An expensive wine mistake inspired Kurt Taylor’s business concept.
Several years ago, Taylor, founder and CEO of Next Glass, was at an Italian restaurant with his father.
“We didn’t know anything about Italian wines,” he said. “The waiter asked us questions about our wine preferences, and he seemed pretty knowledgeable. He recommended a wine that he said tasted like the kind of thing we like. It was a little more than we had planned to pay, but we thought, ‘What the heck, it would be good.’
“When we tasted the wine, though, we thought it was terrible. We asked ourselves ‘Why did we get a bad recommendation?’ We realized there is no universal language for how we describe wines, and senses are very subjective. We capture, synthesize and recreate images with computers. We can capture, record and play back sound. But ... you can’t shop based on smell or taste. That’s a void we’re trying to fill.”
At the time, Taylor was working at an investment bank in Charlotte.
“It was a great experience, but I didn’t have a passion for it,” he recalled. “Finding something I would have a passion for was really important to me – building something rather than crunching numbers.”
Spending their own money, Taylor and his father worked with software experts and science labs, exploring the feasibility of creating what Taylor calls “a Pandora for wine.” The two Taylors also wrote a business plan.
When they were satisfied that the science would work and that they could create a successful software program to support the wine-recommendation app, they tested the waters for financial support and were ready to flip the switch.
Since its startup in 2012, the venture has moved forward on two fronts: One, the scientific effort – based at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s MARBIONC facility – to identify the DNA of thousands of wines and beers. And two, the technical effort to write software that will build a preference profile of each user.
“The whole premise is removing the risk of wine and beer selection,” Taylor said. “You download the app and tell us one thing you like, and we take it from there.”
Even in its beta testing phase, which is drawing to a close, Next Glass has garnered attention from technology organizations in North Carolina.
In November, Next Glass was named a winner in the N.C. Technology Association’s NCTA 21 Awards’ emerging company category.
A Next Glass user will pay nothing to download the app and use it to see what wines or beers will likely be most appealing.
“We’ll monetize this through the back end,” Taylor said, explaining that stores, bars and restaurants will pay to have their inventory on the Next Glass roster. “The analytics we can provide are pretty valuable to them.”
Next Glass’ official launch is scheduled for sometime this summer. The app will be available through Google Play and iTunes stores.