Clearing The High Bar
Entrepreneur|May 2017

A self-serve beer company becomes a lesson in perseverance.

Joe Keohane

JOSH GOODMAN WAS ON “a problem-solving quest.” Pushing 30, he had lost his enthusiasm for his career in IT staffing and was looking for business ideas. One night, he met some friends at a crowded bar in Baltimore but couldn’t get a beer. It happened again the next time they went out. And again. Goodman thought, There’s got to be a better way to get a drink. He envisioned a simple solution: a self-serve beer tap system, where customers could fill up a debit card, pour their own drinks, and be charged by the ounce. Like an ATM, but for beer. This was 2007. “I thought I’d be sipping mojitos on an island in the Caribbean by 2013 or ’14,” he says. And the entrepreneurial gods laughed and laughed.

What followed was a 10-year odyssey of malfunctioning tech, unreliable partners, and cruel breaks, culminating in the lesson all company founders must eventually learn: Even the simplest ideas can be maddeningly complex, and only the most persistent entrepreneurs survive.

Goodman’s journey unfolded in phases. During phase one, he heard about a small company in Atlanta that built a similar system to what he’d envisioned. He started a firm called Innovative Tap Solutions and struck a deal to sell its technology. The upside of this was that Goodman got practice convincing skittish local authorities that the product wouldn’t result in mayhem. (The system cut off after five beers and required drinkers to go to a bar employee to reactivate it, making it no different from ordering a pitcher of beer.) The downside was that in order to install it, bar owners had to rip up their floors to run tap lines, an outlay of time and money no one was willing to make for an unproven technology. He went 0 for 150.

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