Sep 142014

“I was a closet tech guy until the 2000s,” says Vintank’s founder Paul Mabray in describing how digital technologies are changing the wine industry to the Decoding The New Economy YouTube channel.

We’d spoken to Paul before about the forces changing the wine industry and visiting him in the Napa Valley gives some perspective on the opportunity the sector has in capturing the enthusiastic US wine market.

Paul’s first venture into wine technology was with Inertia Beverage Group in 2002, “when I started Inertia I said ‘hey, there’s this thing called the internet'”, Mabray recalls. “They said ‘hey Paul you’re so cute, the internet won’t be around in a couple of years.'”

The internet being a fad turned out not to be the case and Vintank evolved out of the rising importance of social media to industries like wineries.

“Vintank is the mission control of social media, the one stop engagement platform for the wine industry,” says Paul of his social media listening service which he and co-founder James Jory established in 2009.

Wine is lagging other industries in adopting social media and other digital technologies because it’s avoided many of the disruptions other sectors have had to deal with.

“The wine industry is the last industry that hasn’t been changed by the internet,” Mabray says. “If you look at hotels with or restaurants with Yelp or Open Table, that hasn’t happened yet.”

A key facet of Vintank is its use of the freemium business model in offering a basic service for free; a common practice in the consumer (B2C) market but fairly rare in business (B2C) software services.

“It’s a very different way to do freemium in B2B. Freemium in B2C you do mass adoption — that tiny fraction that pay makes it profitable because so many people have it.”

“In the B2B freemium model what you have to do is distribute it for free and then you measure the usage; who is using it the most is where you send the sales team in.”

For Mabray, we’re in early days of using digital media and the wine industry is one of the sectors that needs to adopt the technologies quickly: “The driver for me is this horribly complex problem that needs to be solved — the wine industry needs digital to survive.”

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