Posted by Interviews | Posted on 02-14-2012| Posted in
Kevin Sidders, founder and president of VinConnect, likes to say that he is his target customer.
A wine enthusiast who was inspired by tech entrepreneurs he met while working in Silicon Valley, Mr. Sidders was anxious to merge these two interests but unsure of how to proceed. So he enrolled in UC-Davis’s OIV Wine Marketing program, where he learned all about the business of wine, covering just about everything outside of growing grapes and making what’s in the bottle.
Upon completing his coursework and moving to the East Coast, Kevin embarked on a trip to Barolo in late 2010 and had a revelation. As a mailing list member of many wineries in the United States, Kevin wondered why a similar business model hadn’t taken hold in Europe. Fast forward a year, and after clearing countless bureaucratic hurdles, Kevin founded VinConnect. Its mission is to “enable the world’s best estates to sell their wine direct to private clients in the United States.”
The two of us recently chatted by phone. And even though Kevin recounted many obstacles in the way of making this idea a reality, VinConnect at its core is not unlike many domestic mailing lists.
After providing an email address to VinConnect, you simply opt to receive offers from whichever VinConnect partner wineries you’re interested in. Once you’ve made your choices (you can opt in to as many or as few wineries as you’d like), you just sit back and wait for the offers to arrive. VinConnect focuses on limited-production high-quality wines, both from established estates such as Clos de Tart and Massolino as well as emerging producers like La Macchiole in Tuscany and Gourt de Mautens in the Rhone Valley.
During our conversation, Kevin stressed that he didn’t invent a new way of selling wine — he just took an existing concept and adapted it to serve another market. In doing so, he’s opened the European market to consumers who value direct-purchase relationships, whether it is for reasons of provenance or just to ensure they have future purchasing opportunities. By serving as an extension of a winery’s brand, VinConnect is a conduit for wineries to communicate with and sell to their U.S. customers in a streamlined manner. As Kevin said, “”The thing that makes me most excited about VinConnect is the great feedback we get from wineries and their customers every day — they both love what we’re doing for them.”