The Pint Drop 'Text Your Friends a Drink’ service is the brainchild of entrepreneur William Steward. The pioneering gifting service allows people to buy drinks for their friends via a personalised text message. It is changing the way people socialise, give and receive and is ahead of the curve in terms in the growing area of social gifting. Vouchers are available for £3, £4, £5, £10 and £20.
Founded in 2010 by Managing Director William and his father Martin Steward (Sales and Operations Director), Pint Drop’s service allows people to send vouchers instantly to their friends’ mobile phones via a website. These can then be redeemed instantly at participating bars across London. Bar staff type the unique voucher code from the message into a hand-held device, which treats it as cash.
William started his first business when he was a 14-year-old schoolboy and began the development, marketing and operation of web applications when he was a teenager. Initially, he worked with fellow tech enthusiasts and by the time he was taking his GCSEs, he was Chief Executive of his third business, an online storage provider File Den.
Achieving straight A grades in his A levels, William enrolled for a Computing degree at Imperial College. However, within a few weeks, he realised this was not the correct path for him to achieve his goals. In October 2010, he gave University another go, reading Computer Science and Business Studies at Warwick University.
During his first year, he juggled studies, File Den’s sale and launched Pint Drop. Strapped for time, William consistently maintained a top grade in his first year, but decided following the sale of File Den that his full focus was required on Pint Drop. At the time of File Den’s sale in early 2011 the company had over three million registered users worldwide, a testament to William’s success. It also provided much needed capital for Pint Drop which is now his sole focus.
The idea for Pint Drop was formed after William completed a consultancy job. The group he worked with wanted to meet up to celebrate, but because of distance this was impossible. It gave William the idea of exchanging drinks remotely. He researched the market and as there was no suitable solution, he developed Pint Drop.
Despite his youth, William has gained valuable experience in web development, marketing, product design and business management. The close relationship he has with his father and their investors ensures the company is driven and focused on achieving growth. Diverse, high-quality partner venues are chosen for their ‘feel-good factor’ providing customers with something different - a wide range of drinks, live music, and premium food.
The secure, consumer and publican-friendly technology that underpins Pint Drop has been thoroughly tested. Buyers can purchase their friends a drink using their Facebook profile; selecting which friend to send the gift to. Those who don’t have a Facebook account can set up a Pint Drop profile.
At first, a number of the independent pubs were hesitant about partnering with the system. Some had been stung by online voucher schemes before. And many publicans view change as unsettling. Pint Drop had a struggle to convince them it could reinvigorate the stagnating UK pub industry. However, determination, a solid sales pitch and impressive results from the company’s trials encouraged more bars to become involved.
I’ve grown up in a world of social networking, well aware of its power, so integration with Facebook was a natural fit.
Initially, some partners expressed concerns over twenty-year-old William’s youth, but highlighting his experience and affinity with the target market has assuaged these worries. William says: “I’ve learned so much over the years and now feel I have the skills to operate an engaging, scalable, customer-friendly website. I’ve grown up in a world of social networking, well aware of its power, so integration with Facebook was a natural fit.”
William highlights the importance of partnering with different, quality bars. He explains: “The idea behind the system is to be convenient for customers, offering interesting and innovative venues so working with quality pubs and bars is absolutely essential.”
Many of the partner bars and pubs have enjoyed increased footfall since joining with Pint Drop and are vocal in their praise. One landlord says: “The simplicity and flexibility allows customers the freedom to choose in which venue they redeem their vouchers, which is not possible with other voucher schemes.”
With many in the licensed trade facing financial difficulties, Pint Drop is helping businesses fight back against the downturn, adding a new dimension to the custom of getting a round in. It encourages those staying at home to get down to the local and enjoy themselves. Once at the bar, people tend to stay, and usually spend more money during their visit. Through the use of Pint Drop’s own website and social media platforms, bars also receive coverage as partners.
Now, expansion is William's priority. Increasing the number of varied partnering outlets ensures the customer experience is enjoyable. The goal is to increase the presence in London and then spread through the UK. William says: “People need to be regularly texting their friends a drink; so the service is completely integrated into consumers social lives in the way many other websites are.”
William’s advice to budding entrepreneurs
“It’s the simplest advice but it’s invaluable. Even when you’re flagging and have hit a brick wall, keep pushing forward as that solution you’re looking for really is worth the extra effort.”
“You need to have an unwavering belief in your product or service. It needs to be something completely different that the market needs, but isn’t yet aware of.”
“If you lose focus, think of the end goal – then break it down. If you overload yourself with too many conflicting tasks without allowing time to complete them you’ll get lost and demotivated. Also, having a reliable team around you is essential. Being so close to my Dad, I have the upmost trust in his dedication to the business. We delegate tasks so we can use our skills effectively. We keep family life out of the business – at work we’re Martin and Will – so when we’re with the rest of the family they’re not listening to us discuss sales turnover and profit margins. It helps to switch off occasionally, and get a much needed break!”