Dec 22, 2016, 2:47pm EST
Welcome to Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Meet the C-Suite,” where
each week we will feature one of the city’s most high profile c-level executives.
This week meet Derek Burns, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Beer Book.
Name: Derek Burns
Company: Beer Book
Title: Founder, CEO
Background: I was born in Dayton, Ohio but grew up in Carrolton, Ga.
Early on, I had the entrepreneurial drive. I attended the University of West Georgia’s advanced academy
program when I was 16 and opened my first business, the brick-and-mortar PC repair service ComputeRx, with some friends as an undergraduate student at 18. We knew people wanted a quick, easy alternative to the other repair services and we did well. In 2013, I cofounded the nonprofit Off Road Heroes. We provide offroading trips and provide therapy for veterans suffering from PTSD. I moved to Atlanta and was working primarily on Off Road Heroes. During this time, of our team meetings took place in brewpubs, and I grew a taste for microbrews like Creature Comforts and Dogfish Head. I soon noticed how frustrating it was to find specific beers at different retailers. I thought people could use a digital drink menu that shows which retailers carry which products, something that was purely guesswork. We started building the app in late 2015 and launched our beta version at the end of that year. Today, we have over 400,000 locations and their beer menus from across the country. Across the metro Atlanta area we already have nearly 20,000 locations and 100,000 total products listed.
First job: Founder of ComputeRx.
Education: I attended the University of West Georgia and studied History.
How’s business: Building. We are extremely excited for 2017. We have devoted countless hours into ensuring that our data sets are as accurate as possible and are now pivoting toward marketing efforts. We want to be engaged at music festivals throughout the state, bars and restaurants and popular social media platforms.
We are also partnering with local brewers to promote awareness and availability of their seasonal and limited issue
Biggest challenge for your business: Breaking into the adult beverage industry and maintaining an accurate scalable product. The alcohol industry contains a select number of heavy hitters and you must play ball to accelerate and solidify your presence in the industry.
What’s going to change at your company in the next year: Growth and capital injection. We foresee a
growing user base, and that necessitates an ever-present attention to functionality. To keep up, we will
expand our developer pool to keep pace with demands. We have yet to seek outside funding, but we are
certainly entertaining it for 2017.
Company goal yet to be achieved: Industry participation. Due to legal and technical hurdles, we are yet to promote Beer Book within the existing adult beverage industry. However, we are gaining confidence in our product and I think we can soon promote our product directly to the retailers and distributors whose participation is key.
Guiding principles for good management: Team building, cooperation and freedom. I’ve been blessed to
work on this project with some extremely talented people, particularly our developers. It’s crucial that we give our team the freedom and resources they need to do the best work possible. Micromanaging simply wouldn’t work on this project. Additionally, we have an employee ownership/profit-sharing model that I think encourages strong work.
Best way to keep competitive edge: Constant vigilance. Being aware of the changing business landscape
and consumer preferences. Also, paying attention to the successes and failures of our competitors. Always assess the environment and be aware of emerging market trends.
Why people like working for you: Practicality and loyalty. I never ask more of the team than I would ask of myself. I always make sure that everyone who puts in work gets out proper reimbursement, through cash or ownership.
Most inspiring entrepreneur: Elon Musk.
Best business decision: Assigning equity awards to vested developers based on performance.
Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: Good people are hard to come by and that mixing your
professional and personal lives is difficult.
Toughest business decision: Having to separate with a business partner over disagreements regarding over the vision of the app.
Biggest missed opportunity: Pushing harder in 2016.
Like best about job: Flexibility and watching the project come to life.
Like least about job: Legal and compliance. Important, but certainly not fun.
Pet peeve: When people don’t take pride in their own work.
First choice for a new career: Trail guide for backpackers in the Andes.
Most influential book: 1984.
Favorite cause: Net neutrality.
Favorite restaurant: Varasano’s Pizzeria at 2171 Peachtree Road.
Favorite way to spend free time: Good beer and good friends.
Favorite music: Classical, specifically Mozart and Bach.
Phil W. Hudson
Atlanta Business Chronicle