Calling Time on DeskBeers

After a long and torrid internal debate I’m sorry to announce that we have decided to call time on DeskBeers. It’s been a wild ride.

What happens next?

From a trading point of view, that’s it. We’ve always paid our bills so there shouldn’t be any fallout from any outstanding debts or anything like that.

By the time you read this, I’ll have already contacted all our shareholders to apprise them of the situation. If you are a shareholder and haven’t heard from us yet please, get in touch.

What about the customers?

By the time you read this we’ll have already been in touch with everyone that was an active customer when we effectively ceased trading back in March, so hopefully reading this won’t be a complete shock.

But basically that’s it. Time at the bar, please. Over the years we’ve had most of the great and the good of the London tech/design scene come through our doors.

To all of our customers, thank you. I can honestly say it’s been a pleasure delivering beer to you all. No one was ever upset to see us. People totally understood when we dropped the ball (for the most part). We sold more than a few of you beer and then came and helped you drink it (we’re nice like that). It’s been great fun from start to finish (albeit with a little bit of stress thrown in from time to time for good measure).

Again, get in touch if you haven’t heard from me and/or (still) have questions.

How did we get here?

We started March 2020 with the momentum of the best 6 months in the history of DeskBeers. In terms of revenue, service, product development - everything. After five long years, I really felt we were finally starting to hit our stride...

...And then the pandemic hit.

Part of the reason we found ourselves on such good form going into March 2020 was that over the last 18 months or so, we’d been repositioning the business in a very specific way.

You may well know DeskBeers as the company that will sell you a subscription for boxes of 12 craft beers every week, fortnight or month. This was the product we launched with back in 2013, but we’d never been able to make that model scale.

Starting with KegHop, we’d figured out how to do something that, genuinely nobody else could do and, genuinely met a need customers had. This need was supplying craft beer on draught to offices and taking care of the related maintenance and administration. Combined with a wider product range including wines and soft drinks, it was working.

To pull this off, we moved from a model where we outsourced everything - warehousing, picking and packing and delivery, to a model where we brought all that in house. We even bought an awesome cargobike to deliver stuff locally. I rode it around London dressed as Santa at Christmas. I love that bike.

Over time, we gradually became the go-to draught-beer-in-the-office solution for the kinds of companies that have draught beer in the office. The vast majority of our customer base was the kind of tech startups and agencies you all know and love.

And then coronavirus hit. Almost exactly 1 week before the lockdown was announced, our business evaporated overnight. Our customers - smart, connected, extremely online people that they are - were among the first groups to check out from the office and start working from home. And who could fault them?

With our customers out of the office, and us being fully committed to supporting them through the pandemic, we shipped (in a record 4 days) a new product - DeskBeers Distributed.

Distributed was a great effort to stem the bleeding, but would only ever have been a short-term fix. You have to sell a lot of packs of 2 beers to make up for the loss of a single customer that was purchasing 10 x 30-litre kegs per week.

At the time we thought the pandemic might last maybe six weeks. Had that been the case, we might have gotten back to business with a handy new revenue stream under our belt. Six months later, and with a second wave looming, it seems like that won’t be the case.

So here we are. I’m gutted it’s come to this, especially since we were onto what I still believe would have been a turnabout year for DeskBeers.

What about the team?

A lot of people have graced the DeskBeers team, but I’ll start with the most recent first.

Jamie: left the business back in July. I couldn’t tell him when we’d be able to get back to work. I couldn’t tell him if we’d get back to work. With the furlough scheme still in flux, I couldn’t tell him when I’d have to let him go. He remained chipper throughout, and when he told me he’d found a job elsewhere I was thrilled for him and also relieved. I wrote him a great reference as fast as I could and was pleased to see him move on to something more stable.

Hiring Jamie marked the start of the turnaround at DeskBeers (right after I got over the hangover from interviewing him - pro-tip: don’t order the Goose Island Barrel-Aged Stout to impress the candidate), and I cannot thank him enough for everything he did while we worked together.

Jacob: our 18 year old delivery rider. Sadly I did have to let Jacob go at the end of August. With no sign of any work on the cards the only responsible thing to do was to cut costs. Fortunately, Jacob was already back at work at his other job in a pub, so isn’t on the breadline.

If you want an intro to one of the nicest, kindest, honest and hard-working 18 year olds I’ve ever met then let me know. Fair warning: he was born after the millennium and called me “Grandad” on his first day. Absolutely top class employee.

Tim: if you know DeskBeers from the Mint days, you probably know Tim. If you only know DeskBeers as a customer, you probably don’t know Tim.

Tim is the other director of the DeskBeers board of directors (along with me). Throughout DeskBeers’ existence, Tim has supported me in running the business.

Tim has been a co-conspirator, advisor, mentor, boss and, I dare say, friend. I genuinely don’t know what I would have done without Tim to lean on over the last six months. Our weekly crisis phone calls were at first invaluable, then reassuring, then comforting. He’s been there every step of the way, and it’s Tim who I feel the most bad about letting down (though he would have none of that).

Coronavirus notwithstanding, a business with Tim in its corner had an exponentially greater chance of success than a business without. Thanks for being in DeskBeers’ corner, Tim.

If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire Tim Morgan.

Paul: never actually worked directly for DeskBeers, but I’m including him here because without him we couldn’t have made the leap in our business model that we did. Paul was the secret weapon in figuring out how to do kegs in the office. What Paul doesn’t know about dispense systems isn’t worth knowing. He’ll be continuing Perfect Dispense Services as he always has, and we’ll be putting him in touch with all our keg customers directly.

Me: DeskBeers has been such a huge part of my life over the last 5 years. I’m sure I’ll find something else to do, but I’m also sure it won’t mean anything like what DeskBeers has meant to me all these years.

Notable mentions

I owe so many people favours it’s not funny. But here are a few of them:

Steve, Matt and Phil: OG DB crew. These guys started it. It was Steve’s vision, Matt managed the operations, Phil built the MVP. Without them, there would have been no DB. I’m sorry for what I did to your website.

Everyone else at Mint: There are 24 names in the committers list of the DeskBeers GitHub repo, and I’m sure about that many again actually worked on the project at some point. Good times.

Adam P: Left Mint with me to start a new company. On more than one occasion Adam just kinda went “well, I’m just going to do it” and would single handedly move the business forward while I was dithering.

Niall Gildea: our remote operations manager. I needed someone who could write. Niall has a PhD in philosophy, which meant 2 things: he can write beautifully in English, French and German, and he didn’t have a job. Accademia’s gain was beer’s loss - he’s back doing philosophy full time (and is now a published author in his field), but I think history will show his finest work will be the tasting notes he wrote and the curt emails he sent to lousy couriers.

My wife: put up with me for almost six years running DB while she also ran her own business, sublet me her shop for a while, gave birth to and raised two kids, proofread this post and then bollocked me for not mentioning her. Without Amber there is no Adam, never mind DeskBeers.

My mum: did the bookkeeping for me for ages. I was stressing about it and she stepped in. It’s a bit weird getting kisses and the end of emails from your bookkeeper, but they always made me smile. We eventually signed on with a great bookkeeping service, but they never sent kisses.

Mango Logistics: Daniel, Jess, Jarral, Francios, Stephen, and everyone else - it was fun while it lasted! Thanks for letting us do our thing.

So, so many brewers: doing us favours, putting stuff into KeyKeg for us especially, delivering last minute or letting us pick up beyond the last minute, doing events, interviews, tasting sessions, and goodness knows whatever else. We made some good friends along the way. Support your local brewery - they are all good people.

Forest Road Brew Co: these guys took us in when we didn’t have a home, let us do whatever we wanted, supported us all the way, and were all awesome people who love beer. Thanks for being there for us. Hope the new brewery is working out.

Many, many more people: Thank you all.

And you: for reading all this.

So that’s it. 5 years, a load of beer, good times and a pandemic. I guess it’s time to start writing that book...


Adam (formally) @ DeskBeers