Lot18, Wine, And Next Gen Retail

It’s been a busy 2011 for FirstMark.  We’ve had some big exits, some great new investments, and seed companies blossoming into market leaders.  On that last theme, I’m excited to congratulate the Lot18 team for closing their $10MM Series B round of capital, led by NEA with substantial participation by FirstMark.

Lot18 is a next generation wine e-commerce company, initially leveraging a membership driven engagement model.  What excited us in October 2010 when we first seeded the company was how Lot18 took an incredibly complicated category, and created a beautiful site where wineries’ products were showcased to consumers.  Though it leverages a membership driven model, this is not about distressed goods or deep discounting as is commonly confused with the space.

Wine has a complex distribution chain of wholesalers and distributors before getting to the retail store.  Lot18 allows wineries to bypass that distribution, while protecting their brand and introducing them to a much broader audience.  Value gets passed directly to the end customer, enabling outstanding prices on great wines.  Frankly, as a “non-wine” person, I find the discovery and education that Lot18 offers to be far superior to any in store retail experience.  I can buy a great wine at a great price (because it’s direct) and know that it’s a wonderful product to bring out while having guests over, give as a housewarming gift, or enjoy on a special occasion.  For people who love wine, you’ll find product that has never been released from cellars, or offers from wineries that have 3 year long wait lists, and benefit from their Select service, which calls our top buyers with offers that could make anything in their cellars blush.

The company has grown more rapidly than anything we could have predicted.  It helps that it is led by serial entrepreneurs Kevin Fortuna and Philip James, who have built some very large businesses in their past (and have a few unique experiences to boot).  They have executed extremely well.

We’ve had a long standing thesis in E-commerce, from Stubhub to Shopify to Lot18 to AHAlife and many more.  Retail is changing faster than we can imagine.  We’re delighted to invest behind this team, and look forward to working with our new partners in NEA.

If you’d like to become a member of Lot18, simply click here to get an invitation.