Business & Entrepreneurship

A Quicker Way into Your Favorite Bar

An ingenious start-up by UW alums lets you skip the line.

Max Schauff in office space featuring a LineLeap sign

Schauff and his partners are rolling out mobile drink ordering. Courtesy of LineLeap

On a bitterly cold night in February 2017, a long line formed outside Whiskey Jacks Saloon in Madison.

There was a natural attraction — a cheap beer special — but the line was also the result of an email blast from a UW–Madison engineering sophomore named Max Schauff ’19. The Belleville, Wisconsin, native, along with his roommate, Jack Pawlik ’19, was launching a business start-up that night on State Street. The email reminded people of the bar’s beer special and went to a list Schauff accumulated while working for a campus food-delivery start-up.

The new venture, called LineLeap, allowed people to buy a LineSkip pass and go right to the door of participating bars.

“We were close to frostbitten on our hands and noses,” Schauff says, recalling that first night. “But we sold a ton of LineSkips. That was the start of the journey. We thought we had something that could work.”

They were right. Today, Schauff and his cofounding partners — University of Michigan grads Nick Becker and Patrick Skelly — are based in New York City. As of early 2023, LineLeap had 25 full-time employees and more than 300 participating venues in 80 cities.

A year after the Whiskey Jacks debut, Schauff entered LineLeap in the UW’s 2018 Transcend Madison Innovation Competition, which drew 35 student-led start-ups vying for the $15,000 first prize.

“I didn’t think we’d win,” Schauff says. “Partnering with bars? But I said we’d apply the money directly to our growth.”

They won. “I was ecstatic,” he says. Schauff’s mom had been pestering him about a summer job. “I called her and said I didn’t need to get a job anymore.”

Further pregraduation validation came when Schauff and his partners were accepted into the San Francisco–based Y Combinator technology start-up accelerator. “It’s a three-month program,” Schauff says. “Afterward we raised almost $2 million in venture capital funding. It was off to the races from there.”

The core of the business remains the LineSkip passes, which can now be purchased on a mobile app — the fee is then split between LineLeap and the venue — but Schauff says more features are on the way.

“We are rolling out mobile drink ordering, cover fees, event ticketing, and more,” he says. “The ultimate goal is to be a kind of one-stop shop for customers at their favorite bar.”

Published in the Spring 2023 issue


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