Alumni Tim Keller and Collin Casper Savor VinPerfect’s Success
Start-up Produces the "Perfect" Wine Cap
Tim Keller MBA 08 has a dream—and the persistence to make it a reality. A UC Davis viticulture and enology alumnus, Keller worked for 12 years as a winemaker in Sonoma and Napa counties before enrolling in the Graduate School of Management.
Today he’s the co-founder and CEO of VinPerfect, maker of a revolutionary screwcap for wine bottles that is poised to turn the 21-billion-unit annual global market for wine closures on its head. He’s joined in this quest by former classmate Collin Casper MBA 08, VinPerfect’s co-founder and COO.
Winemaking is both an art and a science, made challenging and kept interesting by many nuances, among them the amount of oxygen a wine needs and receives once crafted and in the bottle. While all wines consume oxygen, the optimal amount depends on the variety and winemaking style.
VinPerfect’s high-performance screwcap has a patent-pending liner that allows winemakers to specify how much oxygen enters a wine bottle over time. The technology, says Keller, is a quantum improvement over both traditional and synthetic cork and conventional screwcaps, all of which can damage and taint wine, to the tune of almost a million bottles a day.
Keller developed the prototype for his cap while an MBA student, taking the $15,000 grand prize in the 2008 Big Bang! Business Plan Competition. His involvement in the contest helped set the stage for VinPerfect’s success.
“Our Big Bang! and GSM connections have been integral to our growth,” says Casper. “They’ve led us to some of our best industry contacts and biggest investors—including the Sacramento Angels.”
Following an extended R & D period, VinPerfect debuted its cap at the 2011 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, and started selling its product in January 2012. Last summer the start-up moved to new offices and a production facility in Napa Valley.
Its Series A-1 investment round brought in more than a half-million dollars, and VinPerfect recently sold its one-millionth unit. “But most important to me,” says Keller, “is that within our first year we earned customers who took a chance on our product are coming back with repeat orders.”
Goals for 2013 include growing sales to 12 million units—roughly $2 million in gross revenue— and expansion into new markets in the Pacific Northwest and across the globe, including Australia and New Zealand, Europe, South Africa and Chile/Argentina.
“Had you asked me before I began my MBA career if I would be an entrepreneur, the answer would be an emphatic ‘no’, says Casper. “Now I can’t see doing anything else.”
—by Marianne Skoczek