Kuvée, a maker of connected wine dispensers, is shutting down.
In an email sent to customers today, Kuvée CEO Vijay Manwani said the company, which had raised nearly $10 million in funding, would need to raise significantly more in order to educate the market and have a “louder voice”. Because of this, the company would be closing effective immediately.
For those not familiar with the Kuvée products, the company makes smart wine dispensers that extend the life of a bottle anywhere from 30-60 days. The company’s wine preservation technology utilizes a proprietary bottle system and they monetize through wine subscriptions send new wine bottles to a customer’s home each month.
From the email:
Thank you for being our companion in our journey to redefine the wine experience. Wine is meant to be enjoyed by the glass (not by the bottle) and four years ago, we built Kuvée and a great portfolio of wines to deliver just that experience.
Building a better wine bottle, the Kuvée FreshPour bottle, that keeps wine from spoiling for 30 to 60 days, was no easy task. It took an enormous amount of innovation, sensory testing and collaboration with open-minded and forward looking winery partners to make that a reality. Combined with our Kuvée Connect dispenser and the Kuvee.com website, we delivered a wine experience that freed you, our customers, to enjoy wine on your terms – what you want, when you want them.
We achieved all of this with an amazing team of 20 passionate and highly skilled professionals, all driven by the common goal to deliver this better wine experience.
However, it became clear that, to properly educate the market, we would need a much louder voice and considerably more capital. The last year’s Napa fires, affected our ability to scale our customer base over the holiday season and hence our ability to raise the funds required to continue building awareness of Kuvée.
Therefore, it is with great sadness and a heavy heart we are announcing that all Kuvée business operations will cease effective today.
Manwani went on to say the company is looking for a buyer for the (patented) technology and will be fire-selling the rest of their wine inventory over the next week.
While the story of Kuvée might make you a bit skeptical about wine tech, other companies like Coravin and Plum are doing quite well with new-fangled dispensing systems. Coravin, which has raised over $60 million in funding, has become immensely popular among wine enthusiasts for its argon-based preservation system that lets you dispense wine without pulling the cork. The Plum wine dispensing appliance also uses argon and has been growing popularity as well.
I also suspect Kuvée suffered from what is often a fatal mistake among young startups: trying to hold customers captive within in a product “walled garden” that limits choice rather than adapting to consumer buying behavior. Unlike Coravin which allows the wine drinker to connect to any bottle of wine, Kuvée essentially required the customer to buy wine bottled in their proprietary bottles. While the company had some decent wine partners to choose from as part of their subscription program, my guess is customers just don’t buy wine that way and weren’t willing to limit their choices.
Kuvée also targeted the consumer market almost exclusively, while Coravin has been able to tap into the restaurant and pro-market where preserving expensive bottles of wine is a real problem.