Home Untappd: At the Intersection of Social, Mobile, Data and Beer

Untappd: At the Intersection of Social, Mobile, Data and Beer

What do you get when you combine gamification, social and beer? No, the answer isn’t just “a really geeky party.” You get Untappd a social network with the motto, drink socially. Greg Avola, one of the founders for Untappd, was one of the first speakers today at Monktoberfest. Avola shared insights into what people drink, how to motivate trying new beers and Web development for mobile.

If you’re not familiar with Untappd, Avola might describe it as “the Foursquare for beer,” but with one difference – there’s a point to Untappd. That is, instead of just checking into a location, you’re checking into a beer and sharing that information with your friends.

Like Foursquare, Untappd has badges and applies gamification to the already social (we hope) activity of drinking beer. But it’s not about just drinking beer, it’s about motivating users to try different beers. How do you do that?

We Do Need Some Stinking Badges!

Badges, of course, are the way to motivate drinkers. Avola says that when Untappd users have an opportunity to try beers for badges, they will try something different. For example, Avola talked about a Summer badge launched on the 22nd of June. The challenge was for users to drink three different beers with the word “Summer.” Naturally, that drove a spike in reports from users trying “Summer” beers.

And that’s good for business, says Avola. He noted another badge for Dogfish Head Ancient Ales. On day one, Avola says that about 1,100 of the badges were awarded. Multiply that by the price of a beer, and that’s not bad money headed to Dogfish Head. If 1,100 doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that Untappd is still a growing service with about 70,000 registered users.

Encouraging Micro Beers

Untappd could be an effective vehicle for micro breweries trying to promote their wares. For example, Avola says that the check-ins for microbrews has increased from 250,000 in July to 280,000 in September. Users are much less enthused about “macro” brews, with reports dropping from 46,000 July to 39,000 in September.

Users are also enthusiastic about adding new beers to Untappd’s database. When the service was launched, Avola says that they had about 5,000 beers – now the service lists 80,000. (Reporter’s note: Challenge accepted!)

Eventually, look for Untappd to have a recommendation engine – but for now, Avola says there’s not enough data. Recommendations are currently being generated by what users’ friends are drinking, not by examining their history and recommending beers they might like based on what they’ve liked previously.

Development and Business Strategy

Avola also talked about native versus Web-first development. Untappd only recently launched applications for iOS and Android. Prior to that, they were using PhoneGap and HTML5 to target mobile users. The advantage to HTML5, says Avola, are that it’s cheaper to develop for and it’s almost ubiquitous.

But there are downsides. Not being able to access some hardware features, and lack of promotion being the biggies. Hardware support is obvious, but one major problem is getting the app in front of users if they don’t see it in their app stores.

Development cost is a concern for Untappd. Right now, it’s a three-person company with no full-time employees. The company is still finding its business strategy, too. Avola says he thinks that the data users add to the system is where its value is at. He says that Untapped isn’t going to go after a Groupon type model, given the complexity of selling beer online.

Given the reception from the audience at Monktoberfest (which admittedly skews to the adventurous beer enthusiast) Untappd should be able to find a way to sustain itself. I’ve also had a little hands-on time with the app, and it does look like a winner. While I’m a bit skeptical about the socialization of, well, everything &ellip; I think that Untappd does hit the spot. Avola says that they’re looking for financing, so investors that see a market for a beer-related social network should get in touch.

What do you think? Is there a business model that would work for Untappd? And if you’re of the beer-friendly persuasion, feel free to friend me on Untappd!

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