Singapore startup play: Kyosei invests in wine e-commerce platform

  • HWZ founder and clickTRUE head honcho Jackie Lee joins The French Cellar as chairman
  • Pioneered concept of ‘Your Sommelier at Home,’ offering users new way to enjoy French wines
Singapore startup play: Kyosei invests in wine e-commerce platform

INVESTMENTS holding company Kyosei Ventures, an associate of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), has announced a ‘strategic investment’ in wine subscription e-commerce platform The French Cellar. Financial terms were not disclosed.
 
Seasoned entrepreneur Jackie Lee, founder of technology portal Hardware Zone (HWZ) and chief executive officer of digital marketing firm clickTRUE, will step in as chairman effective immediately, Kyosei and The French Cellar said in a joint statement.
 
The French Cellar’s original founders Dr Vincent Morello and Eric Joubert will hold the chief executive officer and chief operating officer positions respectively.
 
With Lee’s understanding of the online landscape and a growing market for French wine in Asia, the business looks set to expand out of Singapore and Hong Kong and into countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China, the two companies said.
 
“This is a crucial turning point as we welcome on board Jackie Lee as founding member and chairman,” said Morello.
 
“The synergies of Jackie’s team and our team are obvious, on top of the common passion in wine and e-commerce. His validation of the model, expertise and connections will enable us to confidently develop faster and stronger in Singapore and Asia,” he added.
 
The French Cellar introduced the concept of ‘Your Sommelier at Home,’ offering Singaporeans a new way to enjoy French wines. The subscription service exclusively imports French wines directly from vineyards carefully selected by designated Sommelier Nicolas Rebut, former Chef Sommelier of the 3-star Michelin restaurants, Louis XV (Monaco) and Le Meurice (Paris).
 
Every month, members also receive two French wines selected by Nicolas and enjoy free delivery to their doorsteps, together with the sommelier”s tasting guide. Members can then enjoy a discount on purchase of wines thereafter.
 
The French wine market in Asia shows tremendous potential, being valued at about €3 billion per year, the two companies said. The share of French wine exports to Asia grew from 17% in 2009 to 27% in 2012.
 
[US$1 = €0.73]
 
“I am excited and honoured to join Vincent [Morello] and Eric [Joubert] as part of their founding team,” said Lee.
 
“We have been looking at the e-commerce space in Asia for a while now and I must say we have been rather picky. We are looking for projects with a regional growth potential. At the same time, if we could add value in the area of online marketing to explode its traction immediately, such investments would then be strategic.
 
“The French Cellar has demonstrated a viable business model with the initial soft launch and proof of concept, and I am really happy to see daily subscriptions coming in,” he added.
 
The French Cellar said it will also hold targeted wine-tasting events throughout the year. In late March, sommelier Rebut will be invited to Singapore to meet and share his knowledge with its members, as well as the local media for the very first time.
 
To attend the public event on March 20, go to its Facebook page.
 
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