What story telling tips tech industry entrepreneurs could learn from this new winemaker

First off, happy holidays! This was a special startup I got to visit, far different than the usual tech industry ones, hope you enjoy. I'm very fortunate that +Rackspace  pays me to study innovators and wants me to do so in a variety of industries.

Embedded below is an eight-minute edited video. If you want to see the entire 40+ minute video, go here: http://youtu.be/BmYY__tbISs I also recorded some of this interview on Google Glass. #throughglass   That interview is here: https://plus.google.com/111091089527727420853/posts/D1jSBLQQvu2 so you can compare the video from Google Glass to video off of a professional Panasonic camcorder that costs a few thousand dollars.


 Every year I head to Napa several times, partly to keep ahead of Google+ head +Vic Gundotra  who loves doing the same. But every year I go I hear the same stories from winemakers. I noticed that they do the same thing we do in the tech industry: rely on the big names too much, rely on talking about our craft too much. "Check out our French Oak," they often say when giving barrel tastings. 

Recently I met Sarah Francis, who just shipped her first Napa wine in September. On this trip she took us into the place she gets her grapes (many say it's the best vineyard in America). You can find her at http://www.sarahfranciswines.com/ Also, thanks to Tesla Tours who drove us around Napa in a Tesla: https://www.teslatours.com/

What vineyard is that?  The Beckstoffer vineyard. Getting grapes from this vineyard is extremely hard and VERY expensive (grapes here are up to $70,000 a ton, while Napa average is closer to $2,000). More on the Beckstoffer vineyard:  http://www.beckstoffervineyards.com/ Her wines are in the super-premium price bracket. Her Chardonnay is $80 a bottle, Cab is $150.

But what really sets her apart and why does this startup have
something to teach Silicon Valley startups?

1. She doesn't get scared of hearing "no." When everyone told her Andy
Beckstoffer would never sell his grapes to a newbie she wrote him an
email and said "where I come from people say no directly to their
faces." (She's from Missouri).

2. She knows what makes her different than other wine makers. She
knows she's heading into a crowded market (just like many tech
industry entrepreneurs -- how many more photo sharing services do we
really need?) and how she'll stand out by making a better product and
telling a better story.

3. She knows where better stories come from: doing the hard work and
knowing the industry at a deeper level than others. Discipline is a word that came up a few times. 

4. She knows her competitors better than they do, often. She keeps track of how often they visit the vineyard. "Not often," she told me.  Plus, she took us on a tour of top winemakers. On our trip we met Aaron Pott, who was named winemaker of the year in 2012, and also Todd Anderson, who has the most expensive bottle in Napa, at $5,000 for his top Ghost Horse wine.

5. She is studying everything about everything when it comes to her grapes. She has a database of everything that happened to her grapes. How much sun they got, etc. This will help her scale her operation in the future. How many entrepreneurs have built in logs of everything that happens in their apps? Not enough.

6. She has a goal of making a "zen wine." Wants to take your breath away and force you to put your phone down when drinking her wine. How many app developers think like that? 

7.  She doesn't take shortcuts. Even her cork is more expensive and longer than other cork, which means her wine can survive longer without leaking. She also hand destems the grapes which is very labor intensive.

8. She tests her bullshit/beliefs/crazy theories. When people said she was wasting her time by hand desteming instead of using a machine, she did an A/B test to make sure she was getting something out of the work. Her peers checked out her product of the A/B test and decided she was right. 

9. She started small (only one barrel) and is building her brand. Now she's making three barrels -- each barrel makes about 300 bottles of wine. She's patient to build her business slowly while working on her craft and her brand first. 

10. She is selling futures to be able to afford to buy next year's grapes. Beckstoffer grapes are more expensive than others. So, what is she doing? Selling futures to be able to afford to keep buying the best. That's sort of like putting your stuff on Kickstarter, isn't it?

11. She is working to expand her reach. She knows that the best customers don't live in Napa. So, she needs to reach out to other industries and use social media deeply to find a new customer. She brags that she's the most transparent wine maker on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yellowdogralph and https://www.facebook.com/SarahFrancisWines (we're trying to get her on Google+ too). She's on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahFrancis72 (one thing she needs to learn is to make your URLs the same everywhere, but that's pretty hard when you have a common name).

12. She destroys the pretentiousness that surrounds the wine industry. The best tech marketers do that too. The worst use a lot of jargon that keeps average people away. She also doesn't denegrate those who drink someone else's wine the way so many tech marketers do.

Anyway, hope you and your family are having a great holiday. Thank you for bringing the most innovative startups into my view. If you know of one, let me know at scobleizer@gmail.com! Next year I'll be traveling to Canada, Israel, Korea, UK, Ireland, and other places to find the best startups. 
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