Founders Series: Sam Pettipher, co-founder and managing director at EBar

What does your company do?

We have developed the EBar®, a self-service beverage dispenser which pours the perfect pint in seconds. A must have piece of catering equipment for large events at stadiums, arenas and festival sites; our innovative beverage dispenser gets people out of the bar queue and back to the event they came to see.

The EBar is win-win-win. Reduced service time for the event consumer, reduced labor costs and increased sales for the event operator and for the brewer, the delivery of consistently high-quality pints.  

What is your role?

I am co-founder and managing director responsible for driving the business forwards and coordinating our team and external stakeholders. 

What did you do before EBar?

Prior to my foray into the world of start-ups I worked in energy utilities, most latterly at Scottish Power, developing onshore wind farm projects across the country. This was an interesting job as managing project outcomes from stakeholders – ranging from bat experts through to civil engineers – helped me develop an ability to understand and piece together technical disciplines that I did not understand. The downside to big utilities is the bureaucracy, paperwork and slow pace to get things done. So, I left to study a self-funded MBA at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen to transition into something completely different. 

What was the lightbulb moment that led to the company founding?

The lightbulb moment occurred during a trip with friends to an international rugby game – it was half time and unlucky for me it was my turn to buy the round. Whilst waiting in what felt like the slowest queue, I heard a cheer – I had missed a try and a key part of the match.

The process of serving a pint is not hard and I thought something so simple should not detract from otherwise amazing event experiences. This moment of frustration inspired me to create a self-service beverage dispenser for events which could be operated by consumers and cut down queues. Automation is entering every sector and I firmly believe that pouring a pint can be automated.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

We founded the company before finishing our MBA and within a month we were accepted onto Elevator’s accelerator programme in Aberdeen. The programme and team provided fantastic support in helping us to validate our business problem and build our resources in a structured way to manage risk appropriately. 

Have you taken any external funding? 

Developing a physical product is capital intensive and we have been fortunate to have raised finance to support development efforts. In 2017 the founders invested money that co-funded a £95k SMART award from Scottish Enterprise. In June 2018 we raised £228k from a consortium of Jenson SEIS fund (London), Equity Gap and Gabriel alongside some individual entrepreneurs. 12 months on, we are in the process of raising more than £175k through equity crowdfunding on Seedrs, our total is currently sitting at £200k and we expect this to increase.  

What is your goal for EBar?

I truly believe our dispense technology could be used behind every bar in the world, changing the way a pint is served. In the short term the goal is to have the EBar deployed at the 2021 Superbowl in Tampa Florida – one of the world’s biggest events.  

What are your biggest current challenges?

Personally, the biggest challenge is managing expectations. It is simply impossible to predict everything that could happen when developing a physical product. As a result, things take longer than expected, even with conservative planning, and we have to manage the expectations of customers, investors and partners. Sometimes I need to remind myself that we are still moving 10x faster than the big corporates and developing something for the equivalent of their Christmas party budget! 

As a company the challenge is managing the careful balance between ‘iterating [the product] quickly’ and taking time to invest in solving the problems that could be headaches later. We have a vision of the ‘perfect EBar’ in our heads, but we to bring a product to market and make sales. 

What could you not live without as a start-up founder?

I am dependent on my AfterShokz wireless headphones, they allow me to seamlessly transition from music to phone calls and their bone conductivity technology means I can hold conversations and hear ambient sound. 

I’m also an avid reader and have a lot of ‘entrepreneurial’ type books as it is great to learn from others and avoid their mistakes. I’m currently reading ‘Wake up and smell the coffee’ by Matyn Dawes as his coffee nation business, which became Costa Express, has some interesting similarities to EBar.

What are you rubbish at?

I struggle to turn off – my reading is generally entrepreneurial books and so I cannot help but think about work. I’m working on trying to give myself dedicated time to stop thinking about EBar by going to the gym, walking or caring for my garden. This is a trait of many start-up founders as the business and their lives become intertwined – amazing when things are going well – but dark when things go badly! 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Someone I respect greatly once told me – “It’s about surviving, always be moving forward and leave the spectators to watch!”

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