Never Gonna Give You Up

Wow. My first Medium post. I had intended this to be a deep analysis on how the combination of a social + commerce + interest + interaction graph, with real time notifications and customer grouping, would be a transformative user experience for hospitality and retail sectors. I need to put a little sizzle into that topic before I publish buzz-word soup.

So instead let me start with what has happened over the last 120 days. VinTank was dismantled and the team disbanded. My incredibly talented partner and close friend went to help power the world at Sunverge (very cool). The rest of the team all moved on to interesting projects (some in wine, some outside). After the shutdown many people asked me if it was too much. Was I done with the industry? Did I have the constitution to continue to carry the torch for wine and tech? Was I burnt out? Was I ever coming back? These were questions I had to ask myself. All good progress starts with asking questions. I proceeded to go all around the valley talking to some of the best thought leaders in the industry and had private meetings with key technologists (that were not Hatfields or McCoys) to understand their challenges. If you are reading this, you know that I am a bit of a deconstructionist. By trying to look beyond the accepted paradigms I can try to understand the true purpose. Next I spent much time compiling and analyzing my learnings (some of it introspective) to understand what are the real challenges we are facing and how do I help solve them. Richard Siddle was kind enough to allow me to share that with the world (http://www.the-buyer.net/insight/consumer-wine-expert-paul-mabray-data-way-forward-analysis/) and then again Alder Yarrow did an amazing follow-up delving even deeper into the challenges facing our industry (http://www.vinography.com/archives/2016/09/wine_and_tech_-_a_dismal_marri.html).

Never Gonna Let You Down

We’ve lost so many key visionaries from the industry over the last five years: Andrew Kamphuis, James Jory, Jason Eckenroth, Gary Vaynerchuk and so many more. The “brain drain” of the wine/tech space is unprecedented and we’ve yet to see a surge of new blood coming to carry the torch forward. And understandably after my analysis of the industry. It is incredibly hard to be a successful tech company solely focused on the wine industry. It was this exercise that convinced me that we need new innovators as well as old grey hairs (wow, that just happened) like me to point out the potholes. But most importantly we must see ourselves in a larger context to succeed. To transcend we need to not be in the wine business or the adult beverage business or even consumer package goods. We are much more than that. Like other hospitality and luxury companies we need to understand that we are in the experience business. Let me say that again, we are in the experience business. And to succeed in this larger (and arguably more exciting) arena the technologies we will need are tools to help us better understand and engage our customers.

The other thing we need is collaboration/consolidation. Too much energy/time is wasted dividing our attention between vendors and too many vendors struggle to find the right focus for our small industry. Both parties’ resources are being pulled in so many directions. How can we move forward with so much confusion and deliberate obstructionism from certain vendors and wineries?

Never Gonna Run Around and Desert You

So, what is next for me? A few things. To “unite the tribes” I have already started a regular meeting for top wine tech companies (that want to play nice in the sandbox) to find common ground and collaborate on solving wineries problems. At the same time, I will be organizing a roundtable of the top winery thought leaders to coalesce on key solutions to their problems. Hopefully via mutual listening and consensus the two groups can connect for success. I am excited to hear the challenges and agreed solutions from both groups.

Secondly you’ll be seeing a lot more writing from me here on Medium. This will be a collection of my thoughts on empowering user experiences via technology (especially in the hospitality industry). I’ll start as a regular weekly post and increase as time allows.

Third, I am keynoting the US BevX Conference (http://www.usbevexpo.com/index.php) in February. It is my goal to bring us together to share what I see as the future of the wine industry and sales and marketing technology going forward. Please come and see me there let’s build the future of wine and hospitality together.

But that’s not enough. It’s not enough to passively participate, the way to move the industry forward is through action. Therefore, I am back in the game. Over the last three months, some of the team came together and collectively joined Avero (http://averoinc.com/) to rebuild all the same features from VinTank (and more) for the entire hospitality industry, starting with wineries! This is an amazing new chapter for the us and will require some old faces and some new ones as well. While at W2O I was lucky enough to work with two geniuses. You already know James Jory and his amazing talent for bringing software to life. James’ counterpart and the other superstar at W2O that created unbelievable innovation was Matt Franklin. If you haven’t met Matt, please let me introduce him since you’ll be hearing about him a lot more in the upcoming months.: Matt is an engineering leader with a breadth of experience in delivering scalable, cutting-edge software in some of the most challenging environments and circumstances. As Vice President of Technology for W2O Analytics, Matt’s group focused on the application of data science to solve challenging business problems within the ever-changing landscape of social marketing. Prior to joining the analytics practice, Matt led the engineering and launch of WCG’s social listening capabilities for Fortune 100 marketers at places like Intel and Red Bull. Before W2O, Matt was a Principal Architect for the MITRE Corporation, where he led efforts to revolutionize engineering and operations of technology within corporate and government environments. In his spare time, he is an active participant in open source, and mentors cutting-edge, data-focused projects at the Apache Software Foundation. Matt is based in Boston and is a certified nerd, who is raising his children on a steady diet of Star Wars and hockey. You can reach Matt at mfranklin@averoinc.com or on Twitter @mattfranklin. Together we will be building on the strong vision founded by James and myself and under Matt’s new leadership, will be striving to push the software to new heights.

The new software will be called AveroBuzz and we will be working day and night to get it up running in the next 60–90 days. It will have all the same fun features as before and many new ones as we buckle down to really bring the software to a new level.

So, join me, Matt and the whole Avero team as we work hard to build technology that power experiences.

See you next week.

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