How to Build a Smarter Water Cooler: The Bevi Story

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concentrate of each flavor is left, overall quantity of beverages consumed, and patterns in all of the above. So the company can be smarter about what to offer at each customer site—organic options or unsweetened flavors, say. What’s more, the company tries to be proactive about inventory issues and maintenance.

“Customers don’t have to call us to refill,” Grundy says. “We take away the task of checking inventory.”

Bevi had its beta launch last September and has about 40 machines currently deployed, all within an hour of Boston. Until the team works out the initial kinks, Grundy says, “we don’t want to be putting engineers on planes.” So far, customers skew towards tech companies with 50-plus people: LoopPay (now part of Samsung), Veracode, Cytel, and Techstars, to name a few. MIT has four machines on campus; the school’s Venture Mentoring Service was Bevi’s first customer.

Grundy sees his main competition as water giants like Poland Spring and Polar Seltzer. “We want to get rid of plastic and the whole distribution system and create it all at the point of use,” he says.

Bevi touchscreen drink interface

Connected vending machines are not new, of course. Coca-Cola introduced its Freestyle machine back in 2009. But Grundy argues that such machines “tend to be very expensive and require ongoing maintenance, which makes them non-ideal for low-touch environments. We only need to visit an office every five weeks to handle restocking.”

Indeed, a lot of this will come down to price and ease of use. Bevi charges a flat monthly fee for its machine—between $250 and $450 a month, depending on the size of the office, Grundy says.

Bevi CEO and co-founder Sean Grundy

Bevi built its first 13 machines in Greentown Labs, the co-working space, but now has manufacturing partners in northern Vermont. The eight-person company just moved from Greentown to a space in South Boston this month.

Now, Grundy says, Bevi is focused on manufacturing, sales, and marketing—and on lowering its costs so it can ramp up operations. “It’s time to truly build the business,” he says. “The goal is to develop a model in Boston that we could apply elsewhere. When we expand, it won’t be one city at a time. I expect it to be Boston, and then a lot of places.”

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