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Young developers build a mobile app for the bar scene

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Articles - March 2011
Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Daniel Starling (left) and Pierce Lamb buddy up at Henry's Tavern in Portland. The pair co-founded BarBird, a mobile app that allows users to search Tweets from surrounding bars.  // Photo by Teresa Meier

Pierce Lamb met Daniel Starling online, splattering each other with digital paintballs at the ripe age of 13. They remained digital comrades, but only met in real life last year, at Portland’s Open Government Hackathon. It was at the Hackathon where they conceived and began building their new company, BarBird.

BarBird is a Tweet aggregating service for happy hours. It allows users to search Tweets from surrounding bars using a handful of categories, including “Specials,” “Tonight Only” and “Live Music.”

BarBird currently is live in 44 cities nationwide and six international cities. It’s growing quickly, says Lamb, because bar owners don’t need to actually register with BarBird to participate. They simply create a Twitter account in the bar’s name and start Tweeting; BarBird pulls and organizes the information for the user.

With so many mobile apps, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, says John Furukawa, director of product development at Uncorked Studio, the Portland firm that built the BarBird iPhone app. “I’m very skeptical in general of products in a marketplace where there are hundreds of thousands of options,” he says. But he adds that BarBird offers immediacy. “Mobile is about immediacy, and every time someone tries to make it about something other than immediacy, they run into the problem that nobody has patience for it,” he says.

The team is looking to raise $600,000 this summer to hire two developers and two marketing people. They need the support, says Lamb, to scale faster and reach the non-geek audience who may be slower to adopt the service.

The app is free to download, but the duo plans to make money by offering sponsored “Hot Tweets,” which would appear at the top of a user’s search query, similar to Google Adwords or Yelp’s sponsored results.

BarBird is banking on user demand for fresh information on specials and events and businesses willing to pay for the attention. “The BarBird idea was simple and solved a problem in my life I assume a lot of other people have,” says Lamb.


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