Vivino Startup Story: The Sommelier in Your Pocket

This Danish startup made a marketplace for wines in India and globe, and became a millionaire. His insipirational story is a must read for entrepreneurs.

By Anindita Paul May 6 2021 9:58PM 400 Read
Story of App that Recommends Perfect Wines Everytime: Vivino

Danish startup Vivino might not be a discovery to many wine lovers and recreational drinkers. The company has been around for a good eleven years and was created by co-founders Heini Zachariassen and Theis Søndergaard in response to their frustration in choosing wines.

So, let’s take a look at how the Vivino startup story panned out over the years.

Vivino Story Idea - Beginning

Zachariassen realized that most of the wine apps available were run by seasoned experts in wine, while his expertise lay in tech and software.

Many gaps needed to be filled in terms of knowledge, sustainability, and reach. They did manage to do that. Some believe his unfamiliarity with wine was the reason why this app tuned out to be so relevant for users, who might be equally clueless about wines.

Vivino Story of App

What is Vivino Story?

Vivino was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, although now their headquarters are in San Francisco, California. The app provides ratings, reviews, and prices for wines. Users can scan the labels of the wine they want to know about and get the information they need. Depending on the region, users can also order wine, and Vivino will deliver it to their doorstep.

Zachariassen’s core philosophy, according to an interview with Forbes, is, “if you can get a rating for books on Amazon and movies on IMDB, you should be able to get reviews for wine too.” In addition to this, over the years, they have been evolving towards becoming a full-fledged wine marketplace.

Vivino Story’s Role in India

Their main goal was to rate wines based on their labels and act as a recommendation platform. Initially, Vivino faced the issue of an underdeveloped database. So, they decided to outsource some workforce from India.

They sent as many wine labels as they could to India. In India, workers would look up information on the wine manually and send it back to be processed into the database. Within 18 months, they saw significant uptake in business and efficiency, and around 70% of their wine searches would be successful.

This work in India was the foundation for building up the database Vivino has now. Even today, the software receives around 25,000 photos per day, which are then manually processed by 50 Indian contractors. Overall now they have 50million users and over 100,000 new wine ratings every day, and their database has 12.5 million different wines.

Turning into a Marketplace:

Co-Founder and CEO Heini Zachariassen always planned to turn this rating app into the ultimate wine marketplace. Especially with the e-commerce market booming at the rate it is, a marketplace probably seemed the best direction to take the app. And due to popular demand, they also launched their new recommendation service, Vivino Marketplace, to fulfil their plans. But one of the major snags in this plan was that people did not seem to like to order wine online.

Vivino Story of App Vivino - Co-Founder and CEO Heini Zachariassen

According to Theis Søndergaard, it was because, “It’s far easier and more common to buy wine by the bottle, rather than by the case; and why order wine to be delivered unless it’s by the case?” This has especially changed during the pandemic.

Vivino Story & Pandemic:

(Source: www.thedrinksbusiness.com)

As Søndergaard mentioned, the e-commerce share of wine was less than 5% before the pandemic. With most restaurants and pubs closed down during the pandemic, this significantly changed. According to experts (and the movement seen on Vivino), the e-retail of wine has increased by 103% worldwide. And in the UK alone these figures are up by 114%. So, the Vivino team is eager to venture deeper into the UK market.

In an interview, Heini Zachariassen commented about its growth phenomenon, “At first we thought it was just a temporary uplift in the same way that many people had stockpiled products like toilet paper. But the trend continued, and we could see that people had changed their habits.”

Vivino has doubled their wine sales online up to a revenue of $265 million, and for the first time, they broke even on their earnings. And from the looks of it, they are confident that they will be able to keep up the momentum and finally turn profitable.

Vivino Startup Story: Milestones

  • In 2010, Vivino was started by co-founders Heini Zachariassen and Theis Søndergaard.
  • In 2011, their app was launched for Apple devices.
  • In 2012, Vivino won the Danish Growth Award and Entrepreneur of the Year in GP Bullhound Investor Allstar Awards; CEO Heini Zachariassen won both.
  • In 2013, in their Series A round of funding, Vivino raised $10.3M from Balderton Capital and Creandum.
  • In 2016, the company healded their Series B round of funding and raised $25M from SCP Neptune.
  • In 2017, the much-awaited and requested Vivino Marketplace was launched.
  • In 2018, the company raised $20 million in their Series C funding from SCP Neptune, Balderton Capital, Creandum, SEED Capital Denmark and Iconical.
  • In March 2018, Vivino appointed Chris Tsakalakis (former StubHub President) as their Chief Executive Officer.
  • In 2021, in their Series D funding, they managed to raise a whopping $155 million from VCs like Kinnevik, Sprints Capital, GP Bullhound, and their early-stage investor Creandum.
Summing Up:

It is fascinating to contemplate that unlike its contemporaries, Vivino has wonderfully managed to make wine more accessible. Their ambition and growth have lined up with their philosophy. They are slowly on their way to becoming, as they hoped, the ‘Netflix of wines’. Let’s sit back with our wine glasses and observe if their momentum from the pandemic carries them to their goal.

Anindita Paul
Anindita Paul View More Posts

I’m an avid reader and a wobbly but driven writer, who hopes to make her mark in the world of writing one article at a time. I am passionate about creative writing and storytelling, for me this is where my love for art meets my love for language. I am pursuing my masters in English literature, a course that has equipped me to question, comment and analyse the world from diverse points of views, and writing is how I plan to not let these skills go to waste. In my free time I can be found neck deep in meme culture foraging for my next pop-culture obsession.

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