Jim Roberts likes New World wines, especially Carmenere from Chile or Malbecs from Argentina.
His business partner, Mike Boyd, with whom he owns Setcom in Austin, TX, a supplier of communications devices for fire, police, and military needs, prefers storied vintages from Europe. Between the two of them, the pair were receiving a deluge of e-mails from wine clubs and retailers, most of which had deals for wines they didn’t want to drink.
Roberts says they asked themselves: What if there was a way to get listings of just the types of wine that you wanted? Their answer last year was to found Pure Vino, a website that aggregates wine retailers’ deals and sends users just the ones that match their profile of interests.
“It was too much work to sort through all of the e-mails,” says Roberts, a Silicon Valley transplant who moved to Austin in 2008. “The idea about Pure Vino is it only sends you what you want to see.”
Wine “curation” is a crowded field, but Pure Vino seems to have an interesting approach. The site works like this: Users enter their preferences, like old world or new? Red, white, rose, or sparkling? How much do you want to spend?
Pure Vino also asks users for their zip code. Laws related to alcohol delivery differ from state to state. “We won’t show a deal to people who can’t get it,” Roberts says.
Pure Vino’s software combs through about 500 retailers, finding online deals that match a user’s preference. Users can decide to receive an e-mail once a day, several times a day, or right when the algorithm picks up on a deal that matches your preferences. “On any particular day, there’s maybe 30 to 40 deals on our site,” Roberts says.
The beta of Pure Vino went live this summer, and Roberts says their first goal is to reach 100,000 users by June next year. Roberts says he and co-founder Boyd have invested “tens of thousands” to get the site up and running. As venture capitalists themselves—they founded and run Pinnacle Peak Capital Partners in Austin—Roberts says they prefer to fund the company on their own and grow slowly.
“We’re aggregating the information on what our users are looking at, what types of deals do they like,” Roberts says. “There are companies that are willing to pay for that.” He says they are also considering advertising opportunities, especially as traffic grows.
The nature of wine as a perishable agricultural product only available in limited quantities should help push buyers to act fast, Roberts says. “Once a good deal comes around, there’s a good chance you’re never going to see that deal again,” he says. “It creates a little bit of urgency for consumers.”