A Dublin online wine start-up backed by high-end winemakers from around the globe has been valued at about €3.1 million in its latest fundraising round after just 18 months in operation.
WineSpark, founded by former Accenture management consultant Eamon FitzGerald, effectively operates as an online wine-buying club for members, who each pay €10 per month for access to its cut-price catalogue. Mr FitzGerald says it had sales of €1 million in its first full year of operation.
The company initially raised €300,000 at a €1.2 million valuation ahead of its official launch last year, when it was backed by boutique wineries from Italy, Spain, France and Germany.
WineSpark’s latest fundraising, in which it sold shares worth more than €100,000, saw several of its original investors provide further backing, including high-profile Tuscan winemaker Federico Cerelli. He is closely associated with the so-called Super Tuscan wines Tignanello and Solaia which he previously helped to produce at the large Chianti winery Marchesi Antinori
Florence-based Serena Casabianca, the partner of Tuscan winemaker Stefano di Blasi, one of the original WineSpark backers, has also invested in the latest round. Spanish group Epicure Wines and the GP Winery from Germany have also stumped up again.
New investors include Alsace winemaker Melanie Pfister. WineSpark, which sources some of its stock from the wineries that back it, has also raised cash from outside Europe this time. Australian Shiraz guru Sam Plunkett has invested with his wife and business partner Brownwyn Dunwoodie. Chilean winemaker Connie Schwaderer and Argentina’s Mauricio Lorca have also taken stakes.
Mr FitzGerald says WineSpark has signed up more than 1,000 subscribers so far, but the company believes it can push this to between 5,000 and 10,000 Irish subscribers before it looks for customers abroad. The wines are sold effectively at cost price while WineSpark makes its money on the monthly fee.
“The €3.1 million valuation feels like a real validation of what we have achieved in a short space of time,” he said. “We will use the new cash raised to grow the business further.”
Mr FitzGerald, a former global wine director for the UK-listed retailer Naked Wines, says that normally 95 per cent of its business is individual subscribers rather than businesses, but during December corporate gifting accounts for 50 per cent of WineSpark’s revenues. Corporate clients are understood to include Goodbody stockbrokers and Accenture.
Under its cost-price model, Mr FitzGerald estimates that wines costing €20-€30 a bottle on WineSpark would cost up to €50 from retailers or more than €90 in restaurants. About 30 per cent of the wines it sells are French, with 22 per cent from Spain.