Retail, Innovation and Manufacturing reporter for the NZ Herald

Former Air NZ boss eyeing a new venture

Rob Fyfe is expanding his focus from one of New Zealand's most traditional products to one of its rising stars.

Fyfe is involved in merino wool clothing as chief executive of Icebreaker, and along with Trilogy co-founders Sarah Wickens and Catherine de Groot, has invested in personalised wine retailer WineFriend.

The business trio have taken a 25 per cent stake in the business, which has grown considerably since it was launched last year, for an undisclosed sum.

WineFriend co-founders Yvonne Lorkin and Debbie Sutton said the money would be used to help accelerate the company's growth plans as well as giving it access to the trio's business expertise.

"I'm constantly searching for companies that I can personally relate to, that are based on genuine customer insight and have the opportunity to scale quickly," Fyfe said.

"Add into the mix four women who I have great respect for and the investment thesis was the most compelling start-up opportunity I have seen in the last few years."

The idea behind WineFriend was to tailor a selection of wine for each customer based on their personal preferences.

The model used a simple taste survey which allowed Lorkin and Sutton to tailor a selection of six wines monthly or bi-monthly from one of three different price tiers.

As the business has grown, the pair have developed an algorithm, aptly named after the Roman god of wine, Bacchus, which provides this insight automatically.

Sutton said the investment would allow the company to launch the technology, which would help it to scale. She said the company had spoken to a number of people that were interested in investing, but the trio were the best fit for WineFriend.

"At the end of the day most investment decisions come down to people," Sutton said.

"With Sarah, Cath and Rob we felt that we had a shared vision for WineFriend but we knew that they would challenge us to think differently."

"As a group they have a similar down-to-earth, pragmatic approach, but they all bring different and complementary skill sets which we can draw on as our business grows," she said.

"Together they make a pretty impressive investor team."

The company wouldn't disclose customer numbers but said it had a broad base ranging from Paihia down to Invercargill.

Around 66 per cent of its customers were female, with the youngest being 22-years-old and the oldest being 84-years-old.

Between April and August this year the company had doubled its monthly revenue, and from August to November this had doubled again.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 27 Apr 2017 22:21:47 Processing Time: 1395ms