Dream job: CFO at an upstart beer company, peddling a timeless American lager throughout the Northeast. Spend more time traveling from bar to bar than crunching numbers in your office. With hard work, revive a classic brand and watch revenue more than triple in three years.
Eric Spitz had that job at Narragansett Brewing Company, where he was investor and promoter, executive and goodwill ambassador. A classic New England brand, Narragansett dominated the regional market for much of the 20th century before falling out of favor and nearly closing as brands like Budweiser came to prominence.
A team of investors revived Narragansett in 1995, and its meteoric (if local) rise began in 2008, when Spitz joined.
So why did he leave?
“Three years got us where we needed to be,” Spitz said over a beer at The Muddy Charles Pub on campus last month. “What you learn as your beard gets gray and as you gain experience, what seems to be the next greatest thing is only one of the next greatest things.”
Spitz has been through a few next greatest things. He started sports technology company Trakus while still at MIT Sloan. He later founded Boston-area restaurant chain UFood Grill before joining Narragansett as CFO.
But Spitz’s job there was “a function of sweat.” His goal was to expand the brand to Boston-area bars and stores. His success is evident in the beer’s omnipresence: Rare is the bar that does not sell Narragansett on draft, or in bottles or cans.
“I spent three years literally banging down doors,” Spitz said. “I was out there. I was in every bar. I was talking to people. It’s a relationship business.”
Since leaving Narragansett—he remains on the company’s board—Spitz is involved in “young companies,” including Beerdog, an upcoming social media platform and app that seeks to connect and log users’ social drinking activity. Beerdog users can win prizes by buying beer and playing games. Beerdog can sell beer companies a role in the game, enticing users to buy and try new brands.
“Once you have the users, you have the business model,” Spitz said. “Every single user that I bring to the table is going to be a trier (of new products).”
Beer, it turns out, is a natural category for a social media platform.
“It’s a product associated with a specific place and it’s a product with a social nature.” But he expects the platform will become a marketing tool for all manner of consumer industries—cheese, wine, cars, and cigars, to name a few.
“As Bezos chose books as the launch category for Amazon, we chose beer,” he said.
Spitz said users will see Beerdog by early next year. In Kendall Square last month, he was pitching the company at a series of meetings with venture capitalists. After that, it’s the Muddy, and sixteen cold ounces of beer.
“By choice,” he said, tipping the bartender for a $2 pint can of Narragansett. “I love this place. Best deal in town.”