WineFriend expanding with Rob Fyfe and Trilogy sisters investment
Former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe has bought a stake in online wine retail start-up WineFriend, along with the founders of Trilogy.
Fyfe, who now heads Icebreaker, and Trilogy co-founders Sarah Wickens and Catherine de Groot, have bought a 25 per cent stake in WineFriend which started a little of a year ago.
WineFriend delivers bottles of wine to customers specially tailored to personal tastes, and was founded by experienced wine industry veteran Debbie Sutton and wine expert and Thirsty Work television presenter Yvonne Lorkin.
The company asked customers a series of questions, such as what type of coffee you drink and what you season food with, to hand pick wines for each delivery.
After the first box of bottles is delivered to their home, drinkers rate the choices online, share views and voice dislikes which then influence the company's choices for them in subsequent deliveries.
The cases of six bottles are priced at $99, $149, and $249 on a monthly or bi-monthly subscription.
Subscriptions are split between monthly and bi-monthly, and about 60 per cent opt for the cheapest, 30 per cent the next and the remainder the most expensive.
Sutton said the investment would enable the company to push through an algorithm it had been working on to streamline the curation process, as well as improve the company's distribution model.
The deal, announced at her home in Auckland's Glendowie, was where each order was being processed, but the investment would help free up about four days of time and help take the company from the point where "the house was exploding".
WineFriend had been in talks with a number of interested investors, she said, and her lawyers said "wow" at the valuation the investment had given the company.
"As a group they have a similar down-to-earth, pragmatic approach, but they all bring different and complementary skill sets which we can draw on as our business grows.
"They've put their money where their mouths are."
The investment would also be used to boost marketing in the New Year.
Fyfe said he, Wickens and de Groot had been talking with WineFriend since April, before investing in August.
It would not reveal customer numbers but he said between April and August customer numbers had doubled, and they had doubled again since.
"I think the whole way that people shop, particularly around groceries, is just going to evolve,' Fyfe said.
"We play so well into that trend."
Wickens said the investors thought the company had scalability in not just New Zealand, but offshore as well.
"We were drawn to the WineFriend business model which ignores established conventions in wine retail and looks at it with a fresh perspective.
"The result is a new path to market which inserts real innovation to a tired and tradition-entrenched model."