Drync announced today that it has raised $2.1 million from CrossLink Ventures, the Foundry Group, and other investors to continue building its wine discovery and buying tool. The company also released an iPad version of its app which allows users to save wines they like, manage their wine cellars, and get recommendations for new bottles worth uncorking.
With Drync, thirsty connoisseurs snap photos of a wine bottle label so the app can match it against its database of 3 million wines. The idea then is for users to save the wine as a favorite so they can remember to order it again at a restaurant or have a case delivered to their house. Today, it has around 150,000 monthly active users.
The iPad app is part of Drync’s efforts to become a service through which people purchase more bottles of wine instead of just snapping photos of the bottles they already like. “People are using our iPhone app while they’re testing new wines at restaurants or their friend’s house,” says Drync CEO Brad Rosen. “With the iPad app, we envision people using it on the couch to discover new wines.” The iPhone app is a utility — the iPad app is a destination.
The app launches into a surprisingly empty market. Most wine discovery apps are available only on smartphones, and the competition isn’t particularly compelling, either. Crushed still uses the iOS 6 keyboard in its app; Delectable does a poor job of identifying many wines by their front label; and Vivino requires a $4.99 in-app purchase before it lets users track their wine cellars. Drync is the only company with an app that works on both the iPhone and iPad.
That isn’t to say that Drync is without faults. The app is often frustrating to use, and it doesn’t offer the price of many wines without prompting. Photos often appear in the wrong orientation and seem more washed-out than photos taken in similar conditions with Vivino. Drync is more comprehensive than its competitors, but it’s certainly not easier to use.
That seems to be this category’s major failing. None of the apps I tested were particularly easy to use, and all of them made finding a specific wine or learning more about far-flung wineries more difficult than most consumers are probably willing to deal with. If a single app is flawed it’s the developer’s fault; if four apps are flawed, something is wrong with the entire category.
Not that I can blame these companies for struggling with something like wine discovery. Wine is astoundingly complex, with variations between wines based on their producer, the grape varietals used, and the vineyard from which those grapes were sourced. Combine that with the fact that everyone’s palate is different – a wine that tastes like raspberries and black pepper to one person tasting like red currants and mushrooms to the next — and you have a category that has to distill amazing complexity into an easy-to-use mobile app.
“This is something that we have struggled with from day one, and we ended up building this ginormous database that is astonishingly complex simply by virtue of the differences in wine. Wines taste different from block to block,” Rosen says. “To make wine recommendations is very complicated. That said, we have an enormous amount of consumption data. So to the extent that we are now in the big data world, we intend to apply expertise and tools to try to cull out patterns. I think, longer term, we can do it.”
Drync will have to continue developing its apps before it’s able to expand into other categories, which is where Rosen sees the company — and commerce in general — heading.
“I sort of have this notion in my head that people should be able to go through their lives and buy anything by taking a picture of it in that moment. For us, wine is the first step towards realizing that vision,” he says.”We’ll be focused on wine for some time, but we may move to other verticals over time, such as whiskeys, beers, cigars, whatever.”
But for the time being, Drync and its competitors will focus on wine to the exclusion of all else. If you’re looking for an app that can surface some recommendations on both your iPhone and iPad, Drync is probably the right tool for you. It just requires a bit of patience and a belief that the entire wine discovery category is going to get better over time. Considering where many of these apps are today, that belief is the best thing these companies have going for them.