A new social network called Bartrendr recently launched in an effort to allow bar patrons to “share the vibe” of the bars they visit with mood, crowd and people icons. As the company enters its first round of seed funding, we spoke with founder Devon Bergman about the new app and his hopes of using big data to change the game for consumers and brands in the beverage industry.
Your team has worked in senior roles at Facebook, Sony and Buzzfeed to name a few. So, why create a new nightlife app?
My co-founder Francois and I met at Dolby. He was the Vice President of Marketing and I worked under him at Dolby on the PC line. After leaving Dolby, we had a bunch of brainstorming sessions, decompressing at a bar. As soon as he heard my idea for bartrendr app, he dropped his other start-ups and we got going. … We all really wanted to share the vibe of a bar. We needed a creative way to do it with the environment of drinking in the dark and that’s how we came up with the app’s icon concept.
What sets BarTrendr apart from other nightlife apps including Yelp?
All the night life apps out there today are for finding deals and finding where the happy hour is. For us, it’s not about finding the cheapest drink, it’s about finding friends and sharing the vibe. With Yelp, people write reviews after they visit, and you can check in with Facebook and Foursquare, but you’re not necessarily sharing what’s happening.
It seems like it’s really only useful for visiting new bars.
I would disagree that it’s good for only visiting new bars. The dynamics of a bar are constantly changing. Yelp is not going tell you if it’s game night and who’s there. Our data is seeing big swings in changing dynamics, not only day to day but hour to hour.
So, this could warn people like, “Don’t come here it’s too crowded.” How many times does a group come into a bar and then the whole vibe changes? That’s what drives our decisions; it’s the atmosphere. This is a way to share the atmospheres in real time. It really makes a difference. Also, our whole app is LGBT friendly, so if you check in, all the icons change. It makes it really fun.
How much funding does Bartrendr have thus far?
Absolutely none. We’ve been bootstrapping between our co-founders until this point. We are just now kicking off our first seed round, reaching out to investors. We’re not looking for VC backing, but angel investors for between $500,000 and $750,000.
Are there ads on the app? If not, how do you plan to monetize?
Right now, there are no ads. We’re working on the beverage model, where we share the analytics of what’s happening at bars. One of the biggest brewing companies we talked to is not happy with all the money they are spending on Foursquare. With our data, we’re able to tell those brands when an influencer comes in and what happens, or what’s happening in bars when it’s raining.
The second factor is real-time communication between the beverage industry and the consumer. Instead of putting a big billboard of Black Crown toward the masses, Budweiser can tell me what demographic they want, and I can tell them, “These are the people right now in those bars, now go get ‘em.” It’s not necessarily advertisement, it’s more fun, quirky content. We’re also running trials with brands to give incentives to their influencers who will tell them to bring their friends into bars and, for example, offer to buy the first drink.
Users can categorize bar vibes based on Mood, Crowd and People icons. Will you add more to the app?
Yes, we want to add music, service quality (whether the service is it fast or slow), the energy and the size of the crowd.
This app currently only lets you log in from Facebook. Will you be able to log in through other means such as Foursquare?
How many users do you have right now?
A few thousand. We did a soft launch in San Francisco, then expanded to a couple of major metro areas such as Las Vegas, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Jersey. It’s only been a few weeks since we launched.
What’s your favorite feature of the app?
My favorite feature is the activity feed. It’s where everybody comes together. I can see all my friends, where they’re vibing and where they are hobnobbing. I love waking up the next day and saying, “What the hell happened last night and how can I make fun of them [friends].”
Where do you see Bartrendr several years down the road?
Our vision is that we want to reconnect the social networks with the most social venues. Bars are the original social network, but you go into a bar now and everyone’s on their phone. We want to meet new people while they are on their phone.
I’m from Philly, and every one goes out there. And, now in San Francisco, I go out a lot. From bar to bar, the dynamic changes. That’s the dream, we’re just connecting these worlds and allowing people to interact with the brand in a fun way. And, people are passionate about their brands like PBR—people love their PBR.