Whenever you go out, be it nightly or just the occasional drink, you’re always getting at least one drink. The upside is that you are enjoying yourself; the downside…is that you are paying for it. The newest “private cocktail society” is up and running and HOOCH gives you a free drink for only $10 bucks per month. So stop hesitating about whether you want another drink or feeling bad looking at the exorbitant prices, because the first drink is always on HOOCH.
We spoke with cofounder Lin Dai about the company and got the details on how easy it is to become a member of the only club you’ll want access to.
Tell us about the product or service.
Hooch is the first ever membership Cocktail App, where our members can redeem one drink every day. One at top bars and restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Austin and soon to be Miami, Dallas, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago and Hong Kong.
How is it different?
In the hospitality industry, if you are a good customer every once in a while you’ve received “a round on the house” from the bartender or bar owner. That has existed as long as bars have been around. The last time there was a technology break-thru in this space was the invention of the “drink ticket,” which is basically a raffle style ticket that you take to the bartender and exchange for a free drink. It makes the person feel special about it because he/she got “taken care of.” We’ve taken that “taken care of” experience, put it in an app format, and scale it in a way so that potentially millions of people can have that special experience every single day.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
We launched in November 2015 in New York City, then launched in Los Angeles in January 2016 and we just launched in Austin in conjunction with SXSW. Next we are expanding into Miami, Dallas, Hong Kong, San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago. We are on track to be live in nine to ten cities worldwide by the start of summer 2016.
What is the business model?
It’s a subscription/recurring membership model. Our members pay $9.99 a month (or $99 a year). Then, we curate a list of great venues for them to discover and great cocktails to try.
What inspired the business?
My co-founder and partner Aleksey Kernes was a veteran in the NYC hospitality space and is always thinking up new ways to bring in new customers while simultaneously keeping the old ones happy. He had the idea of creating a “universal drink ticket” and when he showed me the prototype, I instantly got it and knew how big this could scale.
How do merchants/venues benefit in the longer term from working with your app?
Ask yourself “when was the last time I went to a bar and ONLY had one drink?” Our venue partners benefit from a vetted customer that pays for additional drinks at full price. We select partner bars and restaurants according to a rigorous set of criteria based on both quality of product and service level. As long as the service is good and the drinks are tasty, our members stay. Our early stats already show our members on average spend between $30-$40 more per visit at bars in New York City and Los Angeles, and spend between $100 – $140 per visit at our restaurant venues.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We are looking forward to having nine to ten cities live within the next six months, and looking to introduce Hooch to 100,000 potential members in these cities.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
I never learned when is the best time to break the news to my wife that I was leaving my well-paid CMO job at a publicly traded digital company to focus on the “drinking app”. So I winged it and told her right after our honeymoon and luckily she was super supportive. Plus, she already said “I do” so she’s stuck with me.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
We would love to speak to the guys at some of the leading venture capital firms, like Union Square and Spark Capital. We raised over $1 million in our Angel round, which closed at the beginning of March 2016, and have seen tremendous growth as we launch in our first cities. We just won the Anheuser-Busch InBev start-up pitch competition in SXSW on March 14th and working on strategic partnerships with major industry players. We are preparing for a full Series A round to really accelerate our roll-out with the right VC partners as our next step.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York is our backyard and all of the co-founders/partners live here. There are 5 million New Yorkers that drink at least once a week, and “having a drink” is ubiquitous with just about every social or business occasion. We’ve had incredible support from the tech community and are very impressed with the talent pool here. The saying goes, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
I love Pagani in the West Village, which is also one of our venue partners. It’s a great Italian restaurant with a beautiful bar right in the main room. The bartender makes great cocktails and on Wednesdays they have live music, where on occasion the owner Massimo gets behind the mic and plays a set with his band. It’s a great New-Yorker experience.