May 31, 2023
Nicolas Mendiharat is a repeat founder and CEO with 25 years of experience building tech-enabled startups. He specializes in early-stage consumer markets and marketplaces.
After launching the online travel venture Skihorizon.com, which achieved $100m in revenues and 300k customers, he decided to focus on one of his passions: wine. He has been since revolutionizing the industry with 2 ventures—Palate Club & WineChain.
WineChain is a wine NFT marketplace where the world's most coveted wineries use blockchain technology to sell their wines directly to wine lovers worldwide.
Palate Club is focused on the premium segment, creating a much better consumer experience that uses AI and data science to match wines to your personal taste via blind tasting.
As a French-German citizen, Nicolas launched his career in Europe. Since 2015, he now splits his time with the United States, where his ventures are based. Nicolas likes radical new ideas, fast movement, innovative mindsets, and above all, gathering the best talents to build a new project.
Julian:Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast.Today we have Nicholas Mindy Hart, founder and CEO of Winechain. Winechain'sgoal is to build dynamic and interactive relations between prestigious estatesand demanding consumers with a passion for wine. Nicholas, I'm so excited tochat with you.
Of course. We weretalking about, early in the episode before we even jumped on here about how wenot only share a passion for wine, but I actually come from wine country, soI'm super familiar with, with the area that. You're, you're making these greatrelationships with, but also so fascinating to think about how technology andthe new innovations in Web three have really impacted what you're doing in yourorganization and this whole ecosystem.
And and I'm, I'm,I'm ready to ask more questions about how it impacts consumers and things likethat. But before we get into Winechain and what you're doing, what were youdoing before you started the company?
Nicolas:Hello Julian, and thanks for having me. Yeah, well this is my seventh startup Ifounded a year ago of three co-founders.
And what I wasdoing before to summarize, Basically a lot of e-commerce, travel wine businessas well, technology ad tech, and also a bit of AI applied to taste and wine. Sokind of ventured into the wine and fine wine and tech space in Hawaiiactually.
Julian:Yeah, and it's so fascinating thinking about the wine space in particular,thinking about how much it, it not only is involved with the relationships andbuilding, but it's such an experiential industry that.
It, it's kind oflike art in a dif in a way where it's, it's not super binary. There can be alot of different variables, experiences, but you explain to the audience whathas been interesting and so different from going in more of e-commerce andmarketplaces and, tourism shifting into something that's so experiential and,and what are some of the challenges that you didn't expect?
Nicolas:Yeah, it's an experiential for sure. Without jumping to the beginning ofeverything you, you need to put a little bit everything into perspective,right? So wine exists since almost humanity exists. So it's very tied to our,our stories as humans. And it became a sort of art, as you could say, art withwith with nature and humans, obviously, com combined.
Globally since, acouple of hundred years or something like that. So, fine wine in thatperspective is only considered as 1% of the market really. So most of thepeople will consider wine as, booze or whatever that, that's your regular dailywine. When you, once you go into wines, which usually cost, I don't like to putit in pricing, so clearly all the time, but above a hundred dollars pricepoint.
The reason whycertain people are paying for that is not mainly marketing. Yeah. It's becausethere is a scarcity of the product, which is linked to human knowledge andartistry applied to. Nature and what nature can give. And that's a verycomplicated process which is not a perfect process, even though at a certainpoint you can consider this perfect wine.
So what'sinteresting what happens today in our world is that those new technologies comein and Web three in particular, blockchain technology enables to make the worlda better place in that particular field because. Winemakers as artists is avery fragmented market. They put a lot of energy exactly like, it's very, verysimilar to other artworks and they don't really get most of the value of theircreation.
And that is alsosomething which is very unique to wine, is it's the only product we create.Rebuttal, which still lives. Sometimes up to 50 years. Yeah. And in most of thecases, when it's very fine, wine becomes even better and therefore the valueincreases as the scarcity actually goes down. Yeah. And this phenomenon hasincreased a lot in the past 20 years because the world demand for very.
Exceptional wineshas increased steadily. Yeah. It doesn't really, it wasn't affected by any sortof crisis. It's always like increasing because of new markets, because of Asiaparticularly, and because also customer knowledge and consumers want actuallyto drink less, but much better wines and the production doesn't grow.
And that is linkedto the scarcity of nature and also to the very difficult artistry humans haveto put in place. And therefore you have a gap which makes the prices becomenuts and. And the, and, and the, basically the, the value of the bowelsincreasing while a lot of middlemen, a lot of the trade in the world Yeah.
Is getting the biggestshare of it. Yeah. So what we are doing, we are building a direct to consumer.Way for the wineries to sell to the best wineries in the world. Basically tosell to the direct consumer wherever they are giving the direct consumer accessauthenticity as well, cuz they know the bars are, not consumated and comingstraight from the winemaker.
Mm-hmm. And at thesame time, building a marketplace which enables those wines to be tradedexchanged among consumers. Think of eBay for fine wines, if you will. Yes.Through the digital contract. So without the wines moving, which guarantees theperfect storage and which guarantees as well the perfect authenticity.
And in thatprocess, the wineries, if there is a profit, and usually there is when you growin time the, the, the wineries will collect royalty, which is. Predefinedpercentage of the profit. And so this is where NFTs, I know the world is. Rightnow people don't like to hear about NFTs, but basically what corresponds to.
That digital smartcontract, which defines the rules about ownership and how you trade thatownership. And Web three in general as a concept where you redistribute part ofthe value to the creators, in that case, the wineries, and also to theconsumers, which have then a bad ordeal because they're trading directly.
Makes a ton ofsense. So this is what we are building right now at Winechain. And I mean,it's. It's pretty, it's a big challenge because it's very international,because there's a lot of different wines, because wines are complicated andconsumers are everywhere, and you need also to. Provide in case the customerwants to get shipping route where, there's all sorts of rules in every countrywith shipping alcohol regulations.
I mean, if, if Idive into all the different topics, you can imagine that type of Yeah. Project.Really hard to build. So yeah, it's, it's, it's a very exciting moment becausewe're building something, which I think the wine world and the consumers alwayswanted, but yeah, was never there and was impossible to be built before.
Julian:It's what's fascinating too, and, and I would love to hear you take indescribing, wine as an asset class and it's not, it hasn't not been that beforepeople would, purchase like fine, like fine art, fine wine to be able to tradeand exchange with other people or other, other, connoisseurs if you will.
But for that kindof marketplace, what was the incumbent before? Were there? Other technologies,other applications that we're trying to make this distribution channel andconnection between people who had, a fine wine but maybe wanted to trade orsell what was being used before. Something like what you're doing today and howwas it authenticated too.
Nicolas:It's a, it's a world where we are today. It's a world of professionals, soprofessionals. Define somehow in their own trades throughout the world what theprices of the wines are. I mean, they're trying to assess demand and, try tomake the, the better deal on it's logic. I mean, it's, it's, it's a, it's amerchant world.
There is no such aplatform which defines actually the consumer price. And this is what we aregoing to build here. So how it was, it's, it's a pretty recent asset class. Youcan consider it in the realm of collectibles in way as mm-hmm. General, othercollectibles. It's by the way, on a tax point of view, in most cases, mostcountries considered as a collectible.
In main countriessuch as the US or main, main European countries, sometimes there's some taxexemption. Of course, like in France, for instance. Mm-hmm. If you, if you haveto, to own wine for a long time and then you resell it at a higher price lateron, but. So some people have considered this as speculation and because theyfigured, wow, the prices are going up like crazy.
Like if you look atthe burgundy prices of today a lot of the bottles, which are $300 today, therewere $50 just 10 years ago. And I'm, I'm not, I mean, this is not an exceptionI'm talking about. This is about a lot of them, right? Yeah. So, so a lot ofpeople have, unfortunately I consider there are three types of people who arebuying fine wines, right?
There are consumerswho are really going there because they love their product. They are like,they're in love with the wine, with the taste, and, they, they consider it'sworth the price and they're ready to pay a lot of money to get a great bottle.And it's part, you, sometimes you need some taste education for it, but or youhave to maybe a little bit more taste than others, but it's, it's worth it forthem.
Then you have. Thecollectors. The collectors are sometimes consumers, sometimes investors, butthey're not sure if they just enjoy having a collection like everything else asart and, At least there's a collection you can drink with your friends. Worst casescenario if you don't sell it, which is pretty nice they're not even sure ifthey're gonna drink the balls or maybe part of the balls.
Sometimes they buytoo many anyway. They know they're gonna need to upload some of the balls lateron, but it doesn't matter because most of them increase in price, et cetera.And then there's the investor speculator. It doesn't really care about wine andjust does buy balls because it is an asset. To go back to your question andEverybody does what they want.
It's a free world.We are capital if you have money and you want to buy this or that. So I don'thave to tell people what they should do, but I would, what I can tell you isthat those investors or speculators are hated by the wineries themselvesbecause the winemakers as artists create products so that people enjoy them anddrink them and they don't like create products.
So other peoplemake money with them and even worse. Then the balls go into some cell, like aswith some art collections as well, they stay in the dark and nobody sees theart. How stupid is that? Well, with wine it's the same. So you have like very,you have like investors, you, the winemakers don't even know where the creationis gone.
Right? It's like,and in, in, in certain cases, The wines stay there for decades and decades andthen might actually even pass the peak where it should have been chewed. Sothat's even worse. It's like the speculators have made money on it. They haveresold it to someone who then eventually drinks it, but not at the right momentand might have not been stored in bad conditions, whatever else.
I mean, imagineWine, which is 40 years old, has, has had its own journey. So. So it's a bitsad, but it is how it is. So we, we, as a platform, I think it's, it's part ofour mission to guarantee sort of transparency. This is why blockchain comes inagain. Yeah. Because blockchain can see who does what and you can thereforeprivilege.
The guys are doingthe right thing. So if you are, if the wineries say, okay, I would like toprivilege consumers, then they could do so in their royalty system or whatever.If you show you that you're a consumer, and I think that's right, we are anenabler for, to make basically a better world between.
The, the consumerand the winemaker. Yeah. And again, we nothing against collectors or people whowill buy a lot of wine, of course.
Julian:But I think would also, yeah, it, it also changes, thinking about the productand the process. First of all, just, just to summarize for the audience, it'sexciting to think that.
The, the, thecompanies who are making these wines who are, extremely touted, coveted forthe, the, the beauty, their artistry they have an ability to authenticate andkind of mint it into an NFT smart contract so that it can kind of track itsvalidity, authenticity, and its journey.
It exchanges, it's,how, how long it's been traded. So there's a lot more transparency in that. Andmy question is, What does that mean for just like wine markets overall, or willyou see a, a change in prices of wines that say were, significantly, higherthan others, but maybe there's more demand for, wines that, were, were I guessundervalued at the time.
Do you see a lot ofmarkets now that you've kind of created this ecosystem changing or equalizingto be more. I guess predictable and regulated almost like, stocks or otherNFTs, collectibles and tradables. Have you thought about that?
Nicolas:It's too early because the volumes we just started. So the volumes are notthere.
Like we, you haveto represent, I think, at least five or 10% from Yeah, a certain type of wineto, to, to start to create a dent in the market. Pricing in general, I wouldsay. But this is, here's what we expect. We expect, we bring liquidity to themarket here. So liquidity means that more people will have access, right?
Yeah. We just wantthis to be the right people. And the wineries, can, will have tools they havenot before. Think of right now, winery, if they, if it's a superstar winery andthey produce only like 5,000 bottles of that type of wine, they have, u usuallylike a hundred.
Different traders.Each of them has a few cases, and that's it. And then, the, the wine goes into,so the pricing about the wine at any given moment is very almost illogical becauseit is linked to the country where you are, how many taxes, how, how far has ithas been shipped, how many has wine actually is.
And it's made of alot of speculation as well, as I said before. So it really. What we expect isthat certain wines will increase in prices thanks to the accessibility, thanksto the fact that in certain countries, people in love with that wine kind ofcan finally purchase it. And also because through our system we guaranteeauthenticity.
So in certain Asiancountries where there's so many counterfeits where, there's sometimes 30%, 50%price difference, For the same bottle of wine between, if it has, it is clearlyidentified, like with like the super proof whatever coming from the winery, hasnothing, has never been stored anywhere else or whatever.
Or be between,whatever. There's merchant, there is not exactly the right tracking, whatever.So when you, when you apply this to a case of. Let's say six balls, which everyball is, was $1,500, right? And you, you apply a 3000 for 30, 40% pricedifference, you end up with 3000 price point difference. So yes, it will play arole.
I think in othercases it might go put the prices down actually, right? Why? Because certainprices are opened up by some sort of marketing, some sort of. Yeah, lots oflittle man trying to push the prices up and a little bit too artificially or alittle bit too, I don't know. Optimistically if you want.
Yeah. And so, andthe reality of the market is gonna kick in. I mean, if, if, if, if consumersare at a certain point, if you have a hundred consumers over a month, which areready to pay for that, well $220, but they're not ready to pay two 50, then thenew price is two 20. Right? Yeah. So that's gonna, that's going to happen aswell.
Julian:It's, it seems, it's interesting because it seems like a lot of this equalizesin terms, you talked about this journey from the winery standpoint where, they,they, they don't make wine for investors, but o o maybe there's this weirdrelationship where it's a love and hate, maybe there's an opposition, butthey're both kind of incentivized to promote the wine.
I feel like a lotof that gets equalized as bit by this idea idea. You, you mentioned where,where the wine. Or the wineries get royalties and discuss how that process hasreally changed. I haven't heard about a wine actually maintaining kind of anownership of their supply. Almost like a stock until say it's transacted.
Is this a completenew concept? Has this been around before? I feel like this, I've never heard ofa winery minting something and then actually gaining royalties, like a song orsomething that, that, gets transacted over the years.
Nicolas:Nft Smart Contract Blockchain is not something totally new. It started 10 yearsago and now it became a little bit more, more broadly, not yet accepted in thepast two years, but it's very new for wineries, trust me.
So, yeah, it'slike, it's not something the way they sold the wines. Before, if they couldhave collected royalties in a sort of system, they would've done it probab.Probably It is absolutely not. How the wine market works. How the trade ingeneral works at all. So some of the wineries have actually counter I mean,they have done something about the fact that.
They get nothing ofthe growing value in time is they had some of the wineries at the means becauseit costs a lot of money to keep the wines, to keep certain vintages for muchlonger time, and then to release them only when they're really at the peak andwhen they're, meant to be drunk. So there's some very famous.
Top shadows inFrance who've started to do that. And even in the us like for instance, chat LAis one of the very, very top, first grows of bdo and they're owned by, Frenchbillionaires. So they have the means to keep the wines. And they've startedthis process a long time ago, like showing the best to others.
And, and of course,I mean, they could do it and they're not stupid. They know their wines aregonna be much more. The price increases is way above s and p 500, by the way.So of course if you're a winery, why, why wouldn't you do that and release atthe right moment? So this is not royalties per se, but it's a way to, kind ofget a bigger piece of, of the growing value.
The royalties, aswe put them in, as we introduce them through the NFTs, through the smartcontract, is an automation of that smart contract when you exchange it on theplatform where the rules are very clear. For instance, winery takes 15% of theprofit. So if, if you make a thousand dollars profit on that case because yousaid it three years later, then they get $150 in their wallet automatically.
So very clear verytransparent process in the smart contract as, as well as for, for the wineriesin the consumer. So it's new. I cannot tell you yet how it's going to changethe paring, but out of that, otherwise, I mean, when you build. Companies likethat mean you could, you could claim, you build them to, to make money.
But the reality is,founders like me, we build company because we believe into a change, into avision, which just makes, a lot of, either enough fun, but at least makes sensefor a lot of people. We believe that our bad globally is that there's going tobe a major shift in the next five years with a system like that because it's ina very big interest of the wineries and the, and the consumers.
Of course some ofmiddle men are, are not going to be happy with that, but I think they willstill survive very well and still make a lot of beer like they do. And I mean,we're not gonna take all the market, right? So it's just a piece of the marketwhich needs to be redressed like that. I think it's just perfectly normal.
That's a winery hasa, has their direct customers. In many cases, European top wineries don't evenhave direct customers.
Julian:Right. So, yeah. Yeah. It's so, it's, it's, well, first of all, the middle menare, are always gonna exist in any marketplace. I think we, we both know that,very, very intimately, but, It's exciting to see about how much it changes theparadigm in, in regards to the winery and, and their relationship to theirconsumers and, and the relationship that they have with knowing how their brandgrows or acknowledge, is acknowledged over time or maybe even what sections ofpeople are transacting.
I, I'm, I'mthinking if I'm a winery, I want to know so many little bits about my consumersto better create a product or. Vintages or what have you, and have, have someof your clients already started thinking about ways that they can use thisnewfound kind of ownership of their products to better grow their brand and,and what are some things that they've come, come up with that, that havesurprised you?
Nicolas:Yeah, absolutely. I mean, to your point, the branding of a winery is, is ofthat type of winery is. Is something, which is of course one of their things tosolve because they have become luxury brands, basically. Right? And as opposedto most of the luxury brands which have a strategy about, what, they're ownedby bigger groups anyway, in most cases.
This is veryFrench. I mean, I'm, I'm French, and 60% of luxury goods are made by French bigcompanies. And 60% of the. World's finest wines are French as well. So youcould say it's a coincidence. Maybe, maybe not, maybe it's not a culturalcoincidence. But it's very different for wine because it's a lot of smallerfamilies fragmentation or wherever they are in the world, whether they'recoming from Italy or even from the us.
Managing thatbrand, the value of that brand and how the consumer interacts with that brandinvolves in that process. To start to learn your consumer, to be in directcontact with the consumer. And that's the biggest difference with like, majorluxury brands such as Chanel or MS or whatever is that for wine.
In most cases, thewineries don't know their and consumers. And so that creates of course, a, akind of frustration for them. And this is where we come in as well. It's one ofthe biggest thing we, we are trying to solve for them.
Julian:Yeah. And, and obviously I know the product you recently launched a year ago.
What's beenexciting about, the traction you've seen thus far and what's particularlyexciting about the next milestone that you're looking to achieve?
Nicolas:So we, we launched just a, a couple of months ago. We, we we created thecompany a year ago. And we developed, we raised 6.5 million. We're backed by alot of the big wineries big houses, powerhouse, as well as some VCs.
And so we developedthe product in the meantime, which is. Very complex. As for alcohol compliance,crypto compliance. Imagine when you, when you have those type of things, thingstake more time. So we, we, we are taking the time to do the same, do the rightthing because, everybody's expecting us to, to build a very high qualityproduct.
But if you go on toWinechain.co co today, you will see already dozens of wineries of the very topwineries and drops almost two to three drops a week. So it's starting pretty tolook very good. We, we are onboarding probably a total of a hundred winerieswithin the next three months.
And consider theseare a hundred among the 600, 700, like top, top wineries in the world. So,there's no other platform in the world. Where you will have access to that muchinventory of absolutely the rarest balls. I mean, some balls are, kept by thewinemakers are from the eighties or gonna have an exceptional thing with, withI think it's next week with the fun Fela group from Portugal, for instance,where they have.
Barss, which wereaged in water. We have some, some sometimes in the plans. I don't wanna givetoo much confidential information, but Barss from 19th Century will have likeabsolutely exceptional things you don't get anywhere else because it, it makesthe winemakers themselves very exciting to get out their best jewels of theirself.
Right? Yeah.Because, okay, now this is direct, this is an audience for the world. And so,yeah, I think Winechain is, is, is already successful as a gathering. All thatwe're building our community. And yeah, I mean it's, it's a, it's a very, very,very exciting moment for us.
Julian:Yeah, it's exciting to hear that, the winery or the winemakers, they're excitedto broadcast, what they've created, but not having to relinquish, say theownership or anything.
It's, it's reallyusing this digital medium to be able to. Create that experience even before they'vetransacted. And, and it's exciting to see what kind of community that starts tobuild in thinking about waves that connects, cuz everybody enjoys wine in, inso many different waves, in so many different countries.
And tastes are, aredifferent with an individual. So there's shared tastes, which is exciting. Asyou see it today, what do you think are, are some of the, whether it'sexternal, internal, some of the biggest risks that the company facestoday?
Nicolas:Well, the, the risks are, are, like for any startup, I would say any startup Ibuilt so far is.
You know that, thatyou have an equation that you're consistent basically between what you'rebuilding and between what the market wants, right? So it's about, it's oftiming. I mean, you have many names for that in all the whatever businessmetrics,
Julian:market to market,
Nicolas:market time to market, this and that.
So in our case whatis interesting to watch and what of course is, is I mean, built a lot ofcompanies. So you're talking about, where are the risks, etc. There's alwaystechnology, risk, regulation, risks, logistics, whatever. I think these arekind of, we've worked on, on them very, very hard since the beginning.
So I think theseare kind of contained. The, the, the biggest risk here is the adaptation curveof the wine people and the web street people. So that may be a little bitclearer. The wine people, the wine are older. Right. So they are ready tousually like pay, pay, great, great money for wine cuz they understand it,they, they love it, et cetera.
But, Buying throughNFTs, blockchain technology, wallets, cryptocurrencies, and this and that. It'scompletely new to them. So how fast is it going to take? It's the same thingwhen we started with the internet 25 years ago. So the older generation wouldsay, oh, no, no, it's too risky to put my credit card, so I'm not gonna buy onthe internet.
I mean, I, my, my,my credit card information's gonna get stolen and whatever. Well, Guess what?Five years later they were doing it as well because they understood that Iactually had less risks to put their credit card online than at the shop,right? So it's exactly the same, I think, which will happen to the wine peoplewith cryptocurrency and blockchain, et cetera.
The adaptationcurve is going to take a while. So if you ask me what I'm watching is how fast.Are we building systems, web three systems, APIs, et cetera, which make make itcustomer friendly so that you get mass adoption from people using just normalweb applications, and which are then certainly not afraid or not frustratedanymore to use web three applications.
On the other hand,what I'm also watching is how far or fast We can onboard all the new generationof millennials and even Generation Z after that. Which are crypto friendly,which are not afraid at all about NFTs and this and that. I mean, it is likeperfectly normal for them. But we don't know anything about wine.
So, and they'redefinitely the next generation of consumer and you need some money, but youalso, it's, it's not, you don't necessarily that much money. I mean, some ofour NFTs are gonna be like $250 for, six bottles. We, we make some, some, someof the wines accessible and you collect for the future, in 10 years you.
Might be very happyto have them to own them, even if you resell them, because then it's verylikely you're gonna make a profit with them. Maybe not, but you know, this isnot financial advice, by the way. We're not selling any type of financialasset. We're selling wine here. So anyway, so for the younger consumer, thereis an interest to go in that way because it makes things easier.
And, to learn to bein direct contact, to own something, it's also more fun because you have a realdigital Vision of a real physical assets, you're not speculating into somePonzi scheme or whatever you call it. Yeah, purely created digital stuff whereyou might just, get rich if you're very lucky, but you're very likely as wellto lose a lot of money.
No, you're, you'rebuying physical asset Well, you might not, do times 20 but you know, you mighteven make money at least bought it for much cheaper before. And again, worstcase scenario, you'll drink it with your friends. So, did you go 3D interested?Yeah. I think it's good for culture as well, for for people understanding.
Some things. Idon't expect every, young guy to be passionate about wine, but it's, it's avery, very interesting world. Yeah. It's kind of infinite. There's like so manythings to, to, to learn. You will never know everything. So if you'reinterested by mastering anything, you do, whatever, then you should not go intowine because you were never going to, even the best so many years in the world,they know.
Some of it, but youcan't know all of it. It's, it's so vast, right. So, right. It's interestingbecause of that, it's like art, like art, is infinite as well, so it, it's thisvery similarities with it.
Julian:Yeah. Yeah. It's funny, I, I told my brother, he's younger than me and, and hewas entering, or he, he's in the midst of college.
I was like, twothings you gotta learn that I've learned, growing, growing older, and gettingexperiences. You gotta be able to talk to people and you have to be able todrink wine. Because it can be shared across many experiences, many differentcultures, and it's, and it's, it's a good way to commune with people, but it's,it's, it's so ingrained, like you said, in in a lot of what we do justhistorically as people.
So it's, it's funnyI love your passion for it because I was expressing that to him and howimportant it is and just Advancing yourself and, and connecting with people. Ialways like this next section. I call it my founder faq. So Nicholas, I'm gonnahit you with some rapid fire questions and then we'll see what we get.
So, first questionI always like to open it up with is, what's particularly hard about your jobday-to-day?
Nicolas:Is going from one extreme to the next. Yeah. And trying to, to, to put thoseextremes together. So try to explain blockchain to pure artist winemakers,which are on their fields. Yeah. And try to explain fine wine to a pure geek,which is behind the screen. It, it's, it's that's probably.
The hardest job.The rest, I mean, there's a lot of hard, hard parts on, on running a company,but, but I've done it many times, so there's nothing more harder in this onethan others.
Julian:Yeah. Thinking about your experience as an entrepreneur, one thing I'verecently learned I'm launching a new product.
I've done a lot ofcustomer interviews, is that. My initial hypothesis and solution has, haschanged, but morphed from my, my original idea into something I think you knowbetter. And how much, how important is it to go through that discovery withyour initial customers and start building this small cohort to define yourproduct?
And, and, and howimportant is that foundational piece to the ability for your product toactually scale and, gain, gain traction? Is it important? Do you spend a lot oftime on that initial kind of research and discovery to define your product? Ordo you just have a really good feeling and and go after it?
Nicolas:No, I think this is like what you just mentioned, is not only the essentialpiece of the. Early days of a startup. Probably the first year, two firstyears, three first years, no. Depends how fast you are successful you get tothat product market fit. I think if it's not your obsession as a founder toreinvent.
And I mean comalways like adapt your product and listen to what your first users, consumers,whatever do particularly for marketplace where you have always like, supply onone side or and demand on the other side. So how, you solve that chicken andegg basically, what, what, what does every part want?
So in, in, in everystartup you have a basic ID before you start, a problem solution of what thatthat should be. It's very, very rare that the exact problems you were thinkingof and the why are these problems and the solution you want to bring in themarket is exactly the right one. Exactly.
At the righttiming. Yeah. It happens. These are the companies who certainly pop out of theblue in two years and like a billion dollar companies, but they're the happyfuse everybody's talking about. Yeah. Which in most cases doesn't happen. Soyou can still be very successful by just. Doing and iterating and doing thatjob of permanently reassessing until you reach a point where maybe you shouldsay, Hey, this is working here, and let, let's now insist on this.
Mm-hmm. And this isa little bit where we are now in our company. We've done like, 15 months ofhard work research and iterating. And we still have changing a lot of the, the,the stuff around the engine because, There's things we didn't know when westarted, we learned on the way and we are adapting them.
And this is exactlywhat you should do. Yeah. What you should do is build your company, your teamas much as possible so that these iterations, these changes, you need to youneed to be in learning mode, and at the same time, you need to be able tochange and to adapt very quickly. Your product and marketing and everythingelse.
If you are flexibleand you're capable of of acting very swiftly, you are already half successful,I think.
Julian:Yeah, yeah, yeah. Extremely well said. And thinking about, your, your journeyas a founder, what's something that you're good at now that you wish you werebetter at earlier on in your career?
Nicolas:Patience. I dunno. Become from an absolutely inpatient guy who was couldn'tlike bear any, like, waiting of anything to someone who is still impatient.Yeah. At least I can bear a little bit. No I, I mean there's so many stuffabout founder of the years you. You, you, you know better or you make better.
I, I think, I mean,if I, if I had to, to tell you something like more a little bit more global is,is people, right? Is people you can be good from the beginning with peopleunderstanding how they work well and, and, respecting them and, and moving, theright people around the right place and hiring the right people.
It, I think themajor skill for a founder is, is around getting the right people and, andhaving them work together. Right. Yeah. And that is of course, if you'recapable of having the money to have the people, which is another skill, whichis selling your ID to investors, you could start with that. And then once youhave that, you have the people.
But yeah, in anycase, you need those two. And I think I was pretty bad at the, my early days asan entrepreneur in understanding. Human resources in general. You know what,it's not about relationships. I always had nice relationships with people and Ialways respect people. That's not, it's not, the issue is having.
Understanding it'snot because somebody is nice or you have a good relationship, he's gonna be theright guy or he's the right girl for that, that position. So it's really aboutputting things together, having the right people at the right place, hiring theright, that's something I have improved over time.
I'm pretty proudof. So I think it's a required skill for managing a startup and I mean, makingit successful.
Julian:Well said, well said. I always like to ask this next question cause I love howfounders extract knowledge out of anything that they ingest, whether it's earlyin your career or now, what books or people have influenced or impacted you themost?
Nicolas:Well, there's so many. Like it's a loaded, loaded question for you. Yeah, yeah.No, no. I mean, I've lived five years in Silicon Valley, San Francisco. And soobviously when you are there, there is so many smart people over there. Andwhen you meet them or even you meet them through people you breathe that ecosystemyou learn so much, you follow so many smart brains.
And also, I mean, Ithink. Silicon Valley is, is a learning ecosystem. It's one of the things whichis a little bit misunderstood from the rest of the world. So, yeah, and thereare so many, which taught me things. I, I, I don't, I don't think of someonereally, very, very special as mentored me in those years.
It's more like,like many dozens of people which have. Taught me different little things, whichI've put together. So, and which I'm reading regularly of course. So they canbe leading dcs, they can be, I'm very picky because I've, 30 years inentrepreneurship, so I'm not like an easy sell.
It's not becauseyou say something which sounds smart, that I'm going to say, oh wow, bravo,I'm, I'm more like, questioning usually what you're saying. Yeah. But you haveto give it to, I mean, the best people today in tech and, and, and some of themare investors as well. Absolutely brilliant. And I love learning from them.
I learned on theway, one piece after the next is why I'm more like a generalist. I, I'm veryspecialized in wine and I have some specialization in eCommerce, things likethat. But I know a little bit of everything and this is probably my strengths.
Julian:Yeah. I know we're coming to the end of the show, Nicholas, and I want to giveyou a chance to give us, your, your plugs and where we can find you.
But before we dothat I'd like to make sure we didn't leave anything on the table. So is thereany question I didn't ask you that I should have?
Nicolas:No. I can't think of any question now. This gonna be a long list.
Julian:Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, Nicholas, it's been such a pleasure having you on theshow and, and really not only learning from your entrepreneurial experience,but also, really unpacking where wine was and the industry where it's moving toand, and what Winechain has and its responsibility to move it in thatdirection.
And it's excitingfrom, a consumer standpoint to think about the accessibility to, experiencesthat we, we have not been. Be, whether it's because of gated information or notlimited access. Excited to see what wide chain's working on. So last littlebit, where can we find and, and, and support you as a founder?
Where can we be afan? Give us your LinkedIns, your Twitters. Where can we reach out and be apart of your journey?
Nicolas:We're very easy on Twitter @mendi, m e n d i. And of course Winechain isWinechain.co. Very easy to find me there. And my LinkedIn is probably with my lastname, which is a bit long.
As you will have inthe notes of the podcast. Feel free to reach out to me if you have anyquestions or just something to suggest. I'm always replying to anyinquiry.
Julian:Amazing. Nicholas been such a pleasure having you on the show. I hope youenjoyed yourself and thank you again for being on Behind company Linestoday.
Nicolas:Thank you, Julian. Thank you so much.