We have seen a lot of connected coffee machines last year, from Auroma Brewing Company to Smarter Coffee. This year in CES 2017, iGulu, the company behind an automated home beer brewing machine, won CES 2017 Innovation Awards honoree in the Smart Home product category.
This is not the first time for this Shanghai-based startup to get noticed by the Western market. On June 2016, the company successfully funded their Indiegogo campaign, surpassing its goal by 701%, with over 1 million USD. Since then, the company changed its name from Artbrew to iGulu.
China is the world’s largest beer producer and consumer for the past 12 years. According to a report released by USDA China, annual sales of U.S. craft beer sales could reach 12 million USD by 2017.
“In the next five years, we will see a rapid development of the craft beer industry in China, for both family and commercial purpose,” CEO and founder of iGulu, Shu Zhang told TechNode.
With the continued growth of income, Chinese beer consumers pursue better quality and various flavors. Imported beers, particularly those from Europe were popular. The iGulu team believes that they can bring more quality and flavor options with their customizable brewing machine. The team believes beer home brewing goes along with the DIY trend in China, too.
“More and more Chinese people are willing to DIY at home for daily necessities. As the world’s second most consumed drink, more Chinese people are willing to brew their beer at home,” Shu added.
iGulu’s automated beer brewing machine allows both beer experts and novices to brew high-quality beer by pressing a few buttons or using an app. It also offers a database of thousands of beer recipes, along with the option to modify or create new recipes. The user interface uses a 4.3 inches LCD screen for operation and comes with a matching app.
Despite the huge beer market, Chinese consumers, beer trade, bars, and restaurants all lack awareness and know-how of craft beer. To raise market awareness, iGulu’s goal for this year is to raise funding using a Chinese crowdfunding platform and introducing their products in the retail market. Offline agents and online KOLs, like wanghong, will be their main promotion channel.
“As for the commercial market, we will provide automatic smart brewing devices with at a low price so that small business owners can brew customized beers for their customers,” Shu remarked.
The company raised 4 million RMB (57.9 million 578,678 USD) in an angel round from Hofan based in Shenzhen and Yinxinggu Capital based in Zhejiang.
The idea of automatic brewing machine comes from Shu’s experience with craft beer.
“Once I tried craft beer that my friend brewed at home, and the taste changed my impression of beer. I hoped I could brew my own beer at home, and share with friends. So I came up with the homebrew idea,” Shu says.
Shu Zhang, the CEO and founder of iGulu, previously worked within the data center of Cisco and was the technical leader of Motorola’s Software Group. The core members and technology development team of iGulu hail from Eson, Oracle, Motorola, Cisco, and AB-InBev.
“Experiences at Cisco and Motorola gave me the space to be creative, and the outstanding colleagues made me feel proud. But I think it’s time to live a new life. I want something challenging,” he said.