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Episode 385: Startup Sequence – Jeff Shaw, Underground Cellar – Disrupting E-Commerce Wine Gross sales By means of Gamification – Meb Faber Analysis

Episode 385: Startup Sequence – Jeff Shaw, Underground Cellar – Disrupting E-Commerce Wine Gross sales By means of Gamification


Visitor: Jeffrey Shaw is a profitable entrepreneur and digital commerce professional with over 15 years expertise main direct-to-consumer corporations. Because the Founder & CEO of Underground Cellar, Shaw brings his deep expertise modernizing in any other case archaic industries by way of technology-first innovation.

Date Recorded: 1/5/2022     |     Run-Time: 53:11

Abstract: In right now’s episode, we’re speaking to one of the vital passionate, gritty, and decided entrepreneurs round. Jeff begins by explaining the place he received the concept to gamify the wine shopping for course of. He shares how the corporate works – the method of shopping for the wine, the improve algorithm, and the logistics of storing the wine.

Then we hear how Mark Cuban turned him down a number of occasions, and leveraged that to get an funding from Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran. We speak in regards to the expertise of going by way of Y Combinator, elevating cash from Jason Calacanis, and what lies forward for this quick rising startup.

As a particular provide for listeners of the present, go to and use the code MEB to get $100 off your first order of $150 or extra.

Feedback or ideas? E-mail us or name us to depart a voicemail at 323 834 9159

Involved in sponsoring an episode? E-mail Colby at

Hyperlinks from the Episode:

  • 0:40 – Sponsor: The Thought Farm
  • 1:10 – Intro
  • 2:10 – Welcome to our visitor, Jeff Shaw
  • 3:46 – An outline of Underground Cellar
  • 11:53 – Launching out of Y Combinator
  • 18:42 – The expertise of convincing wineries to get on board within the early days
  • 24:15 – Getting an funding from a Shark Tank host and Jason Calacanis
  • 27:07 – Classes realized from rising pains alongside their journey
  • 31:27 – The evolution of the wine choice algorithm
  • 41:52 – What it was like navigating COVID
  • 43:45 – Jeff’s objectives for 2022 and past
  • 47:00 – Whether or not or not Jeff plans to develop past wine
  • 49:09 – Study extra about Jeff;;


Transcript of Episode 385:

Welcome Message: Welcome to the “Meb Faber Present” the place the main target is on serving to you develop and protect your wealth. Be a part of us as we focus on the craft of investing and uncover new and worthwhile concepts, all that will help you develop wealthier and wiser. Higher investing begins right here.

Disclaimer: Meb Faber is the co-founder and chief funding officer at Cambria Funding Administration. On account of {industry} rules, he is not going to focus on any of Cambria’s funds on this podcast. All opinions expressed by podcast contributors are solely their very own opinions and don’t mirror the opinion of Cambria Funding Administration or its associates. For extra data, go to

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Meb: Welcome, all people. At the moment, we’re speaking with one in every of my favourite startups. Our visitor is the founding father of Underground Cellar, a brand new technique to uncover, purchase, and retailer restricted version wines. In right now’s episode, we’re speaking to one of the vital passionate, gritty, and decided entrepreneurs round. Our visitor begins by explaining the place he received the concept to gamify the wine-buying course of. He shares how the corporate works, the method of shopping for the wine, the improve algorithm, and the logistics of storing the wine. Then we hear how Mark Cuban turned him down a number of occasions after which he leveraged that to get an funding from “Shark Tank’s” Barbara Corcoran. We speak in regards to the expertise of going by way of Y Combinator, elevating cash from podcast alum, Jason Calacanis, and what lies forward for this fast-growing startup. As a particular provide for listeners of the present, go to and use the code MEB to get $100 off your first order of $150 or extra. Once more, that’s MEB for $100 off your first order of $150 or extra. Please get pleasure from this episode with Underground Cellar’s Jeff Shaw.

Meb: Jeff, welcome the present.

Jeff: Hey, Meb. Thanks for having me. Nice to be right here.

Meb: The place do we discover you right now?

Jeff: I’m cooped up right here at our San Francisco headquarters in downtown San Francisco. A lot of the opposite group right now is up at our Napa operational headquarters in sunny and delightful Napa Valley.

Meb: I’m in L.A., Manhattan Seaside, the land of milk and honey. The place are you situated in San Fran?

Jeff: Downtown. So like monetary district.

Meb: You and I had been rapping about this, I believe the final time, and possibly solely time we frolicked in individual was at former podcast alum Jason Calacanis’ angel occasions. And I’ve a definite reminiscence. You’ll be able to appropriate me if that is fallacious or not, however enjoying poker with you. And I keep in mind you profitable. Is that an correct illustration? I keep in mind you simply sort of having that luck of the draw and simply cranking, or did you give all of it again?

Jeff: That’s proper, Meb. Yeah. The primary time we met was at angel convention or one thing, one of many occasions he places on. And yeah, we had quite a lot of late-night poker happening. I keep in mind I used to be the one founder that was sitting with traders on the massive 5-10 recreation.

Meb: The large desk. That they had an intro desk, a low six desk, and the opposite desk. I gained $800 the primary night time, went to mattress fats and completely happy, got here again and promptly misplaced it all of the second night time. So I ended up giving again all my income, sadly sufficient, however we received to rap a bit of bit on the desk. As you realize, I’m an early investor in your organization, and it’s been one of many extra distinctive concepts I’ve heard through the years to a class that has had loads of saturation on quite a lot of the identical. So why don’t you inform us what Underground Cellar is after which we’ll stroll by way of the origin story and listen to all about this matter of vino.

Jeff: Cool. Good. I really like speaking about wine and enterprise. So I’m the founder and CEO of Underground Cellar and we’re doing one thing actually cool on the planet of wine. What I spotted, when folks purchase issues, specifically wine, they don’t really need the bottom worth or the largest {discount}. What they really need, Meb, is they need the best worth. And proper now we dwell in a world the place corporations are offering that worth on this chase to the underside with who can have the bottom worth for the largest {discount}. And reductions are horrible for manufacturers. When a luxurious vendor floods one thing to market at a deep {discount}, say $100 bottle of Caymus, if that wine reveals up on the web or in-store cabinets and it says, “$100 bottle of Caymus, right now solely $40,” it could actually take years for Caymus to regain their worth factors. Everybody who paid full worth beforehand is irritated, and to not point out what it does to the distributor relationships and clients surprise what’s fallacious with it. And so once I was developing with the concept for Underground Cellar, the entire premise was simply studying which you could present worth to somebody in a method with out utilizing reductions, with out harming the manufacturers which can be attempting to promote their product.

Meb: The place’d you provide you with that perception? Had been you, like, sitting on an airplane and like some dude subsequent to you was like, “Oh, I simply purchased this ticket for 50 bucks,” and also you had been like, “What the F? I paid $500 for this ticket?” Like, “How’d you get that?” Or was it like a Harvard case examine? Like, how’d you provide you with this perception and say, “You understand what, I believe this would possibly apply to wine?”

Jeff: Consider it or not, I got here up with the concept for Underground Cellar once I was 8 years previous. It didn’t take me that lengthy to construct it, after all, however let me inform you this story. And it’s one in every of my earliest childhood reminiscences that’s actually caught with me. I used to be actually into amassing basketball playing cards. Meb, did you ever acquire basketball, or baseball, or like Pokémon playing cards, otherwise you children, or anybody?

Meb: I do. You understand, I used to be a giant card collector. I used to be a baby of the ’80s, so I’m 44, and I had a brother who’s 7 years older. And so he was the full-on bubble market in baseball playing cards. We additionally did comics. I imply, it was every part at that time. There’s a cheerful ending to this story, which is related that I’ll inform you on the finish associated to basketball, however I don’t wish to interrupt you. I’ll allow you to go first.

Jeff: I had this actually memorable expertise once I was 8 years previous. I received a Charles Barkley holographic rookie card. And as an 8-year-old little Jeffrey, I used to be ecstatic. I went over to…That they had this e-book known as “Beckett” and you may, like, search for the worth of the playing cards, and the cardboard was price $100. And as a bit of 8-year-old, I used to be like planning my retirement. I assumed I had made it massive, and it was that have that actually caught with me, the expertise of getting upgraded, the shock and delight. It was a way more memorable and thrilling expertise than had I gotten a 20% {discount} after we purchased the pack of playing cards. And so it was that have, Meb, that stayed with me and that actually finally led to Underground Cellar. To reply your query like what’s Underground Cellar? So we now have created essentially the most thrilling technique to uncover and purchase wine. In all places else on the Web, you wish to purchase a bottle of wine, you seek for the bottle, you purchase it. You’re in all probability going to get a reduction and the bottle reveals up at your door. We don’t do any of that.

As a substitute of promoting particular bottles of wine, we now have a number of the main wine specialists on our group and we curate wines collectively into collections and each assortment has a theme. So, for instance, right now’s theme, it’s Napa Valley Cabernet and for $25 a bottle, you’re getting a $20 bottle of Mondavi Emblem Cabernet. If you happen to went to the vineyard, it’s the identical worth on the vineyard, $20, however as an alternative of incentivizing demand by giving everybody a reduction on the bottle, as an alternative what we do is we improve your purchases. So if you purchase into right now’s assortment, you will have the flexibility, your $20, to get a $5,800 bottle of Screaming Eagle, one of many rarest bottles of wine on the planet. There’s like a seven-year ready listing to get a bottle. And if you happen to can’t discover one like in a secondary market, they actually go for like $5,000 or $6,000 a bottle. And so if you purchase into this deal, you incentivize since you get a greater bottle like that Screaming Eagle or any of the opposite bottles which can be within the assortment.

And so let’s say you purchase six bottles from right now’s deal for $20 apiece, half or extra of the bottles can be swapped out from that $20 Mondovi and as an alternative, 1 out of 5 bottles can be a $40 bottle, 1 out of 10 bottles a $100 bottle, after which a handful of individuals are going to get that actually uncommon Screaming Eagle. And so the profit for a shopper is you possibly can uncover wine backed by figuring out that our wine specialists have curated these collectively. We style by way of over 3000 totally different wines a 12 months to deliver the most effective wines to our clients. And so you purchase in figuring out you’re going to get nice wine that’s been curated by specialists, and also you get this number of bottles of wine that you simply may not in any other case have recognized about or been capable of entry as a result of they may be too costly or, within the case of Screaming Eagle, you simply can’t get the bottles even if you happen to might afford it.

So Underground Cellar, our mission, our purpose is to democratize entry to the most effective wines on the planet, whether or not you’re a wine aficionado, whether or not you’re rich, whether or not you reside close to Napa or not, everybody can uncover these wines and get entry to the most effective wines. After which the opposite actually distinctive factor that units us aside, Meb, is if you purchase bottles on Underground Cellar, we don’t ship them to you. And also you may be pondering, “Effectively, why would I purchase bottles of wine if I can’t have them shipped?” And the reply is as a result of each bottle you purchase on Underground Cellar goes to your very personal private cloud cellar the place we let each buyer retailer as much as 500 bottles of wine totally free in our Napa Valley wine cellar. On our web site, you possibly can see each bottle that you simply purchased at any level, decide and select the bottles from your personal assortment, your personal wine locker, ship them on demand, and anytime you ship a case, we’ll ship them totally free.

So what’s nice about it’s our greatest offers promote out actually shortly. And I don’t learn about you, Meb, however I dwell right here in San Francisco. I don’t have a wine cellar in my house. I’ve a 12-bottle little wine fridge. And so I simply wouldn’t have the room or capacity to essentially construct a wine assortment. And our purpose at Underground Cellar is to show each wine purchaser right into a wine collector. And by permitting folks to retailer their wine in our Napa Valley cellar, we allow that. And so, Meb, query for you. If we had been to take a look at your property, you will have a wine fridge or wine cellar, how a lot room for wine would you will have in your house?

Meb: Effectively, let me offer you some context first. I do have a wine fridge. It in all probability solely holds 12 bottles. For disclosure, I’ve a minimum of one, possibly two instances in my cloud cellar at Underground Cellar already. So I’m rising my assortment there as effectively. By the way in which, listeners, the group at Underground Cellar has been very gracious to supply a $100 {discount} in your first order, which might be the most effective {discount} I’ve ever heard. You bought to make use of code MEB, M-E-B. So attempt it, shoot me suggestions, and I’ll go alongside to Jeff on the method and see if you happen to get the Screaming Eagle. If you happen to do, you need to e mail me so we are able to share it collectively as a result of I’d by no means purchase that by myself. So we’ll see how we did.

Jeff: Whoa, whoa, maintain on a second. We accredited a $100 present card for each listener of the “Meb Faber Present?”

Meb: You probably did on their first order. In order that’s…possibly it by no means received to your desk. It simply went to the advertising. So, listeners, reap the benefits of it whereas it lasts. I don’t understand how lengthy it’ll final, however test it out.

Jeff: All proper. Simply don’t inform Jason Calacanis or our different traders. I don’t understand how effectively they’re going to really feel about that.

Meb: Effectively, look, it’s humorous as a result of there’s some actual psychology right here. And once more, going again to the airline instance, flying on the whole, as everyone knows, has gone from a romantic, superb expertise to sort of the world’s worst expertise, however the pleasure of getting upgraded throughout the previous six months, I had somebody come seize me out of coach and improve me to first-class as a result of some standing on some airline, which I haven’t had in perpetually. However the pleasure of that feeling is so main, once more, in comparison with like had I simply purchased the ticket for much less, wouldn’t have felt the identical factor.

And this expertise that you simply’ve come across is, A, it’s quite a lot of enjoyable if you happen to’re going to purchase wine, B, there’s some whimsy and uncertainty, it’s like a bit of little bit of feeling the lottery besides that you’re assured to win. And so it’s a enjoyable expertise. What has been the form of suggestions? So that you launched this concept with, I assume, an unsure final result on the way you’re constructing it. What was the response? Was it sort of an instantaneous folks like cherished it? Was it one thing that you simply needed to, like, mess around with how the providing labored? Give us the sort of origin story.

Jeff: We launched Underground Cellar at a Y Combinator in 2015. It positively was not a straightforward highway. I believe any enterprise that’s attempting to alter the world, or change one thing, or do one thing in a novel method, there are quite a lot of earnings and obstacles to beat, and we positively had our fair proportion. I informed you the story of the concept got here once I was 8 years previous, however the place the concept that Underground Cellar really form of launched from, there’s form of an attention-grabbing story that I’ll share with you and the listeners right here. I had began one other firm once I was in school, had a small exit. It wasn’t big, like, quarter-million {dollars}, however, you realize, as a recent, you realize, school grad popping out of faculty, I had a bit of bit of cash and a bit of little bit of time and I used to be watching, you realize, some present on CNBC or one thing. And I don’t know if you happen to heard this statistic or one thing totally different and what they mentioned is that 5 out of six startups fail within the first 12 months. And I simply, like, had this gentle bulb second and I’m like, “Effectively, it’s simply clearly a math downside at this level. I want to start out six startups and one is sure to achieve success.”

And in order that’s actually what I did, Meb.” I got here up with six finest concepts I might provide you with out of my mind and I divided my day. I labored 12-hour days and I used to be, like, actually structured about it. I did two hours per firm and I informed myself, “I’m going to do that for 90 days, for 3 months, and on the finish of these 90 days, whichever firm, whichever enterprise concept was displaying essentially the most promise, I used to be going to kill off the opposite 5 and focus solely on that one. And fortunately, for all of the wine lovers on the market in America, Underground Cellar was that enterprise concept. I keep in mind the early days of attempting to persuade wineries to hitch the platform and, you realize, remember, that is earlier than I had a web site to point out them. I’m some child mainly, like, college-age child residing in Arizona. I didn’t know something on how the wine {industry} labored.

Meb: Had been you a wine fan at that time or simply extra of a ardour, or how’d you sort of come to wine as the selection?

Jeff: I loved wine as a shopper. There was this little wine store close to my home in Arizona and my mates and I, we might go…It was a very nice deal. It was like 10 bucks, you get a free tasting. They like pour just a few wines after which your $10, you get like a credit score on the retailer. So we might go, have a great previous time, get a bit of tipsy and depart with the bottle and proceed the night. And so I simply was fascinated about wine however I didn’t learn about wine almost a lot of an professional as I’m right now. I simply cherished it. And I knew that once I bought my earlier firm, I needed to be in an {industry} doing one thing that was enjoyable, and thrilling, and that I really like. You understand, I had the concept from my childhood of this concept of upgrading worth and Underground Cellar, the idea wasn’t initially for wine, the concept was digitizing in an e-commerce mannequin this expertise of an improve.

You talked about your instance of getting upgraded on an airline flight. There isn’t any one else promoting something on-line, wine or in any other case, in the way in which that we do it with the improve mannequin. However the idea, folks perceive upgrades. You go in your airline flight they usually’re like, “Oh, you realize, Mr. Faber, you’ve been upgraded to first-class right now.” Yeah, you adore it. Or, you realize, you go to Ritz Carlton and also you test in and like, “Oh, Meb, you’ve been upgraded to a set right now.” We’ve taken that very same concept that individuals love and perceive and digitized it for an e-commerce platform. Sure, it’s enjoyable and thrilling.

Our clients are hooked. Our LTV, the quantity they spend, is simply by way of the roof or industry-leading, however the motive we’re doing it is because it solves a very massive for these wineries. Wineries have stock, scrumptious bottles of wine, they usually wish to promote it. They only wish to do it in a accountable, scalable method. They don’t wish to irritate all their current clients. They don’t wish to flood it to market and disrupt their pricing construction. And so Underground Cellar, we’re partnered with tons of of wineries the place we characteristic them on our platform, we get them liquidity on their stock, however we do it in a method that may be a web constructive. It’s a win-win for everybody. The shoppers adore it, the wineries adore it, after which after we have a look at like all the {industry}, the {industry} has actually rallied behind what we’re doing as a result of we are able to actually assist these wineries transfer stock and never simply in a method that protects the model, however we are able to really assist these wineries get a lot extra.

We’ve taken this method the place we don’t see ourselves as a standard wine retailer or e-commerce web site. We see ourselves as a associate to the wineries and a vineyard might in any other case exit and rent a advertising firm to rent a social media agency to get them throughout social media, rent an e mail advertising firm, purchase adverts. After we associate with the vineyard, we’re going to characteristic them, dedicate an e mail blast to our couple 100,000 subscribers on our e mail listing. We’re going to do authentic editorial. We now have award-winning writers from “Wine Fanatic” and whatnot on our group in-house. And so we do authentic content material. We blast out by way of our social media channels. You understand, we now have hundreds of thousands of followers throughout our social channels, and we throw all this in totally free for the wineries.

As a result of after we got down to construct Underground Cellar…as soon as once more, I don’t come from the wine house and the wine house is basically damaged. It’s archaic. It’s largely not tech-savvy, tech-first folks. These are farmers, most of them, they usually’re folks of the earth. So we are able to are available in and say, “We’re going to associate with you. We’re going to get you publicity in a significant method. We’re going to guard your manufacturers.” And what higher advertising than getting bottles of wine to the arms of consumers which can be prepared to pay for it? And so by coming in and reimagining how wine must be bought, the way it must be merchandised, and the way customers ought to have interaction with wine, we’re redefining how customers expertise wine and the way wineries have interaction with customers.

Meb: How exhausting was it, to start with, to persuade a few of these wineries to get on board? Was it extra of a course of that they’re like, “Present me. I’ll get sooner or later that you simply’re really like doing it.” Like, did that take a 12 months, a pair years? Had been there some early adopters? Was it extra the boutiques? Like, what was the expertise of really constructing this out within the early days?

Jeff: Once I began this, I had a really small exit. So I didn’t have the funds for to rent a giant group or, you realize, engineers, or salespeople. So I needed to get actually scrappy with it. This offshore group out of Pakistan, they’re like the other hours. And so I’d work all night time product managing, conceptualizing the product, I’d work all day attempting to get wineries and do different, you realize, biz dev and partnership stuff. However I needed to get actually scrappy. And so like one other story I’ll share is once I didn’t have cash to rent a group, I put out these Craigslist adverts for these commission-only procurement representatives and I received a group of 12 folks boots on the bottom that lived in Napa and I mentioned, “I need you to exit and persuade wineries to associate with us and to place their wine on our platform.”

And each week I’d maintain these calls with these 12 folks. In the event that they received wineries to enroll, they’d get, like, a fee for getting the vineyard signed on the platform. And in a world the place I don’t have cash to rent folks, like that is the most effective I might get, folks that may agree to do that. And so I had this squad of like 12 folks simply going out by way of Napa actually displaying up at wineries with out a web site to point out them or something. And so we received the door slammed on us many occasions, the police had been known as solely as soon as however…escorted off the property. So the early days weren’t simple however I believe it actually simply got here right down to perseverance, being scrappy, and simply determining a method simply to make it occur.

A few these commission-only procurement reps really received a few wineries signed up. We had just a few hundred bottles, like, reserved for our preliminary launch. And I simply put up “Underground Cellar coming quickly. Enter your e mail deal with.” And I had a handful of individuals actually begin out similar to my household and mates. However as quickly as we launched, this MVP the place we had just a few hundred bottles of wine from just a few wineries that we someway satisfied to associate with us, throughout the first 48 hours, all the wine bought out and I’m like, “This might be one thing actual.” And this was form of, I’m like approaching my 90 days on, like, my 6 enterprise idea. And I mentioned, “You understand what? That is it. There’s something right here.”

And so satisfied a few buddies to fly out to San Francisco with me. I knew that if I needed to have a profitable tech startup, I needed to get out right here in San Francisco. I didn’t know anyone, barely had any cash left in my pocket at this level, however rented an residence month to month, satisfied a few mates to come back out. There have been like three of us, all crashed on the ground on this like one-bedroom residence right here in SoMa in San Francisco, and we simply grinded. We simply put within the time, put within the effort, after which actually the inflexion level for us was as soon as once more watching CNBC or, you realize, another present. And Mark Cuban was on TV and he had this phase the place he’s like, “I really like when founders attain out to me and after they e mail me.” And he’s like, “I usually like reply to each single one in every of them.”

My mates and I that I satisfied to come back out, we’re sitting on this like little shitty residence flooring right here in San Francisco and we’re like, “Let’s simply e mail Mark Cuban. Let’s get him to spend money on our firm.” And that is earlier than we had any actual traders or something but. This goes again to 2015, even earlier than Y Combinator. And we simply emailed them and mentioned, “Hey, Mark. We’re Underground Cellar. We’re, like, reimagining wine. Spend money on us. Like, allow us to inform you what we’re doing.” And he responded like actually shortly inside half-hour. He’s like, “Sorry, guys. Not likely my factor. I don’t do alcohol, not a giant drinker.” However, you realize, as soon as once more, perseverance, and so responded and mentioned, “Mark, hop in your PJ,” your non-public jet, “come out right here to San Francisco, meet the group. You gained’t remorse it.” And lo and behold, he responded and mentioned, “Nope, sorry, guys. Not . “4 extra occasions of responding to Mark and him saying, “Guys, don’t e mail me once more.”

We mentioned, “All proper, you realize what? You see Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran and these sharks from “Shark Tank.” And so actually forwarded the e-mail chain to Barbara Corcoran from “Shark Tank” and mentioned, “Barb, Mark handed on our deal. Let’s show him fallacious.” And he or she simply thought it was the funniest factor. I don’t know. I don’t know if it was that humorous or not, however no matter motive, she simply thought it was so intelligent, two-and-a-half months of due diligence later, Barbara agreed to spend money on Underground Cellar. And this was like our first win, proper? Extra of a win than that first vineyard that agreed to offer us just a few instances of wine for the platform. It gave us this credibility to customers, folks knew her from “Shark Tank,” to wineries, and it additionally who confirmed me that individuals are accessible. You’ll be able to e mail Mark Cuban and he’ll write again. You’ll be able to e mail Barbara Corcoran and she or he’ll discover you hilarious. And I believe so many individuals aren’t prepared to simply take that leap, aren’t…you realize, “Oh, they by no means reply. Meb Faber won’t ever reply to me.” However like, if somebody emails you, if somebody emails Barbara Corcoran, likelihood is they’re accessible. They’re simply actual folks.

Meb: And that’s a mistake I believe so many younger folks make about, we name it like not sitting down on the desk, referring to an previous story we had the place a really well-known investor was sitting and nobody was sitting subsequent to him as a result of as everybody was too scared. They didn’t wish to sit subsequent to this well-known individual, like, “Who am I to do that?” And but that have could be so formative and rework your total enterprise in future. So she invests, what was the story?

Jeff: So Barbara Corcoran invested personally. She additionally did this factor known as a syndicate. And so, Meb, I’m certain you’re acquainted, but when the listeners aren’t, mainly what a syndicate is, is you’re taking somebody like Barbara Corcoran or such as you who you will have a following of people that know who you might be, whether or not it’s only a massive group of mates or individuals who comply with you. In Barbara’s case, they watch her on “Shark Tank.” And he or she says, mainly, “Hey, I’m investing on this firm. Any of my mates who wish to make investments with me, you possibly can make investments as effectively.” So she owned it up and anybody might write a $5,000 test or extra and spend money on my firm. She syndicated out, we raised just a few $100,000 to the platform and that’s actually how we received Barbara invested. After which Barbara syndicated it out, received a handful of different, you realize, notable folks to speculate after which she was on this pattern of simply chilly emailing folks, simply reaching out, like placing your finest foot ahead, placing your self on the market.

Coming off the success of getting Barbara, I then emailed Alexis Ohanian, founding father of Reddit. And on the time he additionally had a enterprise fund and I simply mentioned, “Hey, like, Alexis, actually impressed with what you do with Reddit. We’d love so that you can be an advisor or an investor.” He’s like, “It’s not likely a great match for me to speculate personally.” He’s like, “It’s not sort of my deal. However he’s like, “I’m a part-time associate at Y Combinator. I believe you’d be nice for that program.” And so as soon as once more, the connections which can be made simply from reaching out, I’m just a few child from Arizona. I don’t know something about Silicon Valley or investments or startups, however simply attain out to folks.

And he mentioned, “Let me join you with the folks at Y Combinator. He referred us to YC. And it was actually thrilling as a result of I had recognized about Y Combinator and I had really utilized for this system 5 occasions, and 5 occasions over a course of three years, denied, denied, denied, denied. However I didn’t let it discourage me. The quantity of no’s I heard earlier than Barbara mentioned sure, earlier than I lastly utilized to Y Combinator with Alexis’s little nudge they usually lastly like mentioned sure, the quantity of no’s had been simply large. And I believe that’s form of one of many different learnings is that, you realize, as soon as once more, like if you happen to’re sending out to alter the world, by definition, folks don’t see the world the identical method that I do. And so their kneejerk response is, “No, that is silly.”

Take a look at us now, proper? We’re one of many fastest-growing wine e-commerce corporations on the planet. We’ve grown greater than 1000% prior to now year-and-a-half. We’re doing hundreds of thousands of {dollars} a month of gross sales by way of our platform. We simply raised a spherical of funding, $85 million valuation. We’ve raised a complete like $25 million. And so simply goes to point out that perseverance, sticking with it, placing your self on the market, I believe are actually the foundational items that actually allowed us to get to the purpose that we’re.

Meb: It wasn’t like a straight line up both, you realize? I imply, you guys had been hustling. I keep in mind the cloud vendor matter was a bottleneck of you guys unexpectedly have all this wine, like your success begins to snowball and then you definitely’re like, “Acquired to do one thing with it.” And now you guys have the large warehouse, however I keep in mind studying your updates through the years and at occasions there was very actual, like, ache factors for each entrepreneur, you realize, that goes by way of.

Jeff: There was this time the place we positively had rising pains. We had grown a lot and we had the items in place and we had this elegant expertise answer the place we had had this…what’s known as a 3PL, a third-party logistics supplier, that was storing the wine, delivery it out with an API the place we ship the orders over after which they’d pack it and ship it out. However as we began to develop the enterprise…as a result of keep in mind I discussed that we provide each buyer to retailer as much as 500 bottles. And after we partnered with this 3PL, they mentioned, “No worries. We now have this big warehouse, like, deliver all of the wine and completely happy to retailer it. That is so thrilling, what you’re doing.” And so we’re like, “Nice.” So we had all of our clients storing this wine. The entire sudden, we get a name from the vineyard they usually mentioned, “Hey, we’re bursting on the seams. We didn’t plan our capability appropriately. We now have this big vineyard contract we simply signed and we are able to’t do any extra shipments for you.” And I’m like, “Like hell you’re not.”

Our total enterprise was relied upon this third-party firm and like that we went into the scramble mode of how will we not solely proceed to develop the enterprise as a result of we wanted to develop, like, it’s a startup, you’re burning cash, you rising headcount, you’re rising every part. Like, we wanted to proceed to promote wine to make payroll. However not solely that, we had all these clients who had been storing bottles of wine of their cloud cellar. Technically at that time, it was like a third-party supplier warehouse however like on our web site, they might see the bottles, they might ship them. In a single day, we couldn’t dwell as much as our finish of the promise to our clients. And it doesn’t matter how a lot we might presumably even clarify to the purchasers, “Hey, there’s this third get together who can’t do it and may’t…” Like, they don’t care. They purchased bottles of wine at Underground Cellar. We mentioned they’ll entry these bottles each time they need and in a single day they couldn’t.

And so what we ended up doing was we created this elegant answer the place we went a brand new 3PL however additionally they didn’t have the capability. So we arrange all of those different storage services close by and we created this simply in time, like, stock balancing software program the place on paper it was elegant and it labored stunning. In apply, it was horrible. It didn’t work. If you happen to had been attempting to ship 12 bottles however they had been bodily saved at 3 totally different locations, by the point we pulled these bottles from these 3 locations, one of many different bottles had shipped out. And so we finally received to the purpose the place we mentioned, “To ensure that Underground Cellar to be a billion-dollar firm, we have to vertically combine. We have to deliver all of it in-house.” And that is what we did. And so the answer to the rising pains is we simply needed to finally chew the bullet and produce all of it in-house.

And so we…I’ve by no means pushed a forklift in my life, however in a short time I needed to learn to retailer wine, and entry it, and rent a workers, and do all this stuff that I by no means anticipated our enterprise to do. But it surely’s form of one of many components as a enterprise, we needed to pivot, we needed to be malleable, and we needed to simply roll with the punches. There have been occasions all through that the place my group of individuals they’re like, “We’re screwed. There’s no 3PL that may assist us. We don’t know ship wine. We don’t know retailer wine. We don’t know do any of this.” However we simply put our heads down. Actually, I don’t even personal a automobile. I received an Uber and we simply began driving round Napa on the lookout for little warehouses to do it. After which finally constructed out a group. At the moment we now have a warehouse that’s over 100,000-square-feet in Napa Valley. We now have a group of 15 folks within the warehouse. In whole, we’re a group of 60 folks. And we figured it out. And, you realize, got here with throwing the punches.

However I’ll inform you, Meb, when every part was imploding throughout this era, we needed to get artistic. We had been days from insolvency, like actually. We didn’t have cash. Like, you realize, what we had been going to do?

Meb: We’ve positively been by way of quite a lot of the lean occasions as effectively, so this definitely resonates and I’m certain with nearly any entrepreneur listening to this. As a quant, I’d love to listen to the evolution. Listeners, if you happen to go to the web site, you’re a deal. So, for instance, the Screaming Eagle which can not nonetheless be there by the point this publishes, however one thing related, you possibly can see there’s a few decisions, 30 bucks per bottle. You’ll be able to both purchase 3, 6, or 12 bottles. The cool half is for the three bottles, 2 are upgrades, so 60%, however for the 6, 5 are upgrades and for the 12, 11 are upgrades. So that you clearly get higher odds the extra you improve. The extra bottles you purchase and the very best bottle up right here, there’s a $5,800 bottle, a $1,200 bottle, $850 bottle, nevertheless it tells you what number of bottles are left. So there’s a component of shortage and a time ingredient too. Within the early days, was this like an Excel random optimizer you’re doing each time an order got here by way of, or how did the algorithm evolve everywhere in the years? And was there some like school children in Indiana attempting to hack this and like work out scheme the system?

Jeff: I’m certain there are folks attempting to determine scheme it on a regular basis. So what’s distinctive about the way it works is it’s not random. There’s all these alerts that we built-in. And the purpose of the improve algorithm is to you enhance the lifetime worth of the client and the way in which to do this is simply give the customers an excellent expertise. So we are able to purchase into that deal, you realize, the one you defined $30 for the Mondovi Emblem, you may rise up to a $5,800 bottle of Screaming Eagle or the Bryant Household for $1,200, or Opus One, or these different bottles. Once you purchase in, there’s this algorithm and the easiest way is simply offer you nice worth regardless of you get the Screaming Eagle or not, you’re nonetheless going to get a wide range of wines and you realize they’re going to be nice and also you’re going to get nice worth.

We’re a group of 60 folks now and we usually don’t rent from the wine {industry} besides our procurement group and our wine-tasting group. We rent from tech. Our COO, Jeff Hardy, he was an govt at Yahoo and Google. Our VP of income got here from Enterprise Investing. Our CMO was at Open Desk and StubHub. We’re hiring from these tech-first high-growth startup-type corporations. And so we now have a group of knowledge scientists and enterprise perception analysts and like as we’re like upgrading bottles and constructing the provides, we now have all these fashions and playbooks pushed by knowledge and we’re simply tremendous good about it. And I believe that’s one of many explanation why we’re the quickest rising wine e-commerce firm as a result of we’re doing issues so totally different. We actually function the enterprise as an open e-book. So completely happy to share a few of this with the listeners. In order a testomony to…you realize, I say, clients love our platform. I’ll again that up with knowledge. Within the first 30 days, a buyer spends over $400 on our platform, and within the first 12 months, on common, they spend almost $2,000 on our platform.

Meb: I’d suppose simply by guessing that it will be considerably binary. It’s just like the individuals who join they usually prefer it, they’re like, “That is nice. I’m a wine drinker. I really like this manner of going about it.” And I think about they simply keep perpetually or it’s simply individuals are similar to, “No. I attempted it as soon as. I’m not .” Does it find yourself being that, form of, fork within the highway or is there a bit of little bit of every part?

Jeff: There’s a little little bit of churn from like first buy to second buy. But when we get folks to a second buy, 80% of them are nonetheless shopping for after 6 months and 60% are nonetheless shopping for after a 12 months. Our limiting, inhibiting issue has been, can we construct the infrastructure like we had been speaking about earlier than, the warehouse, and the group, and the information, and the processes, and the playbook, and may I construct a world-class group to maintain up with this development and never solely sustain with what we’ve constructed right now, however can we proceed to innovate and proceed be a product-first firm that may be a significant contributor to alter the way in which not solely the wine {industry} is finished, however we see ourselves as altering all of commerce by being value-focused and never discount-focused?

Meb: What are the broad preferences on the platform? Is it individuals who simply need collectable reds? Are they white drinkers? They like champagne. Do you will have requests for like numerous field wines? What’s the perception and what do folks really need and get enthusiastic about bidding on?

Jeff: What’s attention-grabbing about our mannequin is that our viewers maps nearly one-to-one to the ingesting age inhabitants of america. So whether or not it’s age, or revenue, or geography, we’re actually mapping throughout the board. So, you realize, whether or not you’re a 40-year-old feminine who drinks $20 bottles of rosé, or you’re the 50-year-old child boomer who drinks $100 bottles of Napa Cabernet, we now have issues on the platform for everybody and our viewers actually is everybody. With the caveat of, we’ve by no means bought field wine on the platform and we by no means would promote a foul bottle of wine. We style each bottle earlier than we put it on the platform. That’s the one standards, it needs to be an excellent bottle of wine. So if you happen to’re somebody who loves nice wine, we now have one thing for you.

Meb: Of these, form of, vintages, does it skew purple? I’d assume.

Jeff: It does. So the primary promoting varietal on our platform is cabernet sauvignon, daring, darkish reds. Individuals additionally love purple blends. So that you have a look at purple blends, additionally pinot noir is a really extremely sought-after wine. After which after we have a look at the whites, chardonnay is our bestselling white varietal. After which, after all, folks love glowing wine. So there’s not essentially an excessive amount of seasonality in income in our enterprise, however there’s seasonality in merchandising. So main as much as the top of the 12 months, glowing wines have been promoting actually nice. I believe it’s very like festive time, folks have glowing. Because the climate will get a bit cooler, then folks like these massive, daring, darkish reds. After which when the climate is form of heating up a bit, they love the cool rosés and whites. And so we’ve gotten actually good, constructed out a merchandising group based mostly on knowledge, so we perceive what wines folks need on a person foundation, additionally a macro foundation.

And, you realize, one of many experiences, if you discuss like what wines we characteristic, what wines folks like, one of many experiences that used to trigger me a lot anxiousness, if you happen to’re sitting at that good restaurant and the sommelier comes over they usually’re like, “Mr. Faber, what sort of wine do you want?” And for therefore many individuals, it’s like this anxiousness second as a result of it’s like there’s a technique to discuss wine, and I don’t wish to sound dumb. And I don’t know reply that. Do I simply say purple or do I say…? Individuals don’t know. And I discover, like, even on web sites like or different issues, it’s like you need to decide a class. Like, would you like purple wine? Do you want cabernet? And for most individuals, they don’t know. It’s a brilliant uncomfortable query and can be tremendous. Even individuals who suppose they know don’t really know what they like.

And so utilizing our expertise background and our knowledge science, and AI, and ML, we’re constructing our provides and presenting provides to customers in a method the place we’re analyzing like these 60 million knowledge factors and we’re capable of get actually nice at placing wines in entrance of you and wines in your hand that you simply’re going to like with out ever asking you, what wines do you want? Certainly one of our objectives is to by no means ask our clients what wine they like.

Meb: Have you ever ever performed a, like, tremendous high-level providing the place you’re like, “You understand what, the collectors on the market, these are going to be $500 bottles, you’ll get upgraded to…” no matter it’s. Have you ever ever focused that into the market or is there form of a ceiling the place you are feeling comfy on that facet?

Jeff: We’ve continued to push this, and it’s actually humorous. Each week we’ll do one or normally, two higher-ish finish provides. So we’re speaking 100, $200 buy-in per bottle and also you’re going to get upgraded to bottles, you realize, price a number of hundred or a number of thousand {dollars} per bottle. So we positively have this, form of, high-end aficionado collector market. And that viewers is shopping for from us as soon as once more for the entry, proper? As a result of we defend the wineries’ manufacturers as a result of we’re a associate for them on the advertising and partnership facet, we simply have entry to superb bottles that even if you’re a rich particular person who can afford to spend $100 or $200 per bottle, they simply don’t have the entry that we now have. Not solely do we now have bottles of Screaming Eagle on the platform, however we work instantly with Heidi Barrett, the unique winemaker for Screaming Eagle, and we get her to autograph bottles.

We work instantly with Caymus and we get Chuck Wagner to autograph double magnums of Caymus Particular Choice. And so the aficionados on our platform as a result of they’re gaining access to these bottles. However then we’ve additionally pushed you to the place like we’ve performed choices the place it’s $2,000 per bottle buy-in, and so it exists. However I wish to level out, Underground Cellar is for everybody. In case you are the individual like I used to be earlier than I began this firm the place I believed that there’s nice wine for $20 or $30 a bottle, you should buy an Underground Cellar at a worth level you’re comfy with and nonetheless get these upgrades thrown in. And so it’s not only for actually rich folks. It’s actually for the lots.

Meb: Twenty, 30 bucks a pop, you realize, you’re getting good wine, such as you mentioned, sort of it doesn’t matter what. What was COVID like? I assume that was like quite a lot of wine and booze, form of, corporations. Was {that a} constructive tailwind for you guys? Was it your personal struggles on headcount? How did sort of just like the final 12 months go? After which when you stroll by way of that, let’s have a look to the longer term and what do you see on the horizon?

Jeff: My coronary heart goes out to everybody who’s affected by COVID and the pandemic. You understand, many individuals in our firm, our teammates, and our households have been severely affected. If it’s any comfort, it additionally allowed us to step in as an organization to assist these wineries on this time of want as effectively. And as you may think, individuals are caught at house. They’re not going out to the bars, and nightclubs, and eating places, and cruise ships, and hospitality which drives a lot income for therefore many of those wineries and the way so many individuals had been accessing their wine, form of, pre-COVID. And so we, as I discussed, our metrics like how a lot development we’ve had…And as soon as once more, my coronary heart goes out, however like, we had been a winner of the pandemic if that’s not too offensive to say, proper?

Meb: The best way I phrase it, demise and destruction apart…I simply lead in with that. I say demise and destruction apart, ignoring the human toll, look, there have been some actual impacts on either side for everybody.

Jeff: However we had the chance to step in and assist so many of those wineries who had relied on these non-digital, non-e-com, direct-to-consumer channels that relied on all these hospitality cruise ships, bars, eating places, whatnot, and actually are available in and assist them and get them liquidity that they wanted. I can inform you, like, there have been some wineries the place after we got here in and we mentioned, “Hey, you realize, we’re going to maneuver $40,000 of wine by way of the platform for you,” they actually like teared up as a result of for them…You understand, remember, like, there are millions of wineries in america, lots of that are in California, and most of which aren’t the massive conglomerates, the Constellations and Gallows of the world. These are small household wineries, boutique producers the place their capacity to promote by way of their stock is actually what places the roof over their head, is what feeds their household and permits them to proceed to create their artwork and produce their ardour to the forefront.

And so we had been capable of are available in, assist these wineries get liquidity all through the pandemic. There have been additionally many wineries who, hey, you realize, pre-pandemic, possibly wouldn’t actually return our cellphone calls or, like, you realize what, or wouldn’t reply to our chilly outreach emails. Throughout the pandemic, lo and behold, they dug up an e mail from, you realize, a 12 months or two in the past and mentioned, “Hey, is the provide nonetheless on the desk to work collectively?” And by all means, with open arms, we welcomed them in. And so though COVID was so tough for therefore many individuals, it was actually an honor to assist so many wineries, so many which had been family-run, make it by way of the pandemic and actually set them up with the instruments for the digital age to essentially assist them transfer wine within the new regular.

Meb: We’ve made it by way of the pandemic, 2021, ’22 has now begun. What’s your concentrate on the longer term? You guys have clearly scaled. You’re beginning to actually discover your second in time. You bought this enterprise mannequin that works. What are sort of your objectives for this 12 months and past?

Jeff: So it’s now 2022. We’re on this loopy momentum and trajectory. I simply employed a CMO, a VP product. We’re constructing a product group. We’re constructing a advertising group. And if you happen to have a look at us on paper, you’d say, “Wow, that is an incredible e-commerce firm.” And if you happen to had been to say that to me, I’d be offended as a result of we aren’t an e-commerce firm. We’re a product-first innovation firm and I’m actually excited for what 2022 has in retailer. And I’ll drop some hints and your viewers goes to be a number of the first to learn about this. However I discussed already how in Napa Valley we had been storing and for Underground Cellar clients. Proper now in Napa valley, I’m storing over 400,000 bottles of wine, a number of the finest bottles from world wide, first-growth, premier crews from Bordeaux, magnums of Screaming Eagle, and Opus One, and Harling, and Bryant Household, and all of those coveted wines are bodily in our wine cell in Napa valley.

What we’re releasing very quickly this 12 months is the flexibility for our clients to commerce bottles with each other. Similar to you will have your inventory portfolio on an app like Robinhood or E-Commerce, folks will now have their wine portfolio on Underground Cellar. You should buy bottles, get upgraded, retailer it. And we dwell in a world right now the place there may be this collision of the digital and the bodily worlds. You have a look at issues like NFTs and like digital belongings and the metaverse, Underground Cellar is on the forefront of that as a result of you should buy bottles. It’s represented just about. You’ll be able to then commerce that digital unit of that bottle of wine, retailer your wine in our Napa Valley wine cellar, watch the worth portfolio develop as an funding over time, and commerce that bottle amongst one another.

I don’t know in case your listeners are accustomed to marketplaces like Goat or StockX for footwear. We’re going to be the StockX for wine in 2022. It’s going to essentially change our footprint, going to essentially change if a vineyard isn’t on Underground Cellar, they’re going to be at a major drawback available in the market, and we’re essentially altering our margin financial profile. As a result of if I can get that bottle of Opus One, the 3-litre quadruple magnum autographed bottle of Opus One to commerce arms, much like like an NFT would, and we take a reduce of the sale each step of that course of, essentially modifications our enterprise. And that’s the reason I say we’re not an e-commerce firm. We’re constructing one thing novel that’s going to alter the wine {industry} this 12 months and the subsequent three years goes to alter commerce.

Meb: I’m personally ready for Underground whiskey Cellar. When are you guys are going to start out cranking out a few of these Pappys? I’ll construct out the vendor there too. The dangerous information is I’m assuming I’m going to have extra wine than I can ever drink. So I’ll have to start out internet hosting some in-person gatherings when these are allowed once more.

Jeff: So would love to hitch you for a sip of some Pappy. I’m a whiskey drinker myself. There are vertical extensions of the expertise, and the info, and the playbooks, and knowledge fashions that we constructed. Nonetheless, wine in america is $70 billion a 12 months. There are greater than sufficient wine drinkers in america to make Underground Cellar, within the U.S., in wine, a multi-billion greenback firm. With that mentioned, the expertise we constructed can and sure will apply to many extra verticals, specifically, luxurious verticals. Connoisseur meals, trend, journey, sporting occasion tickets, the chances are infinite. And in order we have a look at constructing this buying and selling market, creating this excessive worth for the wineries and for the purchasers on the platform, increasing this all through america, getting a significant foothold within the wine house, after which from there probably branching out to luxurious verticals, it all of the sudden takes us from a possible billion or $2 billion market cap and brings us into one thing that might be world-changing, change all of commerce, assault all these luxurious verticals which can be so suffering from reductions and essentially change, I believe, a lot and create quite a lot of worth on the planet in a method that’s significant for all of the contributors within the ecosystem.

Meb: No, is smart and effectively mentioned. It’s all the time a problem when entrepreneurs, you will have this massive, big, large market in entrance of you but in addition quite a lot of engaging ones adjoining too. So solely so many hours within the day as you talked about, however now you will have one enterprise with like, going again to the very starting of our dialogue, six totally different concepts. Effectively, we now have six totally different verticals you may simply do inside one massive furry concept too. Jeff, I might preserve you all day. That is enjoyable. I really like chatting with you. Listeners…The place do folks discover the most effective locations to seek out you guys, what you’re as much as, Twitter web sites, all that great things?

Jeff: Type of the theme of the early a part of the dialog was about reaching out and simply placing your self on the market. And so what I’d say is that if anybody’s listening to this and also you wish to attain me, my e mail deal with is Attain out to me. See what occurs. Second factor I’d say is if you happen to’re a wine lover,, enter promo code MEB, M-E-B, it’s going to get you $100 off any first order on Underground Cellar. And third factor, if you’re considerably enthusiastic about altering commerce and also you wish to be on a group that’s doing issues in a different way and is exclusive and also you’re concerned about working right here, we’re hiring throughout the board from engineering, and product, and advertising, and operations. Attain out. We’d love to speak. And as we head into the New 12 months, we’re going to be elevating a Sequence B. And so if you happen to occur to be an investor that writes massive checks and desires to guide round, attain out. We’d love to talk.

Meb: And better of all, you possibly can show Mark Cuban fallacious. Jeff, it’s been a blast. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of us right now.

Jeff: Actually respect your time, Meb. And I’m going to go pop open a bottle of wine and have a good time.

Meb: Podcast listeners, we’ll put up present notes to right now’s dialog at If you happen to love the present, if you happen to hate it, shoot us suggestions at We like to learn the evaluations. Please overview us on iTunes and subscribe to the present anyplace good podcasts are discovered. Thanks for listening, mates, and good investing.



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