“ Wine tech is a graveyard of failure.” - on Pix.wine

SF Chronicle article discussing the dearth of VC interest in wine-related consumer-end tech.
I found it interesting that (at least according to the article) the wine sphere is one area in which there doesn’t seem to be strong interest in “disruptive“ tech applications.
Although in general I have “early adopter“ tendencies in life, I am more of a Luddite when it comes to wine, and I have little knowledge of the dark arts of VC, so I would be interested in others’ perspectives on this.


Paul Mabray has dedicated his career to technology in wine, and I know he’s about ‘done’ with it, as he’s been fighting upstream the entire time. I had so much hope for Pix from the get-go - amazing idea, perfect people behind it, then the ‘are we in a recession or not?’ scare closed up ALL lending and financing immediately, right when they were about to make a big move and get to the next level. Sad.


Uh, What does Pix do that WineSearcher hasn’t already done fairly well for more than a decade?


I don’t know, in that I have not used it. My inference was that Pix covers (or hopes to cover) a greater breath of retail outlets. Not sure.
VC money or not, I imagine it’s tough going when you are basically competing for market share against a Google search.


I guess a greater breadth makes sense in that WineSearcher doesn’t reach every outlet. I do often have sleepless nights wondering where I’m going to source my next bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay. :crazy_face:


Most wine is still finished with cork, thus providing conclusive evidence of the lack of interest in better technology in the wine world.


Wine-searcher and CT could both use a serious facelift on the front end, and a bunch of updates on backend/functionality as well… my two cents. That said, they work (for the most part).

I see lots of small wine-related apps pop up and most either do not work well, are doing something that is already done by CT/WS/Vivino (where there are network effects at play), or are going after a segment of the market that is just too small to get a lot of interest from venture firms. Pix feels like another example


Maybe the numbers simply do not make sense? Investing in wine when a) there are more and more folks seemingly drinking less of it; b) competition from other types of alcohols is still creating challenges, especially with younger drinkers; c) ‘wine nerds’, like many on this site, probably find that writing to be ‘below them’ as their editorial content is aimed usually at the ‘general wine consumer’?

There’s plenty of VC money in alcohol - how many ‘celebrity’ Tequila and Vodka brands are there these days? Or perhaps they’re putting into cannabis-related stuff?

I wish Paul the best of luck and truly hope we can continue to see investment in our industry in general.


those VCs aren’t investing in the booze, they are investing in the celebrity

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You are correct - so Paul is enough of a ‘celebrity’? :smile:

How will the VC’s monetize their investment? That’s the real question. It’s one thing to make a living being a reviewer with a minimal staff and finding subscribers to back you - it’s another to have to make big $$$.

Perhaps Paul can bring on a celebrity spokesperson? What about Snoop?


Something along these lines occurred to me while reading the article. It’s somewhat of a stereotype that wine is your dad‘s drink, and wine is apparently having great difficulty getting a strong foothold with younger consumers. Those same young consumers are the ones most likely to use technology tying into their beverage choices.
So, are people unwilling to invest in wine tech because they see that most wine consumers will have very limited uptake of that tech?


Hi WBzers - while I’ll choose discretion and not get into the details, realize that there’s a lot more to this article and demise of Pix than Esther shares (or perhaps even knows); I’ve been there, tried some of that, and know many of the players. Combo of many factors…personalities, luddite wineries, 20-years-behind-the-times Wine marketers, unreasonable investment expectations…glad to discuss offline 1:1 if anyone is interested.


I think the folks trying to make it in the wine technology space have chosen a tough row to hoe, not because of the inherent challenges with the space, but because there is a fundamental mismatch with a fundraising environment that’s unable to supply what they need

Being in the Silicon Valley, I’ve seen plenty of great ideas tried and failed. Identifying an issue where things could be done better or revolutionized is one thing. Doing all it takes to execute well is entirely different, and rare. I’ve seen countless stunningly terrible attempts.

Attempts with value-added this and that to restaurants, then later wineries. It’s usually more on the fast-talking end with nothing beyond self-delusion on their part that they’ll be able to add value to your business. Those are failed business models from the very start when they don’t create a realistic path to them being a worthwhile partner to your business. Often it’s head-up-their-ass techies who have no idea how to run a business and don’t seem to think there’s any need to talk to their potential partners, so they guess and then try to hard-sell, rather than consult with, identify actual needs and how to address them well.

But, I have seen value-added partnerships with wineries work well. We have CT and W-S, products like the Durand and Coravin.

We’ve seen other products and services that were just obviously flawed; redundant and inferior to what’s already there and established; silly; gimmicky.

I remember a techie friend of the absentee owner of a business I was managing got him to adopt his prototype. He was told he was free to talk to me about it, but never bothered…and it was a disaster. How could you never talk to the point person you’re trying to work with? Especially when it’s clearly very problematic? I think back to that one, especially, when thinking about a few wine devises that I thought could use a little fine-tuning or supplemental. Three times I’ve sent emails with free advice, as a wine geek, on how to make each of their products broadly appealing, to cross that line from pretty good idea to something a bunch of us would actually buy. None of them replied, none of their products succeeded.

I resoundingly reject the idea wine tech is any more a graveyard than anything else. It’s more that people are full of themselves and don’t appreciate crucial skill sets they don’t have. (I could go on about that with plenty of examples of successful entrepreneurs selling businesses so they could move on to the next idea. They emphasize how crucial the business model is to maintain profitability and stay on as consultants, but the new owner “knows better”, rejects it all and tanks the business within months.)


It seems strange to me that the industry that’s shirked modernization for millennia would see something like this.

Barring the tongue in cheek though I think that one of the major issues of wine modernization in the online retail realm is the fact that the consumer either needs to be familiar with the product to an nth degree or there must be ‘boots on the ground’ retail education available for a brand to succeed. Not to mention the quagmire of legal issues surrounding DTC sales state to state in the U.S.

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VCs are monetizing their investment by attaching celebrity to booze.

People pay $15/bottle for tequila, but people pay $45/bottle for George Clooney’s tequila and seek it out over other brands. George seriously increases sales through both $/bottle and brand awareness.

In general it’s not too surprising that there’s not much technology connected to alcohol. None of the major players in commerce(Amazon, etc) have really make major inroads into dominating the market, so who would pay premiums for ads? And huge portion of the most enthusiastic consumers tie up all of our disposable income in our cellars. I spend all my dollars on wine, the only tech I buy for my wine habit is the Berserker Business here and a corkscrew.

That said, wine isn’t similar to booze. It’s much more spoilable and can be made only once per year. So even a profitable winery has serious issues with risk, and growth as well.


That last point is so salient here - and really is a bit differentiation factor between wine and ANY other type of alcohol . . . nearly every other one is truly ‘reproducible’ . . .


I actually have an idea for wine tech but it is nothing like any of that. I don’t think sales is the area where wine tech is lacking.

Monetizing my idea wouldn’t be as clear cut, but at least it’s not a 5th time do-over of the same sales idea.

Too late and too public to get into more right now.

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cellarcentral.com in or around '08 was the top of the market. It’s been all downhill since. Where’s the money?

Pix is not a great name.