For fans of beer and location based services, Untappd is like a dream come true. I’ve been a heavy user for the past year and love the new features that continue to roll out and the community that continues to develop around the app. For our first interview here on Empty Growler, we chatted with Untappd product manager John Vajda, who also founded another beer check-in app called Redpint. Enjoy!
Empty Growler: Do you remember the first beer you had? If so, any story behind it?
John Vajda: I guess my first run in with beer was when I was about 12 and my Dad would let me take a sip from his Stroh’s when he’d watch the NFL on Sunday. (Shhh don’t tell my Mom.)
Empty Growler: When you started getting into craft beer, what were the ‘gateway’ beers that helped you get there?
John Vajda: Officially around 2006, However I always drank Sam Adams, Guinness, Bass, Bodington’s, or Bellhaven before I truly “discovered” craft beer. I always craved something with bigger flavors and better quality.
EG: What got you interested in checking in to beer?
John Vajda: I always loved Foursquare and was an early adopter of their service. when Alicia Benjamin (my CoFounder at RedPint) and I came up with idea of RedPint, a social network for craft beer, we thought checking into a beer would be totally cool. Thus, the beer check-in was born.
EG: How did you get involved with Untappd?
John Vajda: RedPint and Untappd launched around the same time in October 2010. Tim Mather (CEO of Untappd) and Greg Avola (CTO of Untappd) designed a great product and had the ability to iterate faster and launch more features then we did. I always respected them as developers and craft beer fans, and had a respect for what we were all trying to do – bring beer enthusiasts together into one social experience. As we continued to develop our RedPint product I realized that partnering with Tim and Greg would be a great opportunity for the three of us to combine forces and leverage each others skills. They were great developers and had built an amazing community quickly, and I had product management experience as well as marketing and industry contacts that could help them. I approached them for an acquisition opportunity and the rest is history.
EG: What are some of the biggest challenges Untappd has faced early on?
John Vajda: I can only speak to my involvement the past year at the company, but probably not being able to build all the features we want to build because of a lack of time. We have to prioritize our work but want to build so much more if we just had more time in the day. Working for a startup you are always working against the time constraint because there is a lot you need to do and only a handful of people do it with.
EG: If you were trying to talk a craft beer drinker into trying Untappd, what would you say?
John Vajda: I’d first ask them if they like social networks and apps like FourSquare, Twitter, Get Glue, Path or SCVNGR. I do think these types of services are precursors to wanting to use something like Untappd. However, if you don’t use these services Untappd is still pretty cool for a beer enthusiast. I’d also mention the ability to rate and track their beers as well as locate beers around them. Earning badges is pretty cool too. I think we have a little something for everyone from the gamers who love earning badges, to the beer geeks who love to track their beer consumption and ratings, to those that like to socialize about beer.
EG: What are some of the most requested upgrades and changes you get asked for with Untappd?
John Vajda: Badges! Everyone has ideas for badges, we wish we could do them all, but it all comes down to time. We’ve also had requests for a better way to manage beer vintages (beers that have different recipes year to year), checking in with the serving type (draft, bottle, type of glass etc) and finally being able to download their beer data.
EG: Are any of those changes on your roadmap?
John Vajda: We are working on a more robust vintage system now. We are also consider more premium features for our users as well.
EG: What is your current favorite beer and brewery?
John Vajda: Russian River, Pliny The Elder is my all time favorite beer. I just love everything Russian River does and wish I could get it more often on the East Coast.
EG: What beers are you most interested to try that you haven’t been able to get your hands on yet?
John Vajda: I am starting to really get into Belgian imports and especially sours. I am always down to try new IPAs from any brewer, it’s hard for someone like me to pass on a beer I’ve never had. I am big into the exploration of beer and this is why I love Untappd. I discovered so many new beers from socializing with my friends and the community. It’s one of our best features!
A big thank you to John for answering our questions, if you aren’t already using Untappd, you should get started. Follow the Empty Growler guys and John himself.