Business

This app will pay you to go out for a beer

North Carolina Beer Month celebrates the state’s brewing scene.
North Carolina Beer Month celebrates the state’s brewing scene. 2015 News & Observer file photo

If you’re a craft-beer fan, there’s a chance you’re among those who have signed up for early access to an app that actually pays you to visit breweries.

The app, PintPass, goes into pre-release in the middle of this month, 60 days ahead of a full-blown public launch on Oct. 15. So far, about 25,000 to 26,000 people are participating, said Colin McGuire, the app’s publicist.

In use, the app will know when users are at one of about 5,600 breweries and, after about 15 minutes, ask them anywhere from one to four questions about their experience there, what they’re drinking and why they chose it. Once they answer, the app will credit them a few dollars, which if they want can help offset the evening’s tab.

The initial financing for the offer comes from “multiple six figures” of angel-investment money the founder of PintPass, Ryan Rickert, has raised, McGuire said.

But the long-term business plan relies on being able to monetize the data the app collects and share with brewers and companies that supply the brewing industry, he said.

In essence, users will be getting get paid for their answers to the survey, plus their name and the location of the breweries they visit.

But “they’re not giving up any data about themselves other than their location or their name,” McGuire said. “You cannot log in with Facebook or Twitter; there’s no way to give up your social data. It’s very clear this is a survey. There is no personal data being transmitted other than your name and your locations on your account.”

PintPass is more or less becoming a version 2.0 release, as it’s a new take on an app of the same name Rickert, who lives in Bozeman, Montana, and his partners had previously launched mainly in four states: Colorado, Montana, Texas and California.

That version relied on convincing breweries to offer discounts, a model that needed both a sales force and brewers willing to cut the price of their product for select users.

Once rolled out, the new model will be a 50-state offering and won’t need discounts. Brewers will be “getting their full rate,” McGuire said.

Developers have tried to make sure the app will work at breweries enrolled with national- and state-level brewers’ guilds and associations. In North Carolina, that includes members of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, whose members locally include many well-known breweries, like Big Boss Brewing Co. and Gizmo Brew Works in Raleigh, and Fullsteam Brewery and Ponysaurus Brewing Co. in Durham.

Rickert is pushing the idea because he thinks craft brewers and ancillary businesses don’t really have enough data about consumer preferences to know if they’re on the right track.

But even after the launch, it’ll take “multiple months and tens of thousands of users, if not hundreds of thousands of users,” to accumulate a data set large enough to yield insights on the market, McGuire said.

PintPass is accepting sign-ups from would-be early-access participants on its website. After the official release, it’ll be available through the online app stores for Apple and Android devices.

The app’s getting a publicity boost from All About Beer, the Durham special-interest magazine that also organizes annual World Beer Festivals in Durham, Raleigh and Columbia, South Carolina. “We think the app is epic,” it said in an Aug. 8 mass-mailing promoting it.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg
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