Five months since the shuttering of a Napa Valley-based VinTank software service that helped pioneer winery social media management, it’s back under new ownership, a New York-based company that helps thousands of restaurants nationwide manage operations.
Avero on Thursday, Dec. 15, announced the acquisition of the VinTank assets, now called AveroBuzz, from San Francisco-based W2O, a marketing and communications consulting company recently refocused on health care, technology and global brands. Leading the initial five- to 10-person AveroBuzz restart crew are VinTank co-founder Paul Mabray and two former W2O software engineers, Matt Franklin and Robert Ford.
“Our customers look to us to help expand their marketing capabilities, and with the growth of social media and the importance of reputation management in the hospitality industry, this was a natural addition to the Avero family,” said Avero President and CFO Douglas Hsieh in the announcement.
The first version of AveroBuzz is scheduled go online in the next two months, starting with wineries and certain restaurants. VinTank had as many as 1,200 winery customers at one point.
At relaunch, AveroBuzz is expected to look much like VinTank, which W2O renamed TMRW Engine. When Mabray and James Jory started VinTank in December 2008, it was a trailblazer in wine business social media management. In an industry still weighing the return on investment from employee time and resources spent on social media, the startup tailored for wine needs software technologies popularized elsewhere. Key ones were geofences, which allows for sales promotion based on proximity to the retailer, and social stitching, which allows a seller to track and have conversations with consumers, no matter what social media platform they use.
In the next four to six months, AveroBuzz 2.0 is set for release, with features aimed at restaurants and hotels.
“The U.S. wine industry has a limited number of customers — at most about 9,000 wineries nationwide,” said Mabray, 45, on Tuesday, Dec. 13. “But Avero has more than that right out of the gate. We broke through the glass ceiling.”
Avero’s software has more than 40,000 users in 70 countries. Avero Slingshot is cloud-based software that allows restaurants to analyze data to control costs and see sales opportunities. Avero (averoinc.com) also has software that helps identify servers who need coaching to maximize sales.
The size of the wine business and its speed in adopting software technology has been a concern of Mabray’s for a while, as he’s seen a “brain drain” of notable software innovators leave the industry in the past five years. In a column on Medium on Thursday, Dec. 15, he advocated for more collaboration and partnerships between wine business software vendors to avoid slicing up too much an already small pie of potential clients. Mabray plans to organize a roundtable of “winery thought leaders” to pursue such goals.
W2O bought VinTank in March 2015. In July of this year, Mabray announced TMRW Engine would cease operations that month, saying social customer relationship management software didn’t fit with W2O’s new focus. Mabray and Jory had been working for months to find a new owner for the software, but as negotiations for a new owner extended, Jory took a position at another company. Mabray said he’ll be still involved in the project to a certain degree.
Mabray has been in the wine business since 1997 and got in at the ground level of wine e-commerce with WineShopper.com. In 2002 he started Napa-based wine direct-to-consumer sales software provider Inertia Beverage Group and left in 2008 to start VinTank. IBG became WineDirect in September 2012.