Untappd in Wilmington Brings Fresh Energy to Downtown
The vibrant culture of Wilmington’s most sippable software company, Untappd, and what it means for Wilmington’s thriving beer scene.
If you live in Wilmington and are up to date with the city’s most desired local companies to get on board with, then the name Untappd is already on your radar. If you’re a beer enthusiast who lives, well, just about anywhere in the world, the Untappd app likely holds a special place in your heart (and on your phone).
Gone are the days of drab office interactions around the water cooler, and in are the afternoons of communal company excitement over big business wins and crushing hazy IPAs on the rooftop. You could say that Untappd’s workplace environment follows the “work hard, play hard” MO — the real deal behind employee culture is that if you hustle like a champion, you’ll be rewarded like a rock star.
As for the Untappd app, which provides some of the most distinguished technology in the beer software industry, the social platform is far more advanced in its capabilities than just uniting hop-nerds around the globe. It allows you to check out trending beers in your area, earn badges by popping bottles and view additional recommendations based on which bubbles did your body good.
On the Untappd for Business side, the user-friendly program teaches establishments to build interactive rotating menus (digital beer collections where patrons have all they need to know in one place), learn how to engage with active customers and so much more. When Untappd merged with Wilmington-based Next Glass in 2016, the marriage created the opportunity to connect the two in a powerful way and help leverage each other’s growth.
I recently sat down with Untappd VP of Sales Brandon Walker, an energetic leader who helped me tap into the dynamic culture of this budding business. Puns all intended.
What was the mindset behind merging with Next Glass and how has that impacted Untappd’s original vision?
I was with Next Glass to begin with, so I can speak more in the context of Next Glass as it pertains to merging with Untappd. To start, these companies have two very different backgrounds. Untappd came from a designer who was sitting on it as a hobby and an app, and he wasn’t in a position to attack it full time. Next Glass was started by George and Kurt (Taylor) and it was more of a classic start-up that grew quickly. Ultimately this was a natural blend for two companies with business-savvy, entrepreneurial tendencies and complementary skill sets. The products closely aligned and when the two joined and Next Glass was converted to the Untappd brand, this also gave the Untappd founders the opportunity to work on their passion projects full time. With the engineering and design capabilities of the Untappd team, this fusion was organic and a great fit, like a hand in a glove.
Where was the original headquarters of Untappd?
The co-founders Tim Mather and Greg Avola worked remotely (one in Los Angeles and the other in New York). Technically, since Untappd began as just a software, it didn’t have a brick-and-mortar home until Wilmington.
Although Wilmington has become a major beer mecca, when the merger with Next Glass happened in 2016, was there any concern with bringing such a major company’s headquarters to a small town?
Not at all because Next Glass was here. Next Glass actually had more employees and was a real, tangible company headquartered in Wilmington. Bringing Untappd here didn’t mean any drastic changes. Greg and Tim fly in for important meetings, and Greg tries to come here at least once a month.
At the obvious growth rate of the company, are there any plans to expand the office outside of the space on Front Street?
I’ve learned to never definitively say yes or no! Tru Colors Brewing (George’s newest venture) just leased a space and that team will be moving there soon. That will give more room for the Untappd team as TCB has been working out of the same Front Street space. We will always provide the accommodations our team needs, but expanding isn’t on the forefront.
Untappd is known around town as having one of the most attractive work environments (beer on tap, fun trips, a rooftop view). How has the culture of Untappd evolved and grown since it transitioned into George and Kurt’s hands, and how much of that has been dependent on creating a positive and social work culture?
That’s just one piece of the puzzle. We try to the run the company like a Silicon Valley/New York start-up. We’re emphatic on high performance and consistency, so we run more like a professional sports team. Employees are well-rewarded for high performance, and if they’re struggling, we do everything we can to put them in a position to be successful. We want everybody to be performing forward, and what drives this positive culture is creating that environment where we’re winning. Sure, we have the rooftop and the beers, but we have great colleagues and these perks are complimentary to the people. Employees growing in their role every day is important, and that helps everybody buy into the idea of being part of a winning culture, being excellent and being even better tomorrow than they were today. The trips, the taps, the games, the competitions — all of that is meant to complement that winning lifestyle.
Untappd is known for “providing an unprecedented experience when it comes to sharing, socializing and learning about all things beer” and the main message is: drink socially. On the social media level, what does the team at Untappd do to keep up with all of the trending platforms (Instagram, Facebook, blog posts, podcasts, etc.)?
Our California office drives most of our social media presence. They put out a podcast every week called Drinking Socially and the hosts do interviews, taste different beers, chat about pairings and more. All of our profiles are active and being maintained by the West Coast office. We manage our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with updates on new badges on the app and blog posts and share occasional IG stories where people from our team visit different breweries.
Next Glass focuses on the chemistry of the alcohol itself. Did Untappd ever look into doing the same breakdown with beer?
Again, I’ve learned to never definitively say yes or no! What I can say is that blending the science and chemistry isn’t something that’s currently a priority for us. The concept of being able to utilize the data we’ve accumulated (from the Genome Cellar database), though, could mean it will happen in the long run. As for now, there’s no timeline or a level of priority.
What does the future of Untappd look like? Any big projects, events or changes to the app coming up that you’d like folks to know about?
For us, we want to continue building software that serves different parts of the beer industry. We currently have the consumer app, the for-business product, and we want to move forward developing different software to serve establishments like breweries. As far as for the app, we have some really cool new releases in the next month that will benefit the international customers. It’s a new release that was just recently approved, but that’s all I’ll let out of the bag for now!
Since the local beer community in Wilmington has grown exponentially in the last six years, how is Untappd staying tuned in to that expanding culture? What does the team think of the massive growth of the beer industry in our town?
The explosion of the Wilmington beer scene has been awesome to watch. Even just as of recent, we’ve had Edward Teach and Mad Mole open their doors, New Anthem is opening a new facility, and Flying Machine is on the brink. As far as Untappd goes, we’re seeing more local breweries put out kegs and bottles and it’s really exciting to watch things continue to proliferate.
How does it feel that Tru Colors is on the horizon of entering Wilmington’s thriving beer world?
With TCB, what’s been a lot of planning and managing events is starting to come to fruition and we’re all really excited. The brewery itself is getting some footing and a framework around it. It’s starting to take shape beyond just being a concept. Since we’ve worked really closely with the TCB team and a lot of them have participated in roles in Untappd and gone through our sales program, witnessing their enthusiasm to put out a product is great. It’s a revolutionary concept, and you can always count on George to put boots on the ground and bring an idea to life.
Want to know more about Untappd?
To hear the Untappd podcast, read the blog, discover and rate beers or virtually socialize in the name of all things beer, visit untappd.com.