I find myself splitting my time between the tech start-up world and the craft beer community. I’m probably more involved in the start-up scene now since I’ve been building my own business over the last couple years but the beer world has given me a lot of insight. I’ve hosted an internet video series for the last five years about craft beer and I spend a good deal of time with brewers. I’ve noticed that the start up community and brewing community have some similarities in how they operate.
A Look Back We had a boom and crash with both industries in the 90’s. The beer boom and bust of the 90’s is something I’m less familiar with since I wasn’t able to drink at the time. Even though I wasn’t part of the dot com crash there is a lot more written about it so I get an idea of what happened. I’ve run into tech and beer people who look back at that time and either argue that it’s different or who often remind us that what is happening now is basically the same and we should get ready for the crash.
“All of This Has Happened Before And it Will all Happen Again.”
I, for one am on the side that this is different. Most people are being a bit more careful this time around. The growth on both sides has been slower and more focused.
Changing Teams I’ve met a number of brewers over the years and have heard their stories about how they used to brew at this place and then went here and then there. Typically they have brewed at two or three places before the place they are at now. It’s pretty common to be moving around as a brewer, unless of course it’s your own brewery, then you might want to stay and build it. The same thing happens in the tech community, you hear about people leaving Google to work at Apple or how they helped build a couple of start-ups before getting hired or aquired by Facebook. You learn a lot when you’re able to move around and see how other people work. But the end goal for most brewers and tech folks is to have their own business that they are building or helping to build.
Start Small Growth in both usually starts small whether with a team of two or just one person who love’s brewing. They start small trying to gain interest and attention and they grow as it’s needed. No matter how big they get there is always a core group of people at the center making the calls, brewing the beer and figuring out their direction for the future.
Making A Great Product If you’re creating an app, a service or brewing beer you need to make sure the product is top notch. For the most part the ones that start out are making something great, not just focusing on the low hanging fruit to make lots of money fast. They want to create a good product, to stand out from the rest.
Things Fail Failure is a word start-ups know too well and they are fine with it. Services fail, they don’t catch on, or they don’t fill a need. You shut it down and move onto the next thing. Breweries fail too. If it’s not working, then it might be time to move on.
Make Your Customers Your Beta Testers You don’t know if something is a hit or a bust unless you put it out there and test it. This is something that’s a bit annoying on both sides but its something start-ups and breweries do all the time. Startups build something that sort of works and they push it out to see what people think. Then they release a new version and then another. Getting user feedback all the time to make it better or changing it all together to make something people really want. Brewers and breweries test on the customer too but often for different reasons. One, they can’t afford to dump a product so they put it out there even if it might not be stellar. But they also put it out there to see what their customers want. Beer is subjective so what might be too hoppy to you, isn’t hoppy enough to someone else. You have to learn what your audience wants.
Getting Acquired This is something that is pretty common in the tech world when Facebook, Yahoo! or Google purchase an app or team for a crazy amount of money. In the beer community it’s something fairly new and we haven’t really seen much of it yet… the bigger one we’ve heard about was AB-InBev buying Goose Island. This isn’t the last we’ll hear of these sorts of deals. I think they aren’t as common now because it takes more time and money to build a brewery than an app. The bigger breweries aren’t interested in you until you have a big following. You’re not on their radar. That’s where the tech world and the brewing industry still differ. The big guys in the tech industry want the software, the app, or the idea and it doesn’t have to be known or heard of by a lot of people. The big breweries right now are only interested in acquiring a smaller brewery if that brewery has the people and beers in place. Sometimes when an app or service gets bought by the big guys, the app or service gets better, grows its fan base, or is included or bundled with something already existing. And then there are the times when an app or service is bought just to squash the technology. Hopefully, for all the craft beer lovers out there, the big breweries don’t take a page out of the tech industries play book and start acquiring breweries at that same rate.
There are new startups everyday and its hard to sort through and know which ones to trust. It’s especially hard to trust a new service when they are offering a service that you need to enter your credit card number in to pay for something. We do a lot of business online so we don’t typically have an issue with this. However, we know a lot people have difficulty trusting a new service. A number of startups have told us that they have received emails and phone calls asking if “this was real” or saying “I didn’t think this was real until I tried it”. Building trust is a huge issue for a new startup.
One way you can help reassure your customers is with a video. When you only have a bunch of text on your site it can be hard to figure out the right tone; you might think you’re being quirky but your customers might think you’re a joke. A professional video can help give your service some trust and credibility. Video takes time and costs money and your customers know this and are more likely to sign up when they know you’re taking your business seriously.
There are always going to be competitors to your business; no business is the one and only out there. AT&T is going to have Verizon to battle, Pepsi is going to have CocaCola and you’re going to have someone else out there trying to muscle in on your customers. At LooseKeys we’re aware of all the new kids on the block but we can’t let every new business who thinks they can make explainer videos stop us from doing what we’re good at and love doing. We have to stay focused and not be run off track by someone else. In general, we try to concentrate on helping our clients tell their story in the best way we know how. Making sure we put together a great video that tells our clients story and a product that they are happy with and excited to share. If we did our job right, we had a lot of fun making the video and the end product is a creative video that the client and us are happy with. Staying focused on making great work and keeping clients and the team happy is at the core of LooseKeys success. Those other guys will come and go, we’re successful because we stay focused on those elements that make us a great company and not what the other guys are doing.