SPECIAL REPORT: Marrying wine with technology was always going to gain someone’s attention and Ben Thomas, armed with a PhD in marketing and tourism has taken on that challenge with a new website.
Marrying wine with technology was always going to gain someone’s attention and Ben Thomas, armed with a PhD in marketing and tourism has taken on that challenge with a new website.
His solution to the mix, Vine Collective, launches next month.
“There is so much mystery about wine – very few people really know what is good and what is bad, so why not use the power of the crowd to inform everyone’s wine decisions?”
Originally from the Margaret River region, Mr Thomas developed the concept while brainstorming business ideas with friends a few years ago.
Two of them, who work in a local web development firm, helped developed the system.
“We wanted to open up the wine industry a bit and make it easier for all concerned,” Mr Thomas said.
“So there’s a bit of education on there, plus some benefits for tourism and an attempt to help out the industry.
“This is really good news for the smaller guys who cannot get into the large liquor stores. Much of their income, perhaps 70 to 80 per cent, is through cellar sales, so this site should open up more of a market for them.”
Wineries can showcase their produce and consumers get to post reviews.
There are approximately 2,500 wineries across Australia and 400 in Western Australia. All of them have been loaded into the system and each winery gets to control its own page, post its products and control its online sales, free of charge.
“It’s a little like having a virtual cellar door,” Mr Thomas said.
“Rather than the hit and miss approach of visiting various wineries, users can sort through what you they looking for, read what other people have thought, comment on blogs, read profiles and then buy online.”
Vine Collective will earn its revenue by taking a commission on sales made across the site.
For the past year, the team has been developing the technology platform and testing it with wineries and 50 test users.
The start-up was selected as one of four participants in Curtin University’s Incubate program, which concluded recently.
The participants had a chance to pitch their business to investors in WA and the eastern states.
Depending how its seed capital raising goes, Vine is aiming to start with WA and then scale up the business as it goes national.
“We’re seeking to engage and benefit many types of users – wine producers, industry professionals, critics and bloggers, enthusiasts and casual weekend quaffers,” Mr Thomas said.