What’s next for Next Glass? Beer & wine app a ‘best investment’

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Dr. Connell Cunningham, chief science officer at Next Glass, has been analyzing thousands of brews and varietals at the company's lab in Wilmington. Courtesy photo.
Dr. Connell Cunningham, chief science officer at Next Glass, has been analyzing thousands of brews and varietals at the lab the company uses in Wilmington. Courtesy photo.

More than 10,000 bottles of beer and wine.

By the time Next Glass’ one-of-a-kind software launches this summer, that’s the kind of database it’ll have for giving users scientifically backed recommendations for alcoholic beverages they’ll enjoy.

Word of that concept–and a demonstration of how it works–helped the Wilmington startup win a top recognition last week at an IBM-sponsored N.C. Technology Association (NCTA) showcase in Durham that drew tech executives and investors from all over the state.

A milestone of sorts, “It was the first time that we’d shown our software live to the public,” said Kurt Taylor, Next Glass CEO.

Next Glass is an app coming available for mobile devices, tablets and other machines that recommends beers and wines it knows its user will like. Those recommendations are based on the user’s taste preferences and the chemical makeups of beverages in the database.

If you like Cottonwood’s Endo India Pale Ale, for instance, you can hold your phone’s camera over the label and Next Glass will pull up suggestions for other beers you’ll want to try (and might never have known about otherwise). If it’s a beer you’ve never had before, you can scan it and the app will gauge whether it’s your flavor. It even knows what the grocery store you’re standing in has for sale, according to the company.

At Friday’s NCTA showcase, Next Glass beat out seven other North Carolina-based tech startups for the title of “Best Investment,” as voted on by the audience following a six-minute presentation. Among the competition beaten were the respective makers of a drowning prevention system and a way to turn any credit or debit card into a rewards card when used at local businesses.

The win earned Next Glass a prize of $12,000 in cash and in-kind services. (The company also won NCTA’s “Emerging Company of the Year” award in November 2013.)

“It was a big event, about 550 people there,” said Chief Technology Officer Forrest Maready, who delivered the presentation of how the app works–and had to do so purely by mind, without notes. After, “We had a whole table come up and they were really encouraging, saying, ‘This made the whole event worth it, this is the most awesome thing we’ve ever heard of,’ really over-the-top stuff like that,” said Maready.

Next Glass is adding as many as 200 new bottles to its database every day, said Taylor, who founded the Wilmington company currently employing 15 people.

His staff records every bit of information from each bottle’s label–images and words–and analyzes the liquid contents’ chemical makeup for a “DNA profile.”

That’s supposed to ensure accurate recommendations from the app.

“We have a database of every wine and beer label in the country, so it’s able to recognize things that we haven’t tested yet, which actually prompts us to go ahead and test them, so that’s a way of keeping track of what we need to work on next,” Taylor said.

Most of the beers and wines being analyzed are purchased through distributors, though some companies are simply sending them in for inclusion.

The database currently has thousands of recommendations to make; Next Glass says 10,000 is the goal for the app’s launch, possibly for July. Ultimately, the company wants to have every wine and beer available in the U.S. cataloged in its DNA cellar.

It’s on pace, Taylor said. “It’s growing quickly.”

Next Glass has also recently hired a public relations firm based in New York City to spread news of the launch in large publications. To date, Next Glass’s profile is high, but mostly just within North Carolina’s entrepreneurship scene. But that’s just fine, Taylor said.

“Launch is our primary focus right now.”

More information about the company is at http://nextglass.co.

Ben Brown is a news reporter at Port City Daily. Reach him at ben.b@hometownwilmington.com or (910) 772-6335. On Twitter: @benbrownmedia