The Catch Group, today marked the launch of its start up incubator program, Sketchbook Ventures with the successful sale of its first investment, online wine deals site Vinomofo, to a consortium of private investors for an undisclosed sum. The founders – Andre Eikmeier, Justin Dry and Leigh Morgan still maintain a majority stake in Vinomofo and will lead the business through its next phase of growth.
The Catch Group invested in the wine deals start up in March 2012 to help its founders rapidly scale their business, and also strengthen The Catch Group’s wine offering. Eighteen months on, the wine site has delivered 4x times growth and amassed a membership base of nearly 200,000.
“The success of Vinomofo is proof that when you pair a great idea with the right expertise and support, success will follow,” says Hezi Leibovich, co-founder of The Catch Group and SketchBook Ventures.
“What drew us to Vinomofo at the start was the strength of its founders’ pitch. They had a unique take on the wine sector with their curated and community driven approach, backed up with strong supplier relationships which is essential in this market. They knew wine and we knew online retail and how to build and scale online businesses. It was the perfect match.”
Leibovich notes that at that stage the idea for an incubator program was not fully formed
“We had been toying with the idea of investing in complementary businesses or digital startups which we could grow as an extension of The Catch Group, however the detail had yet to be locked in.”
Over the next 18 months, Vinomofo was rapidly inducted into The Catch Group through a comprehensive incubator program, integrated marketing with cross promotion of the new business to the group’s 3.5 million members and full access to the group’s vast resources in supply, technology, production, warehousing and fulfillment.
“Vinomofo proved to be the perfect test case to provide the learnings we needed to build out the Sketchbook program. We now know we have a solid model in place that not only accelerates new businesses, but importantly ensures that when they exit the program they have a pathway to sustainable growth in place.
“This is where too many incubator programs fail. Their focus is only on getting a start up to commercialisation stage. What is missing is that last mile – getting them out of the gate and to the finish line and beyond. That is where our program has a unique edge over others in the market. There is a pathway to profit – whether it is by incorporating the business into the group, or setting them up with strong operations and customer base to follow their own path,” explains Leibovich.
Vinomofo’s future will continue to be highly customer-centric, social and also see the online retailer merging content with commerce in a big way.
“The Catch partnership really helped us to scale and refine our core proposition, which is good wine and the most epic deals on the planet. Social commerce has been key to building our community and driving sales. Going forward we will be rolling out a number of new initiatives to better engage our market, based around video content, articles, and education. But we’ll use real language, without all the bowties and BS often associated with wine,” explains Vinomofo’s co-founder and CEO, Andre Eikmeier.
Eikmeier says his biggest learning from the Sketchbook program and working with The Catch Group was the importance of taking a long term view.
“The Catch culture – it’s all about product. Invest your marketing efforts in your offerings, not in “acquiring” new customers. “Make your site and your products and your deals the best and people will value you and tell their friends about you. It’s real and it’s sustainable. We all want to build a multi-million dollar business in a short space of time, but if you have to keep raising funds to cover the cash burn of huge marketing spends on acquisition, then your business is not ultimately successful.
“We run a pretty lean operation at Vinomofo. Revenue growth has been strong, and we’re delivering solid profits. The team is pumped about our next phase of growth and we look forward to taking the knowledge and contacts we’ve forged through our time with Catch and executing our vision for the future.”
Sketchbook Ventures is open for business and taking applications for its program. To find out more please contact enquiries@sketchbookventures.