With its easy-to-install sensors and intuitive beer metrics platform, the Raleigh-based beer data company, BruVue, is not just saving bar owners money but also the pain of measuring beer level by lifting a keg that can weigh more than 100 pounds when full. Now the company hopes that its presentation on the mainstage at next week’s CED Tech Conference (Feb. 25-26 at the Raleigh Convention Center) won’t be heavy lifting either.
BruVue’s key product is a sensor that can be easily placed on a bar’s beer taps and will measure every time the tap is opened and send that information to the cloud with the help of IoT-focused, LTE Cat M1 and Narrowband technology.
But CEO Chris Lorkowski said BruVue is about more than just sensors.
“We’re a data company,” he said. “We’re not a sensor company; the sensors just enable that.”
By measuring every time the tap is opened, BruVue wants to help bar and restaurant owners track the flow rate of a beer keg so they know when to replace it and which kegs are selling out the fastest.
This data can help bar and restaurant owners decide which beers are worth keeping on tap, in addition to preventing theft.
“If, say, your bar closes at 2 and there was beer poured at 3, you want to know,” he said. “Or, say nine Bud Lights were poured on Friday night but only three were rung up at your point of sale, what happened to those other six?”
Although the roughly 1,000 sensors the company has sold have mostly been to bar and restaurant owners, Lorkowski said the company would like to expand to more stadiums and arenas.
This year, BruVue released their sensors at the Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Fiserv Forum, with one of their restaurant operator partners.
Lorkowski said the team set up the sensors that morning and were able to get data on the amount of beer poured immediately after the game.
“It’s just a great story for how easy it is (to set up),” he said. “We can go into a stadium in the morning, drop everything off, watch the game and we can debrief everything immediately after—and now they have real-time data streaming in.”
This ease of use and innovation earned BruVue the top prize in Heineken’s “Innovators Brewhouse Challenge” last year in Amsterdam, where teams from all over the world came up with IoT solutions to give consumers more information about the level of beer in The Sub, Heineken’s home beer-dispensing product.
While BruVue has now succeeded in raising a $1M seed round and is in the process of raising another $700,000, the company started with a simple idea.
Before BruVue was founded in 2015, Lorkowski’s friend and Co-Founder, Mike Mitchell, worked at a beer distributor. One day his boss asked him to report the inventory levels for every account the company had.
Mitchell tried to call the bars and restaurants, but most didn’t pick up the phone or had no idea how much beer they had left. So, Mitchell had to visit every client’s business, lift their heavy kegs and estimate how much was left based on the weight.
Mitchell called Lorkowski to tell him about this problem, and although Lorkowski worked with biomedical devices at the time, he had a simple solution.
“That was the day I told Mike, ‘You’ve just got to put a sensor on the faucet so you can track how much beer is coming out of the keg from there,’” he said.
Making the switch from a surgical robotics firm to a beer data company may not be a typical career path, but when Lorkowski and his friend realized they could make a business out of the beer data sensor, he knew he had to jump on the opportunity.
Said Lorkowski, “When you have your best friend call you up one day and you can work on technology, work in IoT, work with your best friend and work in beer, who would say no to that?”