Charlotte software startup rides craft beer wave to 1,100+ customers for their brewery manager

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As craft beer has boomed across Charlotte, so has business for a software company Uptown.

Ekos Brewmaster was founded three years ago after conversations with local Charlotte brewers about what technology would be useful for them in running their business.

With little marketing, they’ve grown to more than 1,100 clients in all 50 states and in 30 countries. They’ve doubled in staff over the last year — and plan to double again in 2018.

The company’s founding is kind of a funny story.

Founder Greg Forehand was a custom application developer in Charlotte when he got the idea of building a flexible software platform for manufacturers to better run their businesses.

Thus, Ekos was born, and gathered a hodgepodge of customers (including a local dental chair mold maker). Forehand decided to narrow the scope, and considered farm management tech before pivoting toward breweries.

Meanwhile, Josh McKinney moved from Charleston to Charlotte, bringing with him a love for craft beer and aptitude in software development. He, too, saw an opening for a service helping brewers.

In early 2014, they both started talking with local breweries like Triple C and NoDa Brewing. Pretty soon, they were introduced to one another and they decided to join forces.

McKinney became Ekos Brewmaster’s CEO, while Forehand is the chief technology officer.

The Charlotte brewery scene is fairly tight-knit, and word spread quickly. Local brewers also started mentioning the product on online message boards, and began to trickle in from as far away as New Zealand.

By the end of their first year, with only a landing page and a few trade show appearances, they had about 75 customers.

“From there, it just snowballed,” McKinney says.

The company has grown from nine employees at the end of 2016 to 21 today.

Next year, they expect to be around 50.

They’ve only recently hired a second salesperson, but expect to be hiring developers, salespeople, marketers and support personnel.

Ekos Brewmaster is also planning to create a few new customizations to bring wineries, cideries and distilleries onto the platform.

Photos courtesy of Ekos

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Andrew Dunn
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