funded and privately held. I am fortunate in that I have another company that is profitable and provides me income with time flexibility.

 

Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?

Keep it lean as long as you can. You shouldn’t need to incorporate immediately in most cases – delay it as long as feasible. You don’t really need that fancy office decor, or even an office initially. No expensed meals!

 

Don’t dole out equity excessively, but when you do decide someone is worth giving equity to, be fair and generous with your equity! Without funding, people are likely going to work for you for free or nearly free, and equity provides much needed incentive. Without incentive, nobody is going to stick with you thru the tough times, which is when you’ll need them the most.

 

What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?

To build a startup, you actually have to get beyond the thinking phase and started with the building phase. The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all. Don’t overthink things – just get started.

 

Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?

Not yet. I turned down an exit for my first startup during the dot com bust to maintain >51% ownership of something that eventually failed. I’d consider myself successful when I have a profitable exit for myself as well as my shareholders for something of value we’ve created.

 

Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?

  1. SignEasy – favorite digital signing app
  2. Strava – for tracking my rides and runs
  3. Uber – convenience
  4. Yelp – restaurant lookups and suggestions
  5. Punch Hero – for passing idle time

 

Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)

Scotland. For the Scotch!

 

Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. Chris Dixon – one of my favorite entrepreneur turned VCs.
  2. HistoryInPics – interesting, nostalgia-wrenching period photos
  3. IFLScience – because everyone should f*cking love science

 

Where can our readers find you?

Facebook and Twitter.

 

Photo Credits

Courtesy of the founder

Author : Emma McGowan

Emma is a proud native of Burlington, Vermont, who has lived in six different countries over the past two years. She's living and loving the global nomad life and writing about technology and startups everywhere she goes. Check out more of her writing about tech on (the more titillating stuff) KinkAndCode.. Follow her on Twitter @MissEmmaMcG.

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