Schedule a Date to Get Your Friends Tipsy

Say it's 2 o'clock, you're biding time until you can go home, and you find out your buddy just got some bad news -- they got laid off or something. It doesn't matter what, but you know they just need a drink. Badly. With Bartab, a new service that launches Friday in Chicago, you'll be able to cherry-pick the bar and drink of choice, and send them a voucher to go get hammered along with a personal message, like, "You need a drink. Meet you there at 5."

Bartab started life as a Facebook app in 2009 and graduated to a mobile- and web-based app last year. Starting in San Francisco, it's since spread to 15 markets across the country, and it's coming here tomorrow.

I gave Account Executive Kyle Borchardt a call to discuss how the app works and how other businesses can follow their example.

Your plan is to be in 25 markets before the end of the year?

Kyle Borchardt: You know, I don't think we're going to hit that goal. Initially we were looking at 25 to 30, however we're not trying to get ahead of ourselves. We take people who have worked with the company for a while and if they're successful, we offer them an opportunity to open up their own market. It's kinda an internal growth. Currently we're not doing much marketing. We're trying to stay as organic as possible simply because we want to get our network solidified and we want our app to be seamless both on the front and back end.

How does your service work, and how can people glean some lessons from that?

Kyle Borchardt: We've seen games like FarmVille offering virtual transactions. What we've done is taken Bartab and offer our users the ability to shop in the virtual world and then consume that with tangible product in the real world. You're taking your virtual gift by sipping on a nice cold beer, shot, or cocktail at a venue of choice.

Our model is such that you're taking this virtual space, choosing a select product, and gifting it either to a friend or to yourself. You can take that voucher and redeem for an actual tangible product. It's $1 to send a drink, and it's $1 to redeem a drink. Technically you're getting a $2 drink. You can send it to yourself, but it works multiple ways.

So it's an evolution of sorts on the daily-deal model.

Kyle Borchardt: The beauty of our product is we cater to the business first. We're fully integrated with Facebook, so with each drink that is sent, roughly 500 to 1,000 people are going to see that bar and bar logo on a news feed. Unlike a daily-deals model, where you're seeing a $20 for $50 deal offering, and then you're seeing the venue, with us you're actually choosing the venue first and you're referring a friend to that venue.

These deal sites used to have all the control and these businesses just wanted to be on there. Now you're seeing this shift where deals are toning down. Now it's like $20 for $30. People are choosing the venue first. They're referring people to a place they enjoy, not some hole-in-the-wall place they've never been to before.

How can other people get an infrastructure like that in place for their business?

Kyle Borchardt: You have to create some sort of online e-commerce site where you can purchase goods that you redeem in the real-world space. It's the notion that exists with virtual transactions and everyday real-world transactions and combining it into a unique concept.

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