IBJNews

Indy startup serves up keg beer with big data

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Few people besides Steve Hershberger can claim they’ve successfully mixed calculated decision-making with beer consumption.

Hershberger’s year-old company, SteadyServ Technologies, revealed Thursday that as of March it had raised $1.5 million from investors to help develop its iKeg prototype.

The device detects how much beer remains in a keg and alerts customers via mobile app when supplies are low. Investors believe the real value could be in iKeg’s ability to turn the digital information it collects into a sales and management tool for its customers.

SteadyServ is already raising another investment round that will allow the company to take iKeg to market.

Hershberger, a software developer by trade who helped start Flat 12 Bierwerks downtown, conceived of iKeg after a visit from an out-of-town friend, also a beer aficionado.

“He flies into town, and we go to Mass Ave,” Hershberger said. “We went to four bars, and they were all out. So we finally went back to the hotel and ordered one of the beers the bar had. It was just a beer he wasn’t really looking forward to having. His parting shot was, ‘Gee, Steve, you really let me down on this.’”

So Hershberger went back to the bars and asked management about monitoring beer inventory. Knowing how much brew remains in a keg is a constant guessing game because no one can see into the metal containers, he learned.

“The bar manager will go into the cooler and will shake the kegs and say, ‘This feels half-full,’” he said. “‘It’s Tuesday and it feels half-full, and I order on Thursday. I think I need to order more.’”

Hershberger offers an engineer’s explanation of how iKeg works. In effect, a ring-shaped sensor that attaches to the bottom of the keg in question can detect how much beer remains and digitally feeds that information to the bar managers and distributors. When beer gets too low, the device sends out alerts.

It one-ups the legal pads or Excel spreadsheets restaurant and bar managers typically use to track supplies. It eliminates guesstimates of inventory and speeds the ordering process.

Distributors, SteadyServ's target market, can monitor how much beer their customers have at any given moment, and they follow up with sales calls when beer gets low. Meanwhile, the digitalized inventory process is collecting gobs of information on how customers are consuming beer.

All that data on beer consumption should be valuable to bars, distributors and breweries, Hershberger said.

“Let’s say you’re a Scotty’s [Brewhouse],” Hershberger said. “As they open a new store, they’re going to want to know what beers are popular. Our system has the ability to look into that.”

Carl Bruggemeier, president and founder of The CZH Hospitality Group, a restaurant consultant, said the big-data potential piqued his interest as an investor in SteadyServ.

“Long run, it’s the data that can be collected,” Bruggemeier, who sits on SteadyServ’s board of advisers, said when asked whether the actual iKeg inventory service or the data it collected would produce more revenue.

More primitive inventory systems already exist, but they can’t pool and distribute all the information like iKeg can, he said.

SteadyServ’s concept has generated interest both in the beer and technology industries.

The board of advisers includes David Coors, of the Coors Brewing Co.’s namesake family; Jeff Ready; CEO of Indianapolis-based Scale Computing Inc.; and Pat Canavan, former senior vice president of global governance for Motorola.

SteadyServ's 11 employees are finishing beta testing with a handful of volunteer restaurants and bars around Indianapolis.

Most investment has come from angel investors, but Indianapolis venture capital firm Elevate Ventures committed $125,000.

“The iKeg solution is breaking into a $21 billion draft beer industry where there’s incredible potential,” Elevate CEO Steve Hourigan said in a prepared statement. “It’s exciting and gratifying to see a company like SteadyServ make its home in Indiana, and we’re proud to say that we support their team and the business they’re building.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am also a "vet" of several Cirque shows and this one left me flat. It didn't have the amount of acrobatic stunts as the others that I have seen. I am still glad that I went to it and look forward to the next one but I put Varekai as my least favorite.

  2. Looking at the two companies - in spite of their relative size to one another -- Ricker's image is (by all accounts) pretty solid and reputable. Their locations are clean, employees are friendly and the products they offer are reasonably priced. By contrast, BP locations are all over the place and their reputation is poor, especially when you consider this is the same "company" whose disastrous oil spill and their response was nothing short of irresponsible should tell you a lot. The fact you also have people who are experienced in franchising saying their system/strategy is flawed is a good indication that another "spill" has occurred and it's the AM-PM/Ricker's customers/company that are having to deal with it.

  3. Daniel Lilly - Glad to hear about your points and miles. Enjoy Wisconsin and Illinois. You don't care one whit about financial discipline, which is why you will blast the "GOP". Classic liberalism.

  4. Isn't the real reason the terrain? The planners under-estimated the undulating terrain, sink holes, karst features, etc. This portion of the route was flawed from the beginning.

  5. You thought no Indy was bad, how's no fans working out for you? THe IRl No direct competition and still no fans. Hey George Family, spend another billion dollars, that will fix it.

ADVERTISEMENT