The wine industry has always had a way of attracting outsiders.
There’s a charm to the tradition and lifestyle that betrays the tremendous amount of work it takes to produce a single bottle of wine, let alone turn a profit. For Markus Frind, that was part of the attraction and the challenge: here was an industry ripe for disruption.
Frind, the founder of the seminal dating website Plenty of Fish, made his fortune at the keyboard, quickly adapting to paradigm shifts in user trends. But, as he explains in the video, in the time it takes to produce a bottle of wine, a tech company can become a relic.
Frind sold Plenty of Fish in 2017, and while he has other tech businesses, he was looking for a new challenge. He set his sights on the wine industry, returning to his roots, having been raised on a 1,200-acre farm in northern British Columbia. He was ready to build something tangible after a career of building virtual empires. He also wanted to bring his high-tech learnings to what he perceived to be a Luddite industry.
He quickly made a splash acquiring some 1300 acres with plans to plant 700-800 acres between the Tower Ranch, East Kelowna property and Vernon's larger Turtle Mountain site. Both were parcels long overlooked by industry types, but that his research suggested had real potential. He then built Frind Estate Winery on the historic Bennett family property on one of the Okanagan’s busiest wine trails in West Kelowna. The rare lakefront winery opened in 2019.
It’s what you don’t see that Frind hopes will make all the difference: a consumer-centric approach driven by data. The mandate is to produce top-flight BC wine; but also it’s to make wine that people want to drink. And that is why no expense has been spared in outfitting the winery.
In the first of three episodes examining the ambitious project, we look at Frind's transition from the fast virtual, data-driven world to the tangible, nature-driven industry steeped in thousands of years of tradition. It will be interesting to see if operating at breakneck speed to engage consumer behaviour and fully connected employees and global markets is enough to disrupt the staid wine industry. Our guess is Frind will find a way to slow down at some point and shift gears, maybe even step back before racing ahead again because, in the end, that’s more like the wine business that has survived for a millennia.
Take a closer look at Markus Frind's vision in episodes two, technology and wines, and three, the customer experience and the beachfront property in West Kelowna. We'll release both in July. Subscribe to our YouTube channel or our monthly newsletter so you don't miss them.