Brewing up real-time data for the beer industry
The Smart Container Company knows what we're drinking
Tuesday’s newsletter had a really good response from readers, and we’re back today with something very different.
In today’s edition, we’re in the world of supply chains… beer supply chains to be specific. Scroll down to read all about The Smart Container Company’s… smart containers, and how they’re going to use them. 🍺
Oh, and just a quick note that if you’re a startup that has been featured on PreSeed Now in the past, keep an eye out for an email from my colleague Samantha soon about something new that we’re working on! 🤫
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The Smart Container Company is brewing up valuable real-time beer data
Supply chain tech is a busy space.
You might well have come across numerous startups enabling smarter supply chains across specific industries in recent years, and that’s exactly what The Smart Container Company wants to do for the draught beer industry.
Promising “the keg of the future”, they’ve developed a hardware device that measures volume, location, motion, and temperature of a keg’s contents for real-time, online tracking via a web app called BeverEDGE.
Customers can view insights and generate customisable reports about where their kegs are and what consumers are drinking.
The tracker that Smart Container has developed can be welded onto existing kegs. It sends data over a 5G LPWAN (low-power wide-area network) connection, which CEO Eduardo Garcia says tackles the problem of connectivity when kegs tend to spend a lot of time in cellars and basements.
“We like to use an AM/FM radio analogy to describe the technology. Ever noticed when you go to the countryside that you can still get AM reception, but not the FM? LPWAN is the AM.
“The lower frequency, higher amplitude allows it to transmit data over longer distances and penetrate through walls, including cellars and basements, more easily.”
Why track kegs so closely?
Garcia says the benefits of Pontypridd-based Smart Container’s offering can be manifold.
“Drivers want reporting that gives them better direction on what pickups and deliveries they need to do, and the brewer gets demand-driven production planning. Since they know how much product is being consumed out in the field, the procurement team has better ability to know what to order, and the brewer knows what to make that week to replenish what's needed.
“And the salespeople get consumption information; they know how brands are behaving. So the way we enable change is with reporting, insights, and notifications that alert them to do something.”
The startup will be targeting breweries and keg rental companies initially, although they see potential to serve others in the beverage industry. This could include analysts looking for more detailed and up-to-date market data than they can currently access.
“Understanding consumer behaviour is a problem for the large brewers since they're focused on growth,” says Garcia. “If these companies don't grow, they start falling behind against their competitors. So in order to grow, understanding how their product behaves in the market is a key insight. It just helps them sell more and deploy their marketing and sales resources better.
“So with the smart keg, we tell them where people are drinking, what they're drinking, when they're drinking.”
For smaller craft breweries and the logistics providers, the offer is more about efficiency. Smart Container targets them with data about things like when a keg needs to be picked up, when it's empty, when it's full, and what temperature the product is being kept at. This, Garcia says, can help with warehouse optimisation, labour productivity, and other supply chain improvements.
And Garcia talks a strong game about the environmental impact these efficiencies can drive.
“Every time we save a mile in better deliveries and better pickups, we save carbon footprint. We're saving tyres, we're saving oil changes, we're saving the meat sandwich that the driver has to eat every day. So all of this then converts into a more sustainable supply chain.
“And this industry is huge… so making a small improvement in a supply chain this big has a huge impact on our ecosystem.”
From Manhattan to South Wales
Garcia didn’t start his career in beer. His background is in New York’s financial services sector, advising large corporations on technology and digital innovation.
Relocating to the UK and wanting to launch a startup, he eschewed an obvious path into fintech (“I was a little bit tired of that”) and started looking at pain points in the hospitality industry.
He persuaded Tamara Goldstein, a friend from New York, to join as co-founder. Goldstein previously worked for a hedge fund, and then VC firm Thrive Capital. Moving into startups, she eventually became the CEO of dating app Pickable in London, which is where she reconnected with Garcia.
“He pitched me what he was working on. It was early days, I think it was eight months in or something. And with my venture capital hat on I could not say no,” says Goldstien.
Having spent around four years on R&D to get the product ready, Garcia, Goldstein and their team are gearing up to begin real-world trials of their tech this summer. They hope the companies they trial with will then convert to customers.
Garcia says that some of the world’s biggest breweries have expressed an interest in testing the technology.
“We're still an R&D shop. We don't have a single salesperson on the team; everyone's an engineer here. But the trials we're going to be doing are with the most exciting brands in the beer industry.”
In addition to the current core team, Garcia and Goldstein have enlisted Gary Bull, who spent 30 years as an executive at brewery multinational SABMiller, as non-executive chairman, and advisors including Hector Gorosabel, the former CEO of brewery giant Asahi International.
Investment, vision, competition, and challenges
Take a deeper dive on Smart Container…