FREDERICTON– Two New Brunswick startups have merged and are now offering their products under a new company name.
BrewHopper, a craft beer tourism tech company and ReadyPass, a smart software company for transit agencies, are now being run by a new company called Expedition Connect. The new owners say this means more growth for both products.
Expedition Connect was started by Al Sturgeon and Mike Legere, the founders of BrewHopper. Sturgeon says they decided to gain ownership of ReadyPass through a friendly acquisition in May 2017. At the time, he says BrewHopper was already working with ReadyPass to use its technology.
“We partnered with ReadyPass to expand what they were doing on transit, but to build for BrewHopper,” says Sturgeon. “In 2017 we started to roll out our [BrewHopper] pilot in Fredericton where we were using the same tech but to do hop-on-hop-off [craft beer] tours around Fredericton.”
It turns out around this same time, the ReadyPass team were at a crossroads.
“The ReadyPass team over the course of a couple of months decided that they didn’t know if they wanted to pursue it over the long-term for them. So we entered into a friendly acquisition with them in May,” says Sturgeon.
“Basically, we wanted to make sure that we could expand on what they did and really bring it to fruition, which is the reason we partnered in the first place. We felt BrewHopper would go into cities, get some tours operating and we can invite city officials to let them know that this technology could expand to [public] transit.”
ReadyPass allows transit users to track city buses to see where they are on their routes. Other available features include allowing transit operators to track ridership to optimize routes and other insights that can help decrease operating expenses, like fuel and tire wear. It can also offer things like electronic bus passes.
Sturgeon says ReadyPass is still being used by Fredericton Transit, a partnership established back in 2016, but is now is getting ready to roll out in Charlottetown.
Charlottetown transit operator T3 has partnered with ReadyPass to use its tracking features, meaning passengers can know whether a bus is running on time or not. T3’s owner Mike Cassidy says ReadyPass’s technology adds another level to the services they offer passengers.
“When people are waiting for a bus, there’s always the anxiety of ‘I hope the bus is going to come,’” says Cassidy.
“[With ReadyPass] they can see where the bus is. They know if it’s running on time. They know when it’s going to come and stop to pick them up . . . We’re all busy people. We all have anxiety waiting and now we can satisfy those anxieties with this app and it’s all being done from Fredericton, New Brunswick.”
Sturgeon says Expedition Connect’s plan for ReadyPass is not to completely change the product but to build on it. They are doing this with the help of a private software engineering firm in Fredericton. He says how ReadyPass expands will depend on what clients want.
“What we’re trying to bring is a level of ‘where would you want this to be done?’ They may already have systems they want to integrate,” says Sturgeon. “Our goal is to say ‘if you don’t have something, we can probably look at rolling something out for you.'”
While ReadyPass focuses on the public sector, BrewHopper focuses on the private sector. The product offers technology that helps people connect with the local craft brewery scene through flexible interactive tours. This product is particularly geared towards the tourism industry and private companies.
“Brewhopper really gives us the ability for private tours or people who are not involved in the municipal transit to say ‘We can take this and make our routes interactive and we can connect in with craft beer,’” says Sturgeon. “Or it might be museum tours, or maybe something else. That’s what we see and expect an expansion into smart tourism.”
BrewHopper got its start back in February 2017 by offering “hop-on-hop-off” craft brewery tours to the general public in Fredericton. Co-founder Mike Legere says the focus has shifted to targeting specific groups.
“We are currently operating VIP and corporate tours,” says Legere. “We’ve moved away from the hop-on-hop-off model in the interim and we’re focusing right now on these executive tours and there’s definitely an appetite for that.”
Sturgeon says the goal for 2018 is to scale and expand both ReadyPass and BrewHopper not just in Atlantic Canada, but beyond.
“We’ve got a couple interesting partnerships that are continuing to present themselves. We see 2018 as being a really great time to start to expand out,” he says.
“The goal around it is scaling, moving this throughout North America. That’s where we’re looking at how does this operate in a transit situation? How does this operate in a private tour situation? And then look at how does this operate in totally different jurisdictions outside of Atlantic Canada.”