American wine isn’t keeping up with the digital technology revolution, and it hasn’t been for a long while. I’m not talking about the surprising resistance of some wineries to invest the time and energy required to engage customers on social media. I’m talking about a lack of the deep-seated digital transformations that have occupied most other industries for the last decade.
The wine industry has a long history of eschewing what it calls ‘ecosphere’ investments (investments that contribute to the overall industry ecosystem) in favour of either proprietary systems or products. Put simply, the largest wine companies are more than happy to spend a bunch of money on software to help themselves operate more efficiently, or to spend a couple of million acquiring a new brand for their portfolio, but seem quite reluctant to invest in companies that benefit the broader industry.
Roughly two years ago, wine-technology evangelist and thought leader Paul Mabray launched a start-up named Pix, aimed at providing consumers easier ways of buying wine while giving the wine industry better tools for selling it. On 16 August, Pix laid off most of its staff and began searching for buyers, after some of the largest players in the wine industry opted not to participate in the company’s latest round of fundraising. Even though many of these companies were already enthusiastically paying for the services that Pix offered.
For the last 18 months or so, I served on Pix’s Board of Advisors. As some readers know, in addition to writing about wine, I have also had a long career as a consultant in technology marketing, design and digital strategy. As an advisor, I was given stock options in exchange for providing advice and perspective to Mabray and the rest of the executive leadership team.
My involvement since the early days of the company gave me an intimate understanding of what Pix was getting right, and what challenges it faced. For all of those challenges, the business Pix was building proved not only financially sound, but also potentially game-changing for the wine industry.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is usually available only to subscribers of her website. If you’re not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It’s only £8.50 a month or £85 per year ($11/mo or $111 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and maps from the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.
Image of a wine city of the future created by MidJourney.