Introducing new software in wine retail sales: The Bottlefly

This summer, Charles Communications Associates, as part of its ongoing internship program, was pleased to welcome California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo student Jamie Sutton who is getting her degree in the university’s Wine & Viticulture program.   She conducted an interview here with Katerina “Kat” Axelson, CEO of The Bottlefly  and Cal Poly Wine and Viticulture alumna, who gave CCA the low-down on a Cal Poly incubated tech start up company set to launch this fall, which we predict will disrupt the traditional wine sales model.

Charles Communications Associate: Tell us a little bit about Bottlefly i.e. what it is, when customers should be expecting to see it in the marketplace, how to use it.

Bottlefly CEO, Katerina Axelson

Bottlefly CEO, Katerina Axelson

Katerina: Bottlefly is a software for wine retailers, that drives sales through the kiosk “Wine finder” in the store. It recommends wine based on what’s currently in stock, and on the customer’s personal tasting preferences, price range, mood, occasion, and food pairing. Customers will walk into the store and be able to use the kiosk to find the perfect wine for them in their price range. A coupon is generated for the top recommended wine.

CCA: How does Bottlefly differentiate from other products on the market?

Kat: Bottlefly is different in 3 Key Ways:

1. We use flavor and analytical chemistry to track and predict consumer preferences in sensory­based products. This method allows for us to provide recommendations with over 85% accuracy.

2. Our intellectual property developed from an observation we had during our “Beta Tasting” trials, we noticed people constantly used words that had nothing to do with taste to describe the wine they were drinking. Soon after that we discovered that those words had a direct connection with the chemical makeup of the wine. This means that if you want a wine that’s “Outdoorsy,” we can recommend the wine that best matches that description, but with science!

3. We are truly targeting the intimidated and overwhelmed consumer who approaches the wine aisle with caution. We do this by positioning ourselves in grocery stores and high­traffic retail locations. I believe the biggest challenge with wine recommendation apps is getting people to use them more than once or twice. The other problem is most of the wine recommended from these apps is not actually available at the store. By installing a “Wine Finder” in the store, people can actually buy the wine when they need it!

Bottlefly team (from left to right): Benjamin Aldrich, Toshi Kuboi, Olga Dekhtyar, Alex  Dekhtyar, Nicole Martin, Evan Lanuza, Katerina Axelsson, Foaad Khosmood, Dennis Fernandez, Brian Jones, Eric Thorndyke, Timothy Scott.

Bottlefly team (from left to right): Benjamin Aldrich, Toshi Kuboi, Olga Dekhtyar, Alex Dekhtyar, Nicole Martin, Evan Lanuza, Katerina Axelsson, Foaad Khosmood, Dennis Fernandez, Brian Jones, Eric Thorndyke, Timothy Scott.

CCA: Your team is primarily Cal Poly students, how did Cal Poly prepare you for this business venture (coming from a fellow mustang)?

Kat: It’s very refreshing to work with Cal Poly students because they understand that the best way to figure something out is by doing it. Cal Poly students are very hands on and are not afraid to challenge pre­existing notions and propose new ideas. This makes for a very progressive and innovative team.

CCA: What inspired you to pursue this business venture?

Kat: Back in December 2013, I was a finalist in a Cal Poly hosted business plan competition. Through this community I discovered the opportunity to apply to a local business incubator. It was much easier to actualize the vision with such a supportive network.

CCA: How is your team unique to other startups?

Kat: The Bottlefly team is truly multiplidicinary. We consist of two computer science PhDs, a PhD Statistician, an MBA, two chemists, two enologists, a master’s math student, and three software developers. Our very different backgrounds allow for everyone on the team to contribute something from a unique perspective. Our sales and management team are thoroughly knowledgeable on how the technology works, and our software developers are continuously considering the business application of what they’re building.

CCA: How will you define success in Bottlefly?

Kat: I will consider us a success when I meet someone random on the street, and they tell me how they loved the wine they bought that was recommended by Bottlefly at the local grocery store­and the cheese in the store that pairs with it.

CCA: If I went to buy a bottle of wine in 5 years­ where will I be seeing Bottefly in the market?

Kat: You should be able to walk into your local grocery store and get a discount on your top recommended wine!

CCA: What is your favorite wine right now & why?

Kat: At this very moment I’m a fan of the Chronic Cellars Spritz and Giggles. It pairs perfectly with a relaxing summer brunch.

The Bottlefly will be launching in select stores this fall.

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