Milwaukee-based SpotHopper Wants to Be Pandora For Watering Holes

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several sources: consulting with craft beer experts, sommeliers, and mixologists; inputting a beverage’s characteristics from its manufacturer’s description; crowdsourcing from user reviews within the app; and incorporating staff members’ interpretations of a drink’s “flavor profile.”

“We come up with what we believe is closest to the truth about what that product is really like, then recommend that to a person,” Ivanovic says.

But the app’s success could hinge on building up a critical mass of branded alcoholic beverages (and accurate, detailed profiles of each drink) in its database. As the company attempts to scale beyond Milwaukee to much larger cities, that could be a challenge, especially for a startup that currently has only about 15 employees, interns, and contractors. Why not partner with an online review database like BeerAdvocate or RateBeer to beef up SpotHopper’s catalog? Ivanovic says the API capabilities on those types of websites aren’t up to par yet, and he thinks software that crawls websites doesn’t typically produce robust data sets.

SpotHopper also has its work cut out with its plan to be a resource for shoppers. When standing at the end of an aisle stocked with dozens of types of wine, liquor, and beer, an intuitive guide on a smartphone could be handy.

But that assumes SpotHopper has every local grocery store’s full menu of alcoholic products in its database, which will also take time and effort to amass. SpotHopper has a pilot partnership with Sendik’s Fine Foods in Brookfield, west of Milwaukee, and is in the process of uploading the store’s alcoholic beverage inventory to the app. SpotHopper has also had conversations with Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets and a couple of wine distributors, who will recommend liquor stores for the startup to partner with, Ivanovic says.

Ivanovic is confident SpotHopper will continue signing up restaurants and bars, beverage manufacturers, and retailers because the app helps them “attract their ideal customer” and steer them toward desired products at the point of sale. He says bad reviews on Yelp and other websites are largely a result of “mismatched expectations,” and that a good recommendation app can prevent such episodes. “So if I have a dive bar, I want to bring people in that like dive bars. Then everybody’s going to have a great experience.”

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