Looking for the Cool Crowd? There's an App for That
You show up at a bar, wait in line and finally make it past security, only to find that the place is wall-to-wall people. The worst part? None of them are your type.
But Ben Silbert, the founder of Bar & Club Stats, a software startup, is on a mission to take the guesswork out of going out.
“Time is precious. Why waste it at a bar or club that you don’t want to be at,” says Silbert.
He partnered with a technology company to offer clubs the BCS ID scanner software. It clips onto a bouncer's iPhone or iPod and reads the barcode or magnetic strip on a driver’s license to extract four pieces of data from a patron's ID: gender, age, zip code and time of entry. The patron remains anonymous — no names or addresses are retrieved from the ID card.
The information goes to the company’s database where it is aggregated and analyzed. Right now it is only available to bars and to marketers, but the soon-to-launch app will help patrons determine where they want to be, before they even get there. It also enables bar owners to get a better understanding of who their patrons are.
The scanner software is downloadable free online, but requires an attachment piece which is leased monthly for $59 or sold for $849 to bars and clubs.
Roughly 20 bars and nightclubs In New York City and New Jersey have started using the scanner since its launch in November. Silbert talks about how the idea for BCS got its start, and when he expects to launch the consumer application.
Where did the idea come from?
On a cold Saturday in January 2011, I was trying to find a relatively quiet bar to watch the NFL playoffs. I was getting frustrated by the crowds that made it impossible to watch the game, let alone order food and drinks. At the same time I knew bars needed to protect themselves against fake IDs and I realized that by scanning licenses two things could be accomplished: One, the bar could protect itself and two, I could aggregate anonymous data to get a gauge of how crowded a bar was and who — by looking at age, gender, zip code — was there.
What does this technology do?
The scanners extract the information anonymously, meaning a patron's name or address is never transmitted to a third party. This is for legal purposes. The anonymous data then gets pushed in real-time to BCS's site. BCS never sees anyone’s personal information.
Where did the funding first come from?
We are currently bootstrapping the business ourselves, but in the process of raising our first outside round with private investors.
Who was your first customer?
Our first customer was Green Rock Tap & Grill in Hoboken. I've been going there for years and I'm friendly with the owner.
When did you know the company would be a success?
I knew BCS would be a success when one of our first bars called us on a Monday morning [after using the device the previous Friday] and said they already put their old ID scanner on eBay .
By sharing information for our users, they're having a direct interaction with potential customers, and that's valuable.
We are submitting our software to iTunes this week to make it really easy for bars to download it. Once the bar downloads it on iTunes, they can rent or buy the scanner attachment from our website. We will still sell the complete version of the product on our website for bars that do not have an iPod or iPhone.
We are working with bars and marketers to convert our data into meaningful applications for their businesses. We are launching a consumer application soon [sometime this summer] and we are expanding across the country.
Follow Jessica Naziri on Twitter @ jessicanaziri