This week we talked to David Gluzman and Matthew Protti, Cofounders of BlackSquare, the company behind Blackboxx, an e-commerce software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform which helps the wine industry sell more wine online by building better relationships with their customers.
Blackboxx employs an “all in the box” approach to ensure fast, turnkey setup, low upfront investment and pay-as-you-use costing that’s ideal for capital-intensive wineries. It also offers a beautiful front end that enables wine sellers to deliver rich social networks and marketing ‘touch’ to their customers. David and Matthew tell me that some of the top wineries in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Western Europe are using the platform. Here’s more from our interview.
Today Calgary’s BlackSquare, maker of the Blackboxx wine ecommerce platform, announced a new $1.175 million equity private placement financing and corporate spin-off.
The equity financing was led by Toronto-based private equity and investment management firm HorizonOne Asset Management. To date, BlackSquare has raised a total of $2.675 million.
Since its 2010 start and in the 15 months since BlackSquare’s previous financing, the company has grown its customer base twenty-fold to span four continents. BlackSquare has clients in Canada’s three biggest wine-producing regions and is on track to power ecommerce for a “significant portion” of the Australian wine industry’s production.
“We have followed BlackSquare’s story since inception and are impressed with the team’s execution and how well positioned it is as the emerging ecommerce market leader for the global wine industry. I’m very pleased to join BlackSquare’s board and look forward to assisting in value creation and support its growth,” says HorizonOne president James Mahoney.
The South China Morning Post has started selling wine.
At a time when retailers are increasingly getting into the content business, the BlackSquare/ SCMP collaboration indicates it’s a trend that cuts both ways – media publishers are getting into retail sales. With publishers beset by falling ad revenues, they’re looking to bolster the bottom line with new revenue sources that go beyond the traditional advertising model.
Direct sales offer wineries higher profit margins because they cut out the government middle man. But they are also key in spreading the kind of word-of-mouth brand recognition that can help a small winery catch the eye of a provincial liquor board. For that, wineries have been turning to wine clubs that offer regular shipments of exclusive products to their members for a yearly membership fee.
But the bulk of the Calgary-based company’s business is selling e-commerce software to wineries and wine clubs, and for that, CEO Matthew Protti says the most lucrative markets aren’t in Canada at all. Its customers are in places like Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, which have booming wine industries and few regulations. Canadian wine clubs now make up a third of BlackSquare business; Protti says he expects that to fall to a fifth within a year.
Canadian Digital Media Network Soft-Landing Program Expands Opportunities for Companies to Launch Outside Home Market
Waterloo Region, ON – February 5, 2012 – Companies from across Canada are establishing themselves in other markets thanks to the Soft-Landing Program supported by the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) in partnership with its nodes across Canada. The CDMN announced today that 14 companies are participating in the most recent round of the Outbound Soft-Landing program under way now, following a successful pilot program in 2012.
“Our Soft-Landing Program formula is working, enabling companies to hit the ground running in other geographies to increase their business opportunities,” said Kevin Tuer, CDMN Managing Director. “The pilot program realized an estimated $20 million in new opportunities and sales for participating companies, so we’re excited to see what 2013 brings for the companies announced today.”
Payments company Stripe just unveiled a new service that should make it significantly easier to build startups that depend on turning people into merchants. This class of startup, in which entrepreneurs create marketplaces rather than selling goods themselves, is white hot. Two examples are Airbnb, which helps regular people rent out their apartments to travelers, and Uber, which helps livery drivers sell rides in their cars.
All this competition in what might seem like an obscure niche–helping others help others accept credit cards–expands the range of startups that entrepreneurs can launch. For example, let’s say you want to create the Shopify of wine. Well it exists: Blacksquare. It’s powered by Stripe Connect, and it allows individual vintners to sell directly to consumers. Or take invoicing software BallPark, which allows freelancers to track their time, measure their wages, and automatically email the bill to their customers. Now, thanks to StripeConnect, clients can pay freelancers who use BallPark simply by clicking on a payment button embedded in the invoice itself.