July 10, 2013
Drink a highball at nightfall.
Be good fellows while you may.
– “Drink a Highball”
The classic love story: guy meets dude, dude falls in love with guy, and then guy/dude-duo make an awesome baby. Well, all right, it was more like: guy meets dude, dude falls in love with guy’s idea, and guy/dude-duo make an awesome product. For cofounders David Leibner and Jon Gutwillig, it seemed like a fortuitous convergence of several, unlikely events that ultimately led them to each other and to the development of Drinkboard.
Drinkboard is a hospitality-centric mobile gifting app that allows users to browse top venues and purchase meals or drinks for other people, regardless of location. So, say you’re my bestie, and I’mma buy you a drank because it’s your birthday. But, wait, you’re in some uber-hip San Diego bar, while I’m eating mac and cheese from my paltry couch in DC. Drinkboard would allow me to buy you a drink with just a few taps of my finger. The inspiration came from a literal drinkboard that Leibner eventually set up at a bar he owned 20 years ago.
Leibner, CEO of Drinkboard, never thought that he would one day be working on something like Drinkboard – let alone formulate its concept through his first company, Social Office Suite. Working primarily with clients in the hospitality business, Leibner noticed that the social media data showed about 400 million conversations a month around celebratory events, such as birthdays or promotions. He also discovered that, for one of his hotelier clients, 20,000 monthly requests were being denied to people who wanted to buy drinks, meals, or amenities for friends and family over the phone. Simply, there was no technology (at the time) that could make those transactions.
On his friend Jeremy’s birthday, Leibner was frustrated that a restaurant in Chicago had no way of charging Jeremy’s dinner on Leibner’s card over the phone. Leibner shared this frustration with Gutwillig (who was, at the time, a guitarist for a popular trance fusion band) and consequently shared his concept for a mobile gifting app.
Gutwillig empathized with those kinds of situations and – to Leibner’s surprise – wanted to build the technology to allow for such a platform. Leibner was unaware of Gutwillig’s secret identity: aside from having spent 15 years touring in a band, Gutwillig was also a Penn grad with a background in electrical engineering. “This [issue] had become a big enough deal for Jon that he wanted to make a [career] shift and become the CTO to develop [the technology],” says Leibner.
The two have been working on Drinkboard since May 2012, with the help of seed capital from a previous investor of Social Office Suite. Although they had a version of Drinkboard by last Thanksgiving, they decided to spend an additional eight months building a more robust platform.
“Our goal is to build the local community, so we want to build a platform that brings people into brick-and-mortar [establishments]…eventually from every vertical: concert tickets, manicures, [and] whatever else.”
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