Beer Hero – Greg Avola of Untappd
By Eric Sturniolo
If you drink craft beer, you’ve used the mobile app Untappd. If you haven’t, get it. From their site:
“Untappd is a new way to socially share and explore the world of beer with your friends and the world. Curious what your friends are drinking or where they’re hanging out? Just check their profile where you can toast and comment on their beers! Untappd will offer you beer recommendations based on what you and your friends have been enjoying, so you’ll have no reason to not try something new! As additional encouragement, Untappd allows you to earn a number of cool badges for completing a variety of different criteria.”
We spent some time talking to Greg Avola, the New York City-based co-founder and developer, about how it all started and where it’s headed. Meet Greg Avola, our first Beer Hero!
Where’s The Beer NY: How did Untappd come about?
Greg Avola: Untappd started back in the summer of 2010, where I and my co-founder Tim Mather were looking for a way to share more context to Foursquare check-ins. We were both pretty heavy users of Foursquare and wanted to create a layer on top of it that extended the comment you could add during the check-in process. We thought of industries that were social, but not really represented in an online setting. Beer fit that mold perfectly. The funny thing was neither of us was really into beer at the time of creation, and we used the product to help learn more about what beers we liked and our favorites styles. With Untappd, we felt we were allowing users to always drink socially, and the ability to harness the community to build a product that allowed everyone to discover new beers, places and friends. Untappd to this day is still worked on by 2 people (myself and my co-founder) and part-time. We have a team of around 40+ moderators that help us clean up the database on a regular basis.
WTBNY: How many subscribers do you have?
GA: We currently have around one million users on the service since we started back in October of 2010.
WTBNY:How has the craft beer industry reacted?
GA: I think the craft beer industry has reacted in a very positive way. Previously, users would use Twitter to say what they were drinking or use a very old Excel spreadsheet to track beers they’ve had, but with Untappd that process has become more social and digital. Users want to discover new beers and places, and through the service they can do that with location-aware recommendations, seeing friend’s check-ins and our Discover features (trending bars, beers, etc).
WTBNY: What’s your favorite beer/brewery?
GA: Right now – it’s Pliny The Elder by Russian River. I love IPAs, and this is the best double IPA I have had. I had the chance to visit the brewery in January and it was pretty awesome. Highly recommend if anyone has a trip out west or heads down to Philadelphia to see if you can grab it. [editor’s note: Pliny was my choice as my desert island beer!]
WTBNY: It must be hard watching your subscribers try amazing beers not available to us in New York City.
GA: Absolutely – that’s one of the worst parts! However it does give me, and other users, the opportunity to discover new beers all around the world and then add them to my wish-list to remind me in the future. The New York City craft beer scene is growing, and now with the introduction of Bells Brewery this past month, the last big one yet to hit the city would be New Belgium.
WTBNY: What’s the most impressive list you’ve seen?
GA: It’s hard to say because they’re a lot of them! Most of the time, I check my Discover tab on the app to see what is trending locally for bars, and then drill into them to see what they are serving on draft using the data from user check-ins. If a bar has a large amount of users checked in a 24 hour period, I know something must be good there.
WTBNY: Any interesting stories on people becoming friends, organizing beer shares, etc, from the app?
GA: I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of people from Untappd, including some that have turned into friends, business partners and more. I think the world of beer is very social, and once you get everyone from the community in an online setting dedicated to beer, friendships are to be made. I was in Philadelphia about three weeks ago sitting at a bar with my wife. Someone came over to me to say they saw I checked in on Untappd and wanted to say “Hello and thanks for Untappd”. It’s those type of experiences that help us continue to grow and make the best product out there. We built this for the community, so it’s great to get that positive feedback. Those experiences are why we put so much passion and effort into building Untappd.
WTBNY: Do you have any similar apps planned?
GA: Right now we’re focused on building Untappd, but in the future we may expand to other mediums. We’re only a two-man team and working on it part-time (we have full time jobs), so time is pretty thin.
WTBNY: What are your plans for the future of Untappd?
GA: We’d love to get Untappd to help you find the perfect beer and place. We really want hone in and improve our recommendation engine to make it more local and help get the perfect beer in the hands of our users easier. Since beer is distributed all over the world differently, our challenge it find the correct algorithm to give recommendations based on our location history, your style, ratings and much more.
Find out more at https://untappd.com/