From Idea To Startup — How We Entered The Wine Delivery Business

In Episode 12 of Lost In Transformation, Sebastian Mueller from MING Labs talks about the journey in partnering with BottlesXO to revolutionize the way we buy and order wine online 🍷.

Tune into our podcast for the full story of how to get from a scrappy idea to a company delivering wine to tens of thousands of customers:

Here Are The Key Takeaways From This Episode:

What is BottlesXO?

“BottlesXO delivers high quality wines at a reasonable price within one hour to anywhere in the city.”

Out of wine? The idea for BottlesXO came from a personal problem the founders faced: Back in 2013 in Shanghai, most of the wines were either too expensive or not imported very well. “So the whole idea in a nutshell is that they would import wines from Europe. One of the founders had good connections to different vineyards in France and Italy.” BottlesXO wanted to make good wine accessible in Shanghai at good prices through a mobile app.

Meet the founders of BottlesXO: Mischa and Thilo

Turning your idea into an actual venture

MING Labs came in as partners to build the digital product and helped define the features of the app and the technology platform to manage the orders. The company started out being funded by the founders, and after the beta launch was able to secure financing quickly. They then started hiring people: a local operations and marketing team, and MING Labs supporting on the digital side, building the product.

It then really came together as a venture. In the beginning, the first version of the app was very scrappy, it was just a beta. So we started looking at hypotheses around the concept to make improvements, such as “Are people fine to pay a delivery fee?” or “How does basket size vary with minimum order quantity?”.

Startups need to reinvent existing structures to stay relevant

“When you start something new, you don’t already have a new business model that you would bring to the world and you’d have to invent everything around that.

But oftentimes you’re going to have to reinvent existing structures and defy common knowledge.

Because common knowledge comes from what worked before and you’re doing something completely different. So you might have to reinvent how you do many things.”

That is how BottlesXO went from organizing wine tasting events to forming long-term partnerships with restaurants and running their own wine bar, to being able to order wines from BottlesXO directly into restaurants to complement the meals.

“It became way more scalable. Instead of fixing the old tasting concept for example, we then reinvented this again and challenged ourselves to do better.”

Always go for what’s breaking!

“At a startup, you never have enough time to just sit down and breathe deep and say ‘Okay, what should we do now? What you think is working?’ We cannot really think with a free mind as there is too much going on. In the end, you always go for what’s breaking.”

Once events don’t scale anymore, you think about how to fix this problem. Once deliveries don’t go fast enough, you think how to fix that. “So whatever burns, is what gets addressed first. Therefore priorities have a very natural way of appearing.”

Find a balance between moving fast and fixing things

“Over the years we built a lot of cool new stuff.” After the wine list and ordering functions then came more payment methods, geo-locating yourself, real-time tracking of drivers, coupon and loyalty systems, and setting up a dual service inside and outside of China.

“We really had to build a lot of this technology from scratch, to make it work.”

“You don’t have all the time in the world. It’s a startup. […] You have to stay agile within reason and keep on going.” But every now and then it is important to take a sprint to make sure to fix things to not be weighed down by all the bug fixing. “It’s a delicate balance to get right and you need an experienced product team.

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