Andy Hadfield’s entrepreneurial journey has come full circle. While still in varsity in the late 90s he co-launched getalife – gal.co.za, an online entertainment, gaming and political commentary site (“If we had just realised people wanted profiles and friends we would be multi-millionaires,” he quips). He then followed his wife from Cape Town to Joburg and took the role of COO of a digital agency, before moving to the digital strategy unit at FNB, until he left the corporate world to become a consultant. Real Time Wine is the product of an accidental wine blogger with an entrepreneurial spirit who spotted a gap in the market — and a real opportunity.
“I’m a pretty active wine drinker, and so I downloaded the iPhone app, Wine Notes, to help me keep track of what I’d tried out, what I did and didn’t like, and so forth. This soon developed into tweeting about what I thought of various wines. And then one day someone tweeted me back, saying they only bought wines that I had reviewed at 7/10 or more. What? People were actually using my tweets as reviews? I thought that was awesome, and so I decided to collect all the tweets onto one site. Again, I got a pretty good following.
Wine reviews are not written for the lay man, and yet here we are, drinking wine – and wanting to talk about it and share our experiences. People were soon posting their own reviews on my site as well — we’re already up to 1 000 reviews. I called up Michael Jordaan and asked him if we could meet for a glass of wine, and told him about my concept. He loved the idea — before the glass was half drunk I had my first investor.”
“We will start with advertising as our primary revenue stream, but ultimately we want the site to become a retail discovery engine that can be used for any other retail brand, not just wine. We will take you on a brand journey, and this model can be replicated for any brand. The revenue streams are numerous, it’s just a case of growing enough to be able to unlock the next stream. First things first is advertisers.”
The business idea
”The first steps are creating an easy-to-use prototype and growing the already existing Real Time Wine community of ‘winos’ and fans. Anyone can review wines, and the idea is that you can walk into a shop with your phone and show the store manager the wines you are looking for. We haven’t gone the traditional tech start-up route and hired an in-house developer.
I can’t afford that level of risk as a family man with two kids, so I have hired Prezence Digital instead. Agencies rarely get to develop products for start-ups, so it’s exciting for them, and they have a range of developers (and thus skills) across platforms. I was excited to work with someone like Tim and his team – they’re some of the best mobile minds in the country – and this is a mobile play.”
One investor soon led to two (Mike Radcliffe, MD of Warwick Wine Estate and a twitter link of Andy’s), who in turn brought in AngelHub to facilitate the investment ins and outs. At the same time, Hadfield entered the Samsung Ignite competition at Tech Africa — and won — with the result that Samsung is assisting in the development of an Android app.
“If there is one thing I have learnt on this journey, it’s that it’s important who you know – networks are vital. AngelHub’s Keet van Zyl has a phenomenal network, which should assist in second round funding, but it was my own network and twitter links that led me to Michael and Mike, as well as a great working relationship with the WineStyle magazine, which is run by Mike Radcliffe’s sister, Jenny — I’m even on their panel.”
Company: Real Time Wine
Player: Andy Hadfield
Launched: Unofficially February 2011
Concept: 140-charater reviews for the not so snobby wine drinker