By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
If you attended last year’s “36|86 Conference” in Nashville, you may have come across at Northeast Tennessee start-up named BrewFund.
“We are a mobile app that allows you to give the gift of beer at craft breweries,” Co-Founder David Nelson told us recently when we met him and Travis Rother, the other Co-Founder, at the East Tennessee State University Innovation Lab.
That’s a pretty cool idea, particularly for those who like to sample interesting beers.
Nelson and Rother were app and web developers with Duffek Mobile, an app development and website consulting firm.
“I was seeing all of these events happening with friends all over the country, and I felt disconnected from my friends and family,” Nelson said of birthdays, weddings, promotions and other significant occasions. “Travis moved here a year and a half ago, and I wanted to give him a welcoming gift.”
Simply stated, the opportunity to give a gift of beer wherever the individual happened to live became the idea behind BrewFund.
“Pick a friend, select a brewery nearby or near your friend, and they receive a text message or email notifying them of their gift,” Nelson explains of the app. “All they have to do is walk into the brewery to receive their gift.”
While the idea is a way to give a gift to a friend or colleague, the value extends to others.
“It’s a really good deal for breweries,” Rother says. “It’s free for them to join, and the buyer pays a small fee for the ability to send a beer so easily. It’s an easy decision to make to drive traffic.”
It’s also a growing industry. The craft beer industry topped 5,000 establishments in late 2016 and is growing at 30 percent on an annual basis.
The BrewFund team quickly signed-up 13 breweries in Tennessee, Virginia and Indiana and is adding other locations through what it calls “brewbassadors” – friends of the Co-Founders who live in other states and help sign-up enterprises where they live.
The start-up is also seeking $250,000 in outside investment to grow the business.
“We have to expand and be in a lot of different places,” Rother explains.
Ironically, the two Co-Founders grew-up in the same town – Columbus, IN, and both attended Purdue University. Nelson graduated in 2009 with a degree in Computer Graphics Technology, a year before Rother enrolled in the same program.
“The (BrewFund) app is one tool in a suite of apps we’re building,” Nelson says. The full range covers a mix of operational components for any business – inventory, sales, forecasting, employee time management, digital signage, website, and integration of social media tools.
In addition to BrewFund and their app development and consulting work, Nelson and Rother are also key players in the launch of “Start-up TriCities,” a community of entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs in the Northeast Tennessee region.