Nine years ago, Greg Avola and Tim Mather created Untappd, a Foursquare-style check-in app for beer, thanks to an idea and $1,000 from Avola. Even as Untappd took off, the two kept their day jobs--until they found an unconventional way to devote themselves to their company. --As told to Cameron Albert-Deitch
It's funny. I wasn't really that into beer.
Tim and I met over Twitter in 2007. I lived in Massachusetts and he was in California. We worked on a few freelance jobs together--me as a software engineer, and Tim as a Web designer. I'd never heard of what he was drinking out West, and sometimes I'd think, "I wish I could get that beer."
In the summer of 2010, I was traveling a lot as a consultant for KPMG. I remember sitting in my hotel room in Springfield, Massachusetts, and telling Tim, "Hey, we always check in on Foursquare--what if we did something related to beer and location?" Beer is inherently very social, and there wasn't an online version of that interaction.
I went home that weekend to work on a prototype, and had a dirty version of it within 48 hours. We launched Untappd that October 22. Fourteen days later, Mashable wrote an article about it.
Over time, we became two guys doing what we could to support millions of people on this app--on the side. Our two main advisers, who'd sold beer startups, started telling us we weren't dedicated because we hadn't quit our day jobs. Neither said it out loud, but they heavily implied: "Hey, you have this successful thing. Why haven't you gone ahead and tried to do this full time?" Then one of them sat me down over coffee in San Francisco to talk about Techstars.
The allure was very big. The greatest things come out of those incubators, with plenty of funding. But I was so used to corporate life: You went to work, you went home, you got a paycheck. This would have meant not knowing if there would even be a paycheck. Not knowing if this is going to last three months--or how your relationships are going to hold up.
If we were single and in our 20s, we could've made it work. But we weren't in college. We couldn't eat ramen noodles for the rest of our lives, or pick up and move somewhere else. We had families. We couldn't just drop everything and go for it.
We knew we needed to get bigger, but an investor would have felt like a boss. We needed a partner we could trust. The idea of a merger started to make sense.
In 2015, we were approached by Next Glass. It had structure, but not scale. We had millions of users. Next Glass acquired Untappd that December. The combined company took our name--and we quit our day jobs.
And we've finally become big beer fans. The Greg from eight or nine years ago would be perplexed by how I now like all these hazy IPAs. He'd say, "Wow. That's disgusting."
My favorite beer now is Pliny the Elder, a double IPA from Russian River Brewing. It was one of the first beers I learned about from the Untappd community.
It's never let me down.