Madison is already flush with companies making mobile apps for eaters, coffee fiends and cocktail connoisseurs. Recently, two more have entered the fray: Cork and Drip.
The two products have similar DNA. Both strive to change the way people pay for beverages at coffee shops and bars in Madison. They’re also both made by the same team of twentysomethings working out of the startup center StartingBlock on Madison’s near east side.
“They are completely different companies, but we’ve set them up under the same hood,” explained Jack Pawlik, the CEO of the two enterprises.
Pawlik is a 23-year-old entrepreneur with a history in food and drink-based tech startups, particularly ones that target college campuses. Three years ago, he co-founded LineLeap, a “fast pass” option for customers who want to jump ahead of the long lines at popular bars, restaurants and clubs. When he was a University of Wisconsin-Madison student, he helped run the Madison operations for a Los Angeles food delivery startup called Envoy Now, which exclusively hired student drivers.
“We could get into the libraries, we could get into the dorms,” Pawlik said. “We could beat out other delivery services, just because we had that kind of access.”
With Cork, the company he co-founded with its CTO Avery Durrant in 2018, Pawlik created a subscription service for bar-goers: Pay a $10 monthly fee, and a user is able to get one free drink per day at any participating bar in the Cork network — 18 locations in Madison, and four apiece in Ames, Iowa and State College, Pennsylvania. It’s just a question of showing up to the bar, and showing the server the app to redeem the drink.
Recently, Cork has expanded its network to off-campus locations like Tangent, Fuego’s and Madison’s.
“I think it’s gonna be an easy integration with a more young professional market,” Pawlik said. “They’re looking to save money … They’re looking for more places to explore.”
Restaurants who agree to participate in the network cover the costs of the drinks they provide, and in exchange can advertise events and specials through a “news feed” on the app. Pawlik said that it’s a net benefit for the businesses.
“When someone comes in to redeem a drink, they’re spending about 20 dollars on average,” he said.
Drip is a newer venture for Pawlik, started earlier this year. While it shares ties with Cork, it’s not a companion app: Instead of bars, it focuses on coffee shops instead of bars, and instead of a subscription package, it offers the ability to pre-order and pre-pay for lattes and bakery items.
Pawlik said that the company began to experiment with Drip after learning about the success of Starbucks’ loyalty app, which also allows users to “skip the line” by ordering and paying for drinks in advance. According to the market research firm eMarketer, more than 23.4 million people use that app to pay for a Starbucks order at least once per month.
Pawlik said he and his co-founder Durrant wondered if they could replicate that success for local coffee shops.
“When we were in the process of starting (Drip), we weren’t even saying, ‘Oh, should we start another company?’ It started as a little experiment. And then it kept growing and growing from there,” he said.
So far, 10 coffee shops, including Cafe Social, Cargo Coffee and Fair Trade Coffee, are on the network. According to Pawlik, it’s seeing relative success despite its newness, with at least one person using the app to order a drink per day.
Cork has gotten enough of a subscriber base to become self-sustaining, said Pawlik. Currently, Drip is funded exclusively by revenue from Cork, which Pawlik has been responsible for about 10,000 drinks over its one-year lifespan.
Meanwhile, Pawlik said that the Cork app has undergone a redesign, which will launch next week.