A University of Massachusetts alumnus will introduce a mobile app to Amherst on Wednesday, Oct. 28 that will allow customers to order, pay for and tip for drinks from their smart phones.
Peter Levin, who graduated with a dual degree in economics and psychology in December 2014, is coming to Stackers Pub with his startup app Slydde. The app aims to change the bar experience; people can choose what venue they are going to, pick drinks from the menu, order and tip accordingly. When the drink is ready, the customer will receive a notification with a unique color code combination.
The customer then shows the code to the bartender and receives the drink that matches it. The same color cannot be replicated live until it is archived on the bartending side. There are never repeat colors and playing the system is impossible, Levin said.
“The inspiration was just being a college student, or not necessarily being a college student, but going to venues that were consistently packed to the point where it was just a huge pain point for the customer,” Levin said. “Every time you want to order, you have to fight the crowd, wait five minutes and flag down the bartender.”
Levin decided to start Slydde at the end of April and it took him and his team three months to finish the first version, which is called an MVP, or minimally valued product. They ran the beta in Worcester in August and received positive feedback. The users liked it because they did not have to deal with cash, cards or tabs and could order from anywhere within the venue. The bartenders liked not having to handle payments and receipts and that their only job was to make drinks.
The data also showed an increase in tips of about a dollar more per drink. The bar owners liked that they generated more sales by pushing high volume and turning over more drinks during peak hours. Eventually, owners will be able to track productivity, see what customers prefer and make appropriate changes to their inventory.
“They get customer insight,” Levin said. “Instead of investing in things that don’t bring a return, they have a whole bunch of data. It’s a symbiotic relationship for every party involved.”
But the beta was far from perfect. Customers complained of bugs and had thoughts about the features and seamlessness of the experience, which they brought to Levin’s attention.
After the first run, his team gave the app a complete makeover. Testers in Amherst next week will be the first to see the new interface.
Levin has giveaways ready and expects a big turnout for next Wednesday, with about 100 people testing the app, which will give him access to precious data and feedback.
“We want to create an app that they’ll love and the only way we can do that is look at what we can do to make the experience better,” Levin said. “Ultimately, the use of all of that data and feedback is to build a product that is desired.”
Levin’s team consists of two developers who helped create the product and another who could design the user interface, he said. Levin does not work with anyone from UMass, but he did meet his Android developer in April at the Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative, an entrepreneurship conference supported by UMass.
He says that following the test on Wednesday, all there is to do is to release the product and listen to customers.
“Really, what I’ve learned by trying to start a startup is: just go,” Levin said. “People spend a lot of time talking about things and trying to plan, and don’t get me wrong, planning is very important. But don’t think about it, don’t talk about it, just go.”
Slydde is not Levin’s first app. While he was at the University, Levin developed a concept with two other students called Juvoh, a system that would take all the strategically placed help phones with the blue lights on campus and put them into a mobile app that would open the dialogue between students and campus police.
Students could send alerts, tell officers exactly where they are and talk to them in real time. Their idea won them $5,000 in last year’s UMass Innovation Challenge.
The next big challenge for Slydde is partnering with venues so users have places to use the app at. Levin has plans to roll the app out officially in Worcester and throughout the Midwest and east coast in the future. He wants to grow his team and start internship programs to engage the undergraduate population.
“There really aren’t too many opportunities, at least when I was there, to get involved in budding startups,” Levin said. “So we’re trying to build teams across a number of universities across the United States. Slydde is getting ready for a wide-scale launch.”
Levin said he has plans to bring Slydde to every state and college town to the point where he can provide opportunities for ambitious individuals. Creating entrepreneurship programs is just one way. He wants to disrupt an industry that’s been stagnant for many years, and ultimately be a part of the mass migration to mobile and online ordering.
“You see all these on-demand services and we want to make sure to be on the cutting edge before we miss the opportunity,” he said. “We want to be that company that sets the precedent for that kind of marketing.”
Hae Young Yoo can be reached at [email protected]