Uncorked: Meet the sommelier who got all tech-y on us, whose mission is to make wine tasting accessible from the comfort of your home by combining wine and technology.

Consider the wine world a stuffy and snobby institution? Think again. Pulp Wine is the new platform making wine easy to understand, and enjoy. Certified sommelier, Paolo Zanelli founded Pulp in 2016 hoping to democratise the wine industry with his monthly subscription boxes that teach you all you need to know about wine.


Paolo’s mission is to make wine tasting accessible from the comfort of your home by combining wine and technology. He plans to help all wine lovers discover wine and figure out what they like, so to be able to choose the right wine for themselves, every single time. At the beginning of June, Pulp is launching an Indiegogo campaign. We asked Paolo Zanelli his biggest mistakes and the apps that help his efficiency.

I came up with the idea when... I realised that wine lovers and quality winemakers are after the same thing: a peer-to-peer relationship. Here, wine lovers have the confidence and the ability to discover wines perfect for their taste from trustworthy winemakers. And winemakers are those that spend their time and money in making great wines rather than on big marketing campaigns aimed at ‘generic’ wine tastes.

The biggest challenge is... to remain vigilant and not fall in love with what you are trying to create. As a startup, you have to critically reassess your product after each round of feedback from customers. Customers dictate your success so they should be the centre of your attention and care, not the product.

The average day is spent... reaching out to wine lovers, trying to learn what they want to know about the amazing world of wine and answering their questions. This means running events and live chats, blogging, discussing wine on social platforms. The rest is spent seeking out real winemakers and great wines and crafting the editorial content that help people discover them.

The team consists of... five dedicated individuals with a passion for wine; Natalia, our social media and marketing guru; Freddy, our art director; Riccardo, our growth hacking champion; Mario, our finance and legal expert and Paolo, our chief wine person.

My favourite quote is... ‘Why? is the most important question.’ We get carried away too often by the "How?" Figuring out the reasons for a phenomenon is the thing that makes us aware of things and puts us in control.

I am where I am today because of… a genuine love for diversity. This first took me away from home in Italy, and later led me to get of the regimented corporate ladder. The will to foster diversity is written all over our business model, where - rather than bringing people the mass-favourite wines - we want to help them go off the beaten path and discover new things.

I am who I am because... I value getting out of my comfort zone and seeking awareness, including the awareness of my limits and pitfalls. I prefer my mistakes are pointed out to me so I can work to overcome them, rather than complacently hide behind self-reassuring white lies.

The best advice I've been given is... ‘Hold tight and never give up’ as my godfather used to repeat. Enduring adversity and breaking through challenges is at the core of the success of startups that have made it. Our ambition is to do nothing less.

In five years I’d like to be… at the forefront of a community of real wine lovers, hundreds of thousands of people strong. By then, I will have managed to bring wine beyond its current stuffiness and snobbery making wine as simple and yet as engaging as craft beer is today.

The thing no one ever tells you about running your own business online... is that it's a day-by-day learning process. When you get involved with anything innovative, you're trying to do something that hasn't been done before so you won't be able to rely on best practices and good advice as much as you'd like to.

The websites I most frequently use are... the blogs of the more old-fashioned wine critics and wine magazines as they unwittingly pinpoint to us how our generation has a different take on wine and how we can bring this new viewpoint forward.

Our biggest mistake and what it taught us… was focusing largely on product development for months before bringing the product to market. We ended up bringing forward a product that wasn't a good fit for people's desires and we had to rethink it through later on. This has taught us to always run product development and customer discovery in parallel.

What apps do you use to be more productive... project management with Asana, business communication with Slack, email marketing with MailChimp and Streak, customer care with Zendesk, and Audible for work-related "reading".

The most rewarding experience we’ve had to date is... the enthusiasm of wine lovers when we share with them that we believe wine should be (and it is) as simple as beer. Nobody should feel compelled to say "I love wine but I don't know anything about it" because what you really need to know is what you like in wine and that will tell you what wine is right for you.

May 2017