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May 09, 2006
Bottlenotes Aims to Be the Netflix of Wine
One-year-old Bottlenotes, Inc. wants to do for wine clubs what Netflix has done for DVD rentals. The Palo Alto (Calif.)-based startup runs a Web site that matches wines to customers' personal tastes much like Netflix recommends movies. New members answer an online questionnaire and then receive their first shipment of wines based on their responses. They rate the wines online and then receive another, more customized shipment. In theory, the wines should get better with more ratings. (I hope it works better than Netflix, which still recommends Chicken Little to me after 483 ratings.) The company's board includes Netflix co-founder Jim Cook, Cakebread Cellars winery founder and CEO Jack Cakebread, and Tiger Management hedge fund founder Julian Robertson, who is also an investor. Founder and CEO Alyssa Rapp is a Stanford MBA who formerly worked at RO Imports, a startup importer of New Zealand wines. Co-founder Kimberly Donaldson has consulted on marketing for various wineries. Bottlenotes raised a first round of $637,504 in March from Robertson and 12 other accredited investors--a pittance by Silicon Valley standards and perhaps an indication that this venture requires little startup capital.
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The reason they raised such a small amount is not because the venture requires such a small amount of capital, but because there is too much uncertainty with state and local alcohol laws.
Posted by: Adam C. Dudley at May 16, 2006 12:23 AM
The regulations are comprehensive, but manageable given tools already in the marketplace. State and local laws regarding the shipment of alcohol have certainly been in flux since the Supreme Court ruling a year ago, but in a positive direction. The addressable market for direct shipments has grown over 20% in the past year due to NY, FL and TX alone… that doesn’t take into account the half dozen other states now available, or the general increase of wine awareness and consumption in the US market. So I don’t agree that complex wine law would equal a modest seed round. The direct to consumer channel in the wine industry is growing at a breakneck pace; trends that would certainly fall in Bottlenotes’ favor.
Posted by: Jason Eckenroth at May 17, 2006 07:31 PM