From the Cellr door – there’s no accounting for taste

From the Cellr door – there’s no accounting for taste

Tue, 13/02/2018 - 15:34
Chris Braine

DREAMER: A daydream has turned into a startup business for Cellr co-founder Chris Braine.

As you sample your cab sav, spare a thought for the restaurateur who has to account for hundreds of bottles of the stuff. A WA startup looks to solve this problem.

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Cellr co-founder Chris Braine was pondering one day how high-net-worth individuals organise their wine cellars.

As problems worth solving go, it’s a nice one to have.

“It sat in the back of my mind for about a year and a half until I started to think about automation and commercial wine programs,” Mr Braine told Startup News.

“The two of us (he and co-founder Mick Mickel) instantly gelled on the idea and our passion for solving this problem took over.”

Inventory management for restaurants, hotels and wine bars is a problem that causes a lot of headaches, and wastes a lot of time and money.

At the moment, every bottle has to accounted for in the end of month stocktaking, and the process takes hours of pain-staking manual work.

As the head sommelier from the State Buildings (in Perth) told Mr Braine: “If you can stop me and my staff pulling our hair out at the end of the month, we’d all be very appreciative.”

The Cellr solution uses RFID – radio frequency identification – technologies (basically a small sticker placed on each bottle) so that any bottle taken out of the cellar can be tracked.

If it’s sold, this can be tallied with accounts. If one wine is running out, the system knows and orders can be placed. At any moment, the client knows where their wine is, and how much they have of each.

End of month reporting becomes far simpler as the stocktaking is done in real time.

Considering restaurants and hotels have so much money invested in wine, it is incredible such a system has not been in place before.

While point of sale (POS) systems have been around for ages, no one seems to have turned their mind to the wine stock problem.

“Globally, we believe there are about 4.8 million target customers (about 30 per cent of all establishments),” Mr Braine told Startup News.

“Being a B2B SaaS-style (software as a service) solution, our route to market is driven by a modern outbound marketing strategy.

“We build a list and start calling and emailing the owner, or sommelier. We have a large network in this industry to start our journey in.”

Cellr also works with key wine distributors as a channel to market.

The business is self-funded to date, and is looking to open up a seed capital round soon.

The system is in beta testing, with two commercial establishments about to push the button on a three-month trial. Between these two venues, Cellr will be tagging 8,500 bottles of wine.

The business is on the cusp of finding out if the problem they have identified is real, and if their solution solves it.

After this, they will find out if users will actually pay them to have this problem solved, and if they have a business. It’s an exciting, if nerve-wracking, time.

What advice does Mr Braine have for people thinking of diving into a startup?

“Validate the #$%^ out of your idea and business model,” he said.

“Not with friends, but the actual market. The quicker you can speak to real customers, the faster you’ll know if they will be prepared to pay you for your product/services.

“This may seem a little scary without an actual product to sell, but trust me, if it is a real problem they want solved … they will pretty quickly build your initial product strategy for you if you listen.”

“Also, don’t lie to yourself. It is easy to say ‘I’m working on a startup’, but if it’s only motion and not progress then you’re dead. Enjoy.”