Vinomofo’s secret recipe: Tips for startup success from a company that just raised $25 million

Since embarking on its mission to take the pompousness out of fine wine and put it in the hands of ordinary people, Vinomofo has become one of Australia’s most loved startups.

In three years, the Melbourne company has attracted more than 450,000 users and is now planning for global domination with $25 million in funding from Blue Sky Venture Capital.

Vinomofo now has a team of more than 100 Melbourne employees led by co-founders Justin Dry and Andre Eikmeier.

Looking back at Vinomofo’s astronomical growth, Dry reveals what it really takes to build a successful startup.

A strong brand starts with “why”

When it comes to building a strong brand it boils down one question.

“It all starts with why you do what you do,” Dry tells StartupSmart.

It’s a question the co-founders stepped back to really think about after watching a TED talk by Simon Sinek on the importance of starting with “why”.

“In it he says, ‘people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it’,” Dry says.

While they always knew what they stood for, this prompted Dry and Eikmeier to hold a brainstorming session on the purpose behind Vinomofo.

From the wealth of ideas that resulted the team selected three key focus points and these continue to form the foundation of Vinomofo as a growing company and brand.

“We want every one to experience good wine,” Dry says.

“We want to do something good for the world.

“We want to have fun and we built that into the brand and customer experience.”

Be different

When they started, Vinomofo’s model was simple.

“We started as a single wine a day,” Dry says.

Since then, the company has evolved and expanded but it still hasn’t lost its key point of difference.

“We’re still a super focused retailer,” he says.

From more than 100 wine samples, Dry will only pick the best 5%.

This curator approach gives them bigger buying power than fellow competitors.

“That’s how we win against the big guys,” he says.

Hire the greats

Over time, Dry says founders will realise that the fuel powering the company forward is the people they invest in.

“Spend enough time hiring really great people,” he says.

Empowering leaders within the startup to head growth in their various departments and influence the company’s overall success is critical, he says.

Dry and his team even kicked off Startup Week in Melbourne by giving the public behind-the-scenes access to the various business leaders inside Vinomofo.

“I’m hoping that they’ll get a good insight into how a fast growth startup works,” he says.

“And the people it takes to make this stuff happen.”

On the other side, he says it’s crucial to let go of people that aren’t the right cultural fit and don’t align with the company’s goals because negative people will cause damage.

“They need to be removed as soon as possible,” Dry says.

Do you like your investors?

Dry’s biggest piece of advice to startup founders wanting to raise capital is to wait.

“The most important point is to not raise before you need to,” he says.

“The more value you can build yourself, the less you have to give away.”

But once the time has come, as it did for Vinomofo and its global expansion plans, Dry says their key priority was working with real people.

“We’ve been building relationships with VCs over many years,” he says.

“We got to know them all over three years, there were so many phone calls, meetings [and] dinners to understand who they are and how they worked.”

They also spoke to other founders about their experiences with private funding.

“It comes down to whether or not you like the people,” Dry says.

Before choosing their investors, he had many questions.

“Are they human? Are they real people we can trust and go to dinners with?” Dry says.

Importantly, their new investors would need to understand the rocky nature of startups and be there when things get tough.

“Will they support the right things for the business opposed to a purely selfish play?” he says.

The answers to these drew them to Blue Sky Venture Capital.

“They’re very real, they’re very human,” he says.

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