Are you thinking of becoming a wine investor? Would you like to learn how to value track and trade fine wine? Join Nick Martin, CEO and co-founder of Wine Owners and Aliza Knox, Head of APAC of Cloudflare to learn more about how this software as a service (SaaS) platform for the independent wine trade is changing the game of the wine industry.
This live session will explore the use of technology in the winemaking business, cover trends and observations during COVID-19, as well as go over some fun recommendations for these interesting times we live in.
It's four o'clock here in Singapore and Nick you're in France so some time in the morning.
It's ten o'clock in the morning here. Ten o'clock night not quite time for wine yet but welcome to our latest edition of Zoom LA with Nick Martin who is the founder and CEO of Wine Owners.
So thank you Nick for being with us today. Great to be here.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what Wine Owners is?
Absolutely so I'm Nick Martin CEO of Wine Owners which was set up back in 2013 and today it's a business that's focused on technology for the independent wine sector and that covers really everything from collection management, inventorying, warehouse management and latterly and very excitedly because it's just been released at the beginning of May a independent wine retail business operating platform.
What does that mean exactly? So what it means what it was so sorry what does the independent wine retail platform mean?
I'm a wine store and I just come to you and get your package and I can better manage my store?
Absolutely so it is it is everything to do with managing your business in a segment that is a little bit different to many other markets and much of those differences tend to be around the management of inventory so if you if you go out and you and you try and find a generic ERP system as they would be called from the likes of Microsoft or NetSuite they kind of expect certain things to be given as far as your inventory is concerned so they expect they expect you to be generating a purchase order before you generate a sales order they expect they expect stock to be physically in a place and those things just don't work in the independent wine sector because you've got wines that you're purchasing that are going to be delivered you've got to you to your own warehouse you've got wines that may be delivered to a range of other warehouses around the world you've got wines aren't be delivered for two years you've got wines that you're brokering on behalf of your customers that you sold to two three four years earlier and those are being sold on consignment so effectively you're selling them first and then buying them from your client afterwards and what we found was once we really got into the the business of fine wine in particular that people were spending fortunes on bending these generic wine systems into shape for the independent wine sector and spending tens of thousands of dollars if if not more on setting those systems up for them and yet still finding that they had to work around the compromises in order to make it work themselves so we saw an opportunity to build something from the ground up that was just for this industry and and which was which was focused on solving those problems but at the same time because we are in 2020 after all and and and new new platforms of course are in the cloud it's software as a service it's all about how you can effectively connect your business up and that means how do I make my business more efficient by connecting myself with my suppliers how do I make myself more effective and grow my business better by connecting myself up to multiple channels to market and that might be just going digital initially in terms of an e-commerce platform of my own but recognizing that we are in a post digital world and and wealthy people who are who are typically your audience are quite hard to get to being able to connect with other platforms in order to be able to reach the broadest addressable market that is that is natural and right for you is is is is a challenge that a lot of people have tried to do but have failed because it's really hard to orchestrate when you're selling through multiple channels at the same time and that's one of the things that our new retail platform called the hub does so well and so a digital operating it's for well first of all can you tell us what a fine wine is is that defined by price or age or type of wine and it's it's it's probably defined as much as anything else by the range of wines that a an independent retailer has and it probably isn't necessarily defined by price on the basis that you know a small interesting producer from the law making amazing chenin blanc for example he that may that may retail for I know let's say let's say 17 US dollars or 20 US dollars is just as exciting just as fine as I don't know O 'Brien blonde for example so I don't think it's a price thing I think it is a about the care with which wine is made it's about the producers it's about the relationship that producers want with the ultimate end consumer and the channels to market that they sell through together I see and so but so with this platform that you built and I want to back up in a minute and just your history but this platform you built if if the wine could be a large range is it for any kind of independent wine retailer or only those that are stocking you know a certain caliber it's for it's for any independent wine retailer because the principle of the the hub is that it's encompassing all of the all of the functionality that you need to run your business whether it's purchase order processing or inventory management or sales order processing customer information management accounting obviously and then and then the turning on of the various API is in order to start to make your business work smoother so it's not specific to a particular genre of stock but I think it is it is the sweet spot is a an SME so anyone really from the smallest wine operation up to a business may be turning over a hundred million dollars really interesting so let's back up for a minute just to hear a little bit about you I think when we were getting to know each other for this segment you told me a little bit about how you got to this point this role which I'd like to hear I'd also like to hear a fun fact that you want to share with the audience I don't know if it's related to wine or not but I'd like to hear something really interesting and offbeat okay well um so I I started my career in in the restaurant business it was a it was a long-held passion I I discovered food very early on I was I was lucky to have a family and a mother in particular who was part of the Elizabeth David generation post-war 1950s fairly bleak landscape in in in post-war Britain and in post-war London but there was there were there were a group of women who were fascinated by food and impassioned by the writings of Elizabeth David who was talking about Mediterranean cuisine so that was my initial inspiration I then got into the wine business I became a chef so I got into the restaurant business became a chef and and had a lovely time albeit a lovely time not earning any money and it became very clear that without at that time being a person of means and therefore without the ability to contemplate opening up my own restaurant it was a it was a tough gig let's let's let's call it that so but it was where I I caught the wine bug initially as well because I was given the task of building the wine lists for a couple of restaurants and and that was a fabulous journey it coincided with the introduction into the UK in this was back in the early 80s of Australian and New World wine that we really hadn't seen before and suddenly these wines appeared as the market with with with with with huge fruit that we that we that we really you know had had never experienced before so that was fun but as I say it wasn't for me the remuneration wasn't there and so major pivot into into market research and consulting for the tech so I joined a wonderful company called IDC International Data Corporation based out of Framingham near Boston in Massachusetts and spent a brilliant six seven years there initially doing research for some of the best tech businesses in the world and then and then headed up the sales area there and and built solutions for for for those companies so everyone really from IBM down to companies that don't exist anymore like Digital Equipment Corporation Epsom a whole range of businesses you know and doing some really fun stuff really fun stuff I mean I remember a research project back in the early days company called Nortel Northern Telecom that invented this thing called the paper white screen now back in those days you know screens were blackened green text and orange text and and you know I guess I guess comforting on the eye given that tech still use those but the idea was would a consumer be interested in a computer screen that mimicked writing on a sheet of paper would that be would that be interesting I mean obviously it's a pretty obvious answer isn't it these days but but back then of course it was all new and and so we dutifully went away and earnestly determined whether whether whether the research suggested it was a good idea or not and of course the rest is history so is that was your fun fact shoved in there somehow with your mother being the Elizabeth David Cook or did I miss it oh well I mean there lots of fun facts so I suppose I suppose my funnest fact for which is completely not wine related is is is I mean I think I think that's I think I think you know just about me really is is so post Lehman post the meltdown in the financial markets of 2008 though I met a wonderful bunch of people through a company that I was then working for subsequent to to a couple of others called Axiom business that was specialized in data-driven marketing and and data migrations and I met a wonderful bunch of people in financial services who felt they wanted to give something back in this sort of post meltdown world and they formed a initiative called money spinners and decided that a group of people were going to cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats which is from the very bottom of England right to the top of Great Britain right to the top of Great Britain in Scotland which is the thousand miles and and we we managed to complete that in ten days and raise I guess about two hundred thousand US so that was that was a lot of fun and a great moment for doing something very different and something sufficiently challenging that I'd have never contemplated doing it on my own let's put it that way have you done anything that long on a bike since yeah I've done one more since I'm going the other way from from east to west so from the east of England through to the very furthest western point of Ireland with a little with a little crossing in the middle of course because there's a there but these days my life is a little bit more state right so you're not riding through the French countryside picking oh yeah I'm riding through the French countryside for sure yeah yeah but but only only maybe 40 50 miles at a time so it's really interesting to hear about the technology and particularly about IDC because of course you know we we know them they're in our arena here at Cloudflare but I didn't besides the beginning in the you know wanting being the restaurant business I'm a little like it's not a natural course into wine business I don't think it might be but tell me tell us how you got the idea for this business how you started the business and then maybe I think I understood from you the business surprise surprise for an entrepreneur has morphed or pivoted a little bit from the original idea to what you're doing now so maybe tell us how it started and where you are today okay cool so it actually kind of all started whilst I was working for a company called read Elsevier which is now known as relics so back in the day it was a very large publishing and information business with interests in business publishing in science and in some other interesting areas like legal and at the time which was late 1990s it was starting to recognize the threat from Google and they pulled together and internally a working group called imagineering believes or not and the idea was how can the business learn and digitize in order to face up to the threat of Google and a digitizing world and and it was and I was very excited to be part of that group and and I really wanted to to do stuff I was I was really enthused there were of course initiatives that were going on within the business but the whole environment of that period you know post that dot-com bubble bursting was was really very energizing and that was really at the point at which I started to believe that one day I really wanted to build a business and at around that time I played around with a proof of concept with a with a with a wonderful person who has become my business partner within wine owners at the time was running his own software development business and was very successful and we had employed him within read to to do some work for us on on databases and some database applications and he was brilliant and you know he delivered on time to budget and was super smart so his name is Walter Walter Fisher so we built a proof of concept back then I paid for it he didn't kind of you know there I guess but I was a client at the time and and that really was around collection management the idea was the wine enthusiast wine collector wine lover had various had various set of management tools but you know there really wasn't that much around this was way before salad tracker of course and so we built a proof of concept for that and you know one of the things that we were constantly talking about within the business of that time was end-to-end solutions don't just build a point solution because if you build a point solution then then you're facilitating your your addressable market to do a thing but you're not providing them you're not providing them the full the full roadmap and therefore you're forcing them to go off and have a problem somewhere else in terms of having to figure something out manually or whatever so anyway so we always thought in terms of end-to-end solution but it was a sort of around the time that things were getting really busy at read and I was doing it between the hours of I don't know seven in the evening and one in the morning and it wasn't really sustainable so after a year or so of playing around with that we we put it on pause but then fast-forward ten years later and the world had changed a lot we weren't any more reliant on things like least line and dial-up modems and things that were really slowing down a lot of these application solutions at the time and I was working for a company called axiom this this u.s.
based marketing services organization and it felt like now is the moment to do what we had played around with historically and of course by then I'd spent you know 20 odd years working with data and and in fact what we do today is is very much the combination of technology data and and wine so so that's the journey and and that's the logic behind how we got to where we got to and we started planning the business in 2011 we started developing in 2012 and we launched in 2013 so do you consider Walter a co-founder he's very much very much a co -founder he's great he's yeah he's the guy he's the guy who made it happen you know I was the guy who who understood what the market needed or wanted but he was he's he's he's been the most amazing business partner and then of course and then of course and actually he was really instrumental in the pivot talking about the pivot sorry I didn't get to the pivot I should talk about the most interesting bit right so the pivot was the seeds of the pivot was sown day one and Walter had had previously built a really interesting business which was a white label business within the property space which was a conveyancing system which is basically the legal process for buying and selling a house that estate agents real estate businesses were able to take on themselves brand up as their own and then offer on to their clients as a sort of package turnkey solution which added value to their offering and at the same time brought the cost of conveyancing way down.
So when we started Wine Owners and we were focused on the consumer as we were which was how how do we help a consumer organize themselves value their collection and be able to buy and sell between each other that was the that was the end-to-end solution of the consumer piece but at the same time we saw an opportunity within the business side because we saw a very traditional business a classic long tail market a bit behind the curve very much wedded to the idea of an account management model which of course is very natural when you think about the sorts of conversations that they want to be having with their customers around wine and wine appreciation but it meant that those businesses were serving the very top slice of their customers maybe the top five percent if they were lucky and everybody else who was in their customer database really was very poorly if at all managed so we saw an opportunity to bring CRM into the business to find wine we saw CRM as being all about the collection we we felt that if someone was really into wine it was irrelevant whether they were a banker or a roofer this it was it was all about their passion and and their journey through wine and so we we decided we would engineer the platform to be white labelable from day one and and that proved to be a good call our first customer our first business customer actually went live with their business platform before we went live with our consumer platform which is a business in the UK called Corny and Barrow so and a very prestigious fine wine merchant one of the oldest in London a brilliant brilliant company with some extraordinary agencies and so we're very lucky to get them on board but that was the start of our of our business to business journey and it just became more and more obvious as we got deeper and deeper into different application solution areas that it was business to business software in a market which had really never been properly served by industry specific solutions that properly met their needs which was where the future was and so you know that really that really was the journey that took us to where we are today where we now have a full-blown independent merchant retailer solution as well but that happened via initially private client reserves management which is essentially collection management applied to the business of wine where merchants store on behalf of their customers then into inventorying for initially for a club called 67 Palma which I believe is due to open in Singapore sometime early in 2021 an amazing private members club focused on fine wine and then and then in the US and subsequently globally a business of warehouse management systems for fine wine so that that that provided the platform for us to then be able to make the final jump into the retail market it's so interesting and I guess I always thought that you know maybe there was inventory management for different kinds of collectibles you know but similar like art or things that you store things that you might trade as opposed to consuming yourself so it's interesting that there really wasn't one I have a couple questions we only have five minutes left and I found in doing these clubs our TV interviews we often get cut off so I was gonna leave with the very end but just in case it takes a while you have been exposed probably to more interesting wines than most of us who are watching this or will watch the taped part and on zoom lea we've asked repeatedly give us some ideas of what wine we should be drinking when we're on zoom calls like this what wine should a software developer drink when they're you know heads down maybe coding what wine should we drink when we're celebrating and what wine should we drink maybe if we're under attack so at a bad time and you've probably seen some pretty outrageous or really unique wine so any a few of those any of those we'd love to hear some insight okay well so on a zoom call I would probably I would go for something bracing and with lots of facets to it and and I'm a great fan of the best runner from the Loire Valley and there's a lot of it and it's a very dynamic area that's that's that's fast evolving lots of bio dynamism are going on there so I would I would I would be very happy to have a zoom call with a bracing bottle of Chernin Blanc now as far as the developers are concerned obviously you need to keep a fairly clear head when you're coding and so you probably want to provide sorry taking notes for each of these occasions so you really want a wine that's relatively low in alcohol and you know I know some developers who adore their wine but there are quite a lot else who don't know that much but but who are are keen to learn so I think I think I'm gonna go to Germany for the developers and I'm gonna give them the choice of a an amazing Auschwitz or or Baron Auschwitz or something like that from one of the great producers and that it's such a fast evolving market there as well but someone like Marcus Molitor makes the most extraordinary sweet wines obviously as does Don Hoffman I could go on whereas we're down to two minutes so just make sure okay whereas whereas on the other side you know you've got the six you've got the the emergence of drop-in wines and a whole bunch of brilliant brilliant brilliant producers who are making incredible dry and very moderately alcohol wines other than that for celebrating I think I would probably just not mess about and open a bottle of 2002 Monfortino which is drinking incredibly now is undoubtedly one of the greatest Nebbiolo's I've ever had the privilege to drink and is so incredibly Burgundian it's it's it's quite beautiful okay well Nick thank you very much it was great to hear the story of your business wine owners and I think the new product is called the hub is that correct the wine I've got wine for any independent retail wine owners out there on the business to business side I've taken notes on all of your suggestions the last one being the 2002 Montfortino Nebbiolo which I have unfamiliar with I mean a long time ago I did graduate from Yellowtail but I think I'm still not up to the fine wine collectors that was great to have you on hear the story of how you built this amazing business and be part of our Azumelier series so thank you very much for joining us thank you so much for having me all right have a great day bye -bye take care