A Battle For Your Liver and Mind

Two local startups duel in the emerging social-gifting market



Would you rather digitally receive a drink credit or a signature cocktail? That’s just one question facing users of two Las Vegas-based apps that want to make picking up the next round as easy and intuitive as our daily social media interactions on Twitter and Facebook.

Similarities abound between the apps, Klinq and Drinkboard: Both are free to download, both free for merchants and both generate revenue via undisclosed revenue sharing upon redemption. Both involve browsing offers in-app, purchasing in-app and showing e-receipts to redeem. And both have well-considered merchant-management tools and support merchants with customer-oriented marketing opportunities. So, will that be up or on the rocks?

Klinq (GoKlinq.com) is a social beverage network for pre-purchasing, sending and redeeming brand-name booze at discounted prices—most drinks cost 99 cents. The problem in today’s market, Klinq founder Robbie Crawford argues, is that all the competition between bars makes it hard to decide where to hang out. Klinq makes the choice easier by offering “great deals at awesome places,” he says. “Some people use Klinq five nights a week at their favorite spot”—even though most venues limit one deal per person per 24 hours—while others use Klinq to explore new venues.

The goal is to “make a drink universal,” Crawford says, whether you want to buy one for yourself, for a distant friend or for the babe at the end of the bar. The 21-and-over social network seeks to connect the online and offline worlds, and offers nifty social media tie-ins like in-app messaging and photos that auto-tag the venue.

Crawford is a former chef and nightclub marketeer who, before Klink, most recently headed e-commerce at Wirtz Beverage Nevada. Following one year of development, and after receiving $350,000 from an angel investor, the Klinq beta launched in March with the complete version following in June. There are currently 42 local venues using Klinq, 114 overall including Mexico and California. Apart from Crawford, the Klinq team includes a partner/director of marketing, an events/video producer and a five-person development team from Raster Media.

At the other end of the spectrum, Drinkboard (Drinkboard.com) is a gifting app that lets users send signature menu items from a curated group of restaurants and bars to recipients. While Facebook might allow you to be friends with someone across the country, the challenge, says Drinkboard founder David Leibner, is that you can’t buy a drink for someone across the country. “There are 50 million ‘happy birthday!’ messages a day on Facebook,” he says, but no easy way to buy a celebratory drink. And Leibner should know. He’s the founder of Social Office Suite, a social media platform used by the likes of Wynn, Capriotti’s, Digital Royalty and PT’s, to name a few.

The other problem, Leibner contends, is that Groupon and other local discounters are hurting small businesses. Drinkboard supports local businesses by driving full-priced traffic. In many ways, Drinkboard is Leibner’s “Anti-Groupon,” a super gift card that reminds you in real time you’re near the venue and lets you easily (and secretly) re-gift. There are also interesting social features in the works, such as the ability to find Drinkboard-participating venues near distant friends.

Drinkboard counts a rock star among its ranks: Co-founder and chief technology officer Jon Gutwillig is the lead singer for the Disco Biscuits, and holds a computer-science degree from the University of Pennsylvania. The team also includes a Stanford foodie/COO, a marketer from the Palms and a project-management veteran. Following one year of development, Drinkboard launches this month for Apple (with light versions available for Android and mobile Web). There are 25 merchants signed up with more than 100 others in the on-boarding process. Drinkboard has seed funding from friends and family, and is in the process of completing its first big round of fundraising.

Conclusion: This isn’t about picking a winner; the Vegas tech ecosystem is nascent, still too small to fight over slices of the pie. With that in mind, here’s when to use which app: Use Klinq to score drink deals for yourself and your friends, to decide where to go and to message users who frequent similar spots. And use Drinkboard to thoughtfully gift signature menu items from premium venues.

Whether you buy someone a shot or a cocktail, it’s still the thought that counts.


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