Startup pitch: Winerist gets a sip of funding for its wine and culinary tours website

Winerist is a booking platform for travelers that focuses on wine and food travel.

Based in London, the startup says that in April it secured a “sizeable” but unspecified seed round that came from undisclosed angel investors, including one of the founders of Booking.com.

Rolled out as a booking tool in March 2013 by school friends originally from Moldova, Diana Isac (CEO) and Tatiana Livesey (CFO), Winerist is currently working on improving its booking solution and hiring engineers.

It has 600 unique wine- and culinary-focused tours, plus wine hotels in more than 55 destinations. It’s seeking to work with more suppliers.

The cofounders have three interns to help them with marketing and supplier outreach.

Winerist has made a Vine to illustrate its premise:

Q&A with Isac and Livesey:

Revenue model and strategy for profitability?

Winerist has a commission based model from its tours, hotels and wineries around the world.

Our strategy is to be present in every single major wine & culinary spot and offer clients a simple online booking solution, especially since our recent survey shows that 55% book last minute or at the destination.

Winerist is currently undergoing integration with booking.com and is adding partners in all of its regions.

This will ensure that by the end of the year, the platform will grow to more than 5,000 experiences and places to stay in wine destinations and wine capitals around the globe.

What problem does the business solve?

In a fragmented market, Winerist brings the most authentic industry players online making wine and food travel simple.

What makes Winerist stand out is its community of over 100 wine experts and bloggers worldwide. We pride ourselves in offering free travel guides, recommendations, and a booking service specifically for wine country.

Travellers will never again have to spend endless hours researching and booking their perfect trip as Winerist allows you to research and book it all in one place.

How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?

We started off with wine travel, hence the name Winerist (wine tourist) and quickly realised that wine & food go together as an experience. People do not need to travel necessarily to enjoy great food and wine, so we are now expanding into urban spots too.

Since we started to generate revenues a year ago, we did a survey of users that showed that 75% of people book online and 34% use social media, while more than half book at the destination.

We’ll use these insights into customer behaviour to improve our product.

Why should people or companies use the business?

Winerist is the best online tool to find, inform yourself and book that perfect wine and food holiday.

Our free travel guides are written in cooperation with local wine and travel experts and provide TripAdvisor-style information on where to go, what do to and where to eat for example.

Unless you are going to Napa, Bordeaux or Tuscany it’s very hard to come by a good travel guide for a wine & foodie destination plus book the best experiences and hotel online.

What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?

Winerist has focused on customer acquisition via channels such as wine clubs, distributors, wine restaurants, concierge services and travel agents, a constant flow of high quality content generation, an on-going blogger outreach strategy and a targeted social media strategy.

Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

We want Winerist to become the go to website for all wine and food experiences including in major cities.

We want to grow our community to over 100,000 users and become the largest online marketplace for winos & foodies.

One of our main challenges (hence, opportunity) will be to educate the wineries how to set the wine tasting tours that the travellers are seeking.

The discerning tourist does not want to see a video of how wine is made when at the winery, they want to meet the winemaker, see the vines and of course taste the wines.

What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?

The travel industry looks at the big picture, but right now it’s all about personalisation and offering the traveller with the experience that’s right for him.

This is why we feel that a niche business that caters for the needs of wine-lovers and foodies at a global scale will help out many travellers looking for authentic experiences.

What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style… and why?

Probably Peek or Vayable, because they trying to connect the locals with traveller and focus more on unique tours.

Tnooz view:

Winerist sees an opportunity in the niche of food and wine travel. The size of the wine travel market alone is estimated to be $17 billion, and the culinary travel market is estimated as $25 billion.

It says it now has more than 12,000 unique visitors a month. That’s impressive for an early start without any search marketing.

Its CFO tells Tnooz that the startup has net sales of more than €40,000, with an average consumer basket size of €490.

But it is not entirely alone in this niche.

Grape Escapes and Arblaster & Clarke

There are indirect competitors in this space, too.

Viator, the gian online tour aggregator, mainly specialises in city tours, but some of which are food- and wine-related, like this one in Athens.

Mr & Mrs Smith curates some hotels similar to Winerist and has a somewhat similar business model. Ditto, for Wine Hotels Collection.

It seems totally do-able for the site to boost its supplier numbers to become a one-stop site for wine travel. But it will have to meet the criteria for having a new curated consumer marketplace.

The founders may want to keep abreast of the latest changes by keeping abreast of Startup Management, a site and newsletter that aggregates insights and advice from entrepreneurs and investors.

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Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.

 

Comments

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  1. William Beckler

    This sounds great! Nobody else has really nailed the wine travel challenge yet.

     
  2. Robert Szasz

    Very interesting and informative Start-up pitch. There is one more start-up website in this space across the pond in Toronto Canada . I am the Founder of Wine Region Rentals a one stop Wine & Travel Lovers Portal to link Wine and Travel Lovers with Lodging and Tours in wine regions. The travellers visiting the website are able to book their accommodation with a selected number of B&B owners or through affiliates like Viator , Homeway , Booking.com ,etc as well as tours.

     
 
 

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