NC trend: The pursuit of hoppiness
Your dad’s beer-of-the-month club never had the “beergorithm.” CEO Charlie Mulligan felt so confident in Brewpublik’s algorithm that matches a member’s preferences with more than 3,000 brews, he drained his savings account two years ago to start the company with Zach Jamison and Samantha August. Brewpublik has since added to that $10,000 investment by raising about $700,000, plus a commitment from venture-capital firm SierraMaya360 for $5 million over five years.
About 2,000 monthly subscribers now receive customized orders of six to 24 cans or bottles — depending on their membership plan, which costs from $20 to $55 — on their doorsteps. The service also allows members to exchange beers if they’re unhappy with their brews.
But Mulligan says corporate customers have become their larger market. “Somewhere along the line, we realized no one was addressing the beer that was being consumed at company events,” he says. “Now, we serve about 100 different corporate clients across all four markets.” Orders are delivered to offices in Charlotte, Raleigh and San Francisco. Because of South Carolina regulations, customers in Charleston must pick up orders from a centrally located warehouse. The company plans to expand to Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; New York; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle by the end of the year.
Earlier this year, Brewpublik was accepted into 500 Startups,a California-based venture-capital fund and startup accelerator founded in 2010 by PayPal alum Dave McClure and Google alum Christine Tsai. Companies pay $25,000 to join its four-month program and, in return, 500 Startups invests $125,000 for a 5% stake.
The 15% month-over-month growth is fueled by the “beergorithim” that Mulligan and Jamison built to anticipate consumers’ wants. Unlike the beer clubs of old, every Brewpublik member receives a different assortment of brews based on preferences revealed when creating an online profile. “It works a lot like Pandora music,” Mulligan says. Members fill out a questionnaire after each delivery that allows the algorithm to reflect evolving tastes. Those who want to handpick every brew can pay $90 a month for
a premium subscription.
The initial goals were to help people expand their beer horizons and learn to navigate the booming craft beer marketplace, Mulligan says. “There are just so many options. You don’t know what it will taste like and if you will like it, or if you just wasted your money.”
Mulligan dismisses the idea of Brewpublik’s popularity going flat. The craft brewery boomlet has staying power and the company can serve as a “beer broker” between consumers and breweries, he says. “There are more beer options than ever before, but it can be a challenge to get them in the hands of consumers,” Mulligan says. “Brewpublik’s goal is to handle the marketing so the breweries can focus on what they do best: making good beer.”