By Eric Peterson | Mar 13, 2019
Data-capture event software
Vitale recounts a familiar story of his experience at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival in Denver: "I went to GABF. I had a great time. I went home and went to bed. I woke up the next morning and had a little bit of a dull headache and realized I couldn't remember any of the beers I tried. In my engineering mind, I thought, 'How could this be better?'"
The Spigot Labs solution: An RFID sensor goes on each attendee's wristband or glass; other sensors are paired with each beer at the festival. The system effectively tracks everything attendees sample and how many times they sample it, and it can be integrated with beer reviews at Untappd and other platforms.
With a background in software and hardware, Vitale worked "nights and weekends” before Spigot became his full-time pursuit in 2016. He honed the system at job fairs and other events before its first deployment at a beer festival at the inaugural Belgian Beer Festival at Bruz Beers in spring 2017. "By that time, the technology was pretty well proven out," says Vitale. "It was just applying it to this new space."
Spigot Labs is able to train volunteers to hand out hardware. "The whole process starts at check-in," says Vitale. Ticket and driver's license scanning and distribution of glasses and wristbands becomes "a single-step process” anchored by Spigot Labs' system.
"We've got a sensor set up not for each brewery, but for each individual beer that's being poured," says Vitale, who says he has continued to add functionality to deliver updated tap lists and other features.
Now he touts Spigot Labs as a good fit for beer, food, and wine festivals as well as corporate conferences and trade shows. The company has worked more than 50 events in all. Beyond the Belgian Beer Festival (where Spigot Labs will again be at in April 2019), Spigot Labs also provided services at BrüFrou in Denver and Grapes & Grass in Boulder.
At corporate events, says Vitale, "We're trying a variety of approaches. We're tracking who visits what exhibition booth." It allows for automated contact information exchange and attendance tracking.
The primary prerequisite is strong Wi-Fi; beyond that, Spigot Labs offers a turnkey solution. "We bring in our own networking equipment," says Vitale.
Pricing is "based on a per-attendee model," says Vitale, with prices topping out at $5 per attendee for smaller events. He says it's a differentiator that helps festivals attract breweries and other vendors, as well as providing value to attendees. "The breweries are tired. They put a lot of money into festivals and don't necessarily see the value."
Providing a means of capturing marketing leads and consumer data changes the equation, he adds. "That's huge, to have an actual data-driven list from the festival."
Challenges: Visibility. "The biggest thing for us is just getting the word out and getting more festivals to see the value there," says Vitale.
Opportunities: "I see a lot of business opportunities, but honestly the opportunity is to fulfill this initial dream: to go to a beer festival, try something you love, and be able to find it afterwards," says Vitale.
Beyond beer festivals, he adds, "The conference space is really rich. There are a lot of use cases that fit really well."
Needs: "Connecting with more event organizations in general," says Vitale. "I've got some conversations started with some of the big guys who I respect."
Two other needs: "People who are passionate about putting on not just a festival, but a quality festival," he adds. And event staff; Vitale says the job description fits "someone who is passionate about technology and beer."