It was a dark and stormy night . . . no, that’s not the beginning of this story. Actually it was a W Hotel in Seattle when I first met Andrew Kamphuis. We were competitors from competing e-commerce platforms but already, through the veiled separation of the internet, we knew that we shared similar philosophies. In the lobby having a glass of wine we quickly determined that our mutual respect was warranted and we became friends and have remained so for almost 5 years now. In the field of wine and tech Vin65.com has definitely secured its place as an innovator and for the last five years Andrew and I have met, called, emailed and shared many, many ideas about how we help the industry succeed through technology. About one year ago Vin65.com was acquired by WineDirect, which is led by Joe Waechter. The vision of WineDirect is to build an integrated technology suite that includes fulfillment, e-commerce, telemarketing, consumer marketplaces, and much, much more. Their current leadership has already demonstrated that they have the correct blue print to make this happen.
Chapter 2 – The Sandbox
So Andrew, James and myself have lunch/dinner/drinks on occasion to collaborate on the future of our industry, what it means for our respective businesses, and brainstorming on where we see the future of wine and tech are going. With this particular lunch in January our conversation coalesced again and again around one topic: the challenge of connecting wineries to their customers in a world of more and more confusing channels. “Perhaps we should do something no one else has done,” said Andrew. “Perhaps we should aggregate every interaction a customer has with a winery, including sales.” As if a jolt of electricity simultaneously shot through James and myself we looked at each other with that “are you thinking what I am thinking” look and immediately dived into brainstorming how we could integrate all social interactions with all DTC transactions. And then began the discussions between our two teams and the key conclusion was this: the customer is the center and we need to work together to wrap commerce and communications around a winery’s most important brand asset, thier customers. For us it meant building out exclusive tools for Vin65 to empower e-commerce insights into our social dashboard. Two months later we brought our side of the integration and the newest and completely rebuilt version of our software in to demo to Andrew. Andrew smiled (he rarely smiles in tech meetings) and looked at James, dark circles under his eyes, and said, “this is great, let’s talk about what we do next.” He then suggested something amazing and radical at the same time, “Talking with your customers is a necessity for wineries and will help them sell more wine. Our customers are our most important asset and we need every single one of our customers to be using this. This is so important that we need to ensure that every WineDirect/Vin65 customer has this for being our customer. This will help them succeed and remind them how much we value their business and that our goal is to help make their job easier and more effective.”
In the end the actions of Andrew Kamphuis were even more profound than our integrated vision and technical accumen. For them it meant that every customer interaction was the path to more and better sales and every winery they worked with should have access to all these communications. So with a very bold statement their solution was simple, “If you are our customer we want you to have VinTank Professional for free and we are willing to pay VinTank to ensure that happens.” This meant licensing our software for over 700 wineries and for the equivalent value of $150/month (or $1,800/year per winery). Annually they are gifting their clients the yearly equivalent of $1.3M investment to help them connect with their customers. We may have brought the tools but they brought the thunder.
Chapter 3 – Surfing into Tomorrow
So let me sum it up.