Entrepreneurs @ work: BoozEye

Trond Haakenstad’s BoozEye app hooks up indecisive punters with local bars and clubs offering drink deals.

Trond Haakenstad’s BoozEye app hooks up indecisive punters with local bars and clubs offering drink deals.

This article is provided by the Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.


Out with friends for the evening but not sure where to go? Travelling for work, want a drink, but don’t know anything about the local watering holes? Trond Haakenstad has the answer. All you need to do is sign up to BoozEye, an app that will let you buy a deal or packages from a local pub, bar or nightclub and then show you how to get there.

After a spell in the Special Forces and a French economics degree that included exchange trips to Vietnam and Colombia, Norwegian national Haakenstad had very specific ideas about what to do next. “I grew up on a farm, and I wanted to find a way to combine agriculture, business and working internationally,” he says. “I love coffee, especially high quality coffee, so my plan was to work in speciality coffee imports or soft commodities. I’d always felt that I’d like to create something, to start a business. I realised that if I began working for a large corporation at that point, or even a small company, it might be hard to have that opportunity later on.”

Haakenstad had some difficult decisions to make. He had four job offers, including one involving soft commodities trading in Switzerland, and another working for a speciality coffee importer, based in Norway, but travelling in Africa and South America. It was exactly what he had hoped for.

On the other hand, he had the start of a promising business concept. “Halfway through the Masters in Management degree at London Business School I sat down with a friend and we brainstormed some start up ideas. One was about the pain of choosing where to go out: everybody has a different opinion. So what would be useful to help decide on a venue?”

The answer was BoozEye, a website and an app that allows users to purchase drinks deals and book tables at drinking venues. At the same time venues can upload or post deals with immediate effect, attracting customers at very short notice. It helps people save money, and, as importantly, gives them a reason to choose one bar over another. At the moment the focus is on London, but the intention is to roll the service out to other locations fairly rapidly.

Despite the alternative of a secure salary and clearer career path working for a large corporation, Haakenstad was convinced the idea was worth pursuing. “I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, while I have the opportunity. Just jump out there, even though it is very uncomfortable in the beginning. That’s how you evolve and develop as a person,” he says. “I saw that there was a possibility with the start-up and so I turned down the job offers and decided to continue with the start-up.”

Haakenstad immersed himself in developing the new business. He did market research, speaking to the managers and owners of pubs and bars in central London, and also students and young professionals to see whether or not they would use the service, and how they would prefer it to work. He interviewed and commissioned an app developer in Silicon Valley, and spoke to lawyers about legal aspects of the business.

Signing up the bar chains was always likely to be a challenge. To help with this Haakenstad tracked down someone who had industry connections, who became a co-founder in the autumn of 2013.

There was also some thought given to discouraging irresponsible use of the drinks deals. A restriction was built in to the BoozEye service that restricts users to one deal per person per 24 hours.

By the beginning of 2014, the website was up and the app on its way. Haakenstad was determined to make the user experience as straightforward as possible. “We had already seen websites that just list happy hours, or provide reviews of a lot of venues, for example. We really wanted to simplify the process,” he says.

“As a user, you download the app to your smartphone and log-on to the app, or we have website so you can go in there. Ten you register and immediately you can see different drinks deals. Typically it would be a two-beers-for-one or three-cocktails-for-one deal, for example.”

So next time you’re heading for a night out in London and can’t decide where to go, maybe it’s time to hit the app.

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