Vino Veritas

Truth in Wine (Cellaring!) Starting up a green company that brings together new technology, great wines and old-as-dirt-ideas.

This is the personal blog of VV's CEO & Co-Founder, Jon Lawrence.

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Name: Jon Lawrence
Location: Los Angeles, California

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Friday, May 1, 2009

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Wheels Keep on Turning

While I haven't blogged much in a while, we've been fairly active at Vino Veritas, doing more investors meetings, site assessments, demographic research, etc. In the middle of all of that work, an opportunity for me to take a crack at doing some innovative new media projects has popped back up onto my radar.

It's with pride in the work we've done to date, and with a lot of hope for future of Vino Veritas, that I've decided to step aside as CEO of the company to take advantage of the window of opportunity that has presented itself.

I will be retaining a seat on the Board of Directors, and helping my co-founder, Larry Lee (who is now President, and CEO) keep the business moving forward. I will also continue to provide analysis and assessment of potential deals as well as some strategic support on the road ahead. I've also been asked to keep up the blog here; updating it as things move forward and as time permits, and I'm happy to do that!

This startup has been a tremendously valuable learning experience, and I'm very grateful for the opportunities and outstanding people I've gotten to meet through this process. I believe that Vino Veritas will continue to sharpen its focus, identify appropriate opportunities and create a unique product offering in the market in the months and years ahead.

I'm grateful that I get to continue to contribute to that process, though it in a different role than the past year has been. For any of you who are curious about the media endeavor I'm embarking on, there will be some updates and info on that side of my career at http://www.uglyshz.com/blog. Thank you to everyone who's been a fan, and supporter of my role in this company, it's been a great experience.

In Vino Veritas!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Market Research

Industry associations are a good thing. Not only do they tell you where not to be, based on others experience, but if you step slightly to the left of your industry, they tell you a whole lot about your competitive advantage.

We've been attending a monthly series of web seminars for self-storage operators and here's just a few of the really important things we've learned that help us further cement why we're at the right time at the place with our business.
  1. Primary competition, if you can call it that, is from other self-storage operators; some of whom are adding wine storage services
  2. Those competitors have some very high barriers to entry in their business:
    • The cost of properly securing an area with high value contents
    • The cost of proper insurance - including bailment liabilities
    • The cost of limiting the value of contents customers can store
That's right - many storage operators have lease agreements that limit their exposure to lost contents to less than $2500.00. Anything over that, and you're outta luck.

When you think about it, does it really make any sense to be storing your wines anywhere near a bunch of old mattresses and junk, oh, and Ricin?

There's a huge, and very underserved need for properly secured wine storage - and when you add that into all the other pieces of the puzzle we've assembled, we're really excited about where this is going to go.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Build a Cave?

OK, lots of other reasons I've espoused before, but none of them come closer to the truth of why Larry & I have set out to do this, as this wonderful story that came across my RSS feeds today:

In a small valley not far out of town, there are dozens of underground wine cellars where vintners store and sell the local wine, Egri Bikaver, also known as “Bull’s Blood.” As the evening winds on and the cellars close, visitors concentrate themselves more and more tightly into the remaining open cellars. The wine and proximity make for good conversation and new friendships.
It's about the stories told, friendships found, and conversations had around a great place, and great wines.

We're very passionate about these stories, and look forward to sharing in them with our clients, and the friends we'll make along the way as well.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Customer Research

We hate to call it "market" research, because our market is made of people we hope become our customers.

In order for us to better serve our customers to the best of our ability, we're conducting a web survey on storage sizing.

We'd greatly appreciate our fellow wine enthusiasts taking a moment to tell us how to better build a place that serves them!

Thank you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thinking About SWOTS

A friend of mine made a comment the other day about how another person at his work didn't understand how to participate in a SWOT analysis.

And it got me thinking about it for a minute.

I'm all for examining my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, but what struck me was the word "understand" when he talked about the HR benchmarking analysis. But how much do both the one giving and the one receiving the analysis understand of each others contextual objectivity in the process?

Objectivity when it comes to measuring production output is pretty straightforward, but measuring psychological and character metrics seems like... well I think it's pretty tough to do in context.

One of the companies we're interested in doing business with has a list of ten principles they operate by that we admire a lot, and one of them is a very old axiom:
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood"
How often, when we are judging what may be fairly subjective metrics, do we *not* seek to understand or even consider the other persons actions we're about to judge within context?

I can certainly look at my own history and see places where the same work was being produced in different contextual settings, and one place, I excelled at. The other place, I didn't do well at all. Was it a weakness of my own character, or a conflict inherent to the context that prevented excellence?

When the day comes we have to do annual reviews and analysis, we'll work hard to understand first.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Learning how to do, by doing not

I'll admit, patience is not always my strong suit.

I don't necessarily think I'm headstrong, but I'm typically more of "wanting to get it done" kind of guy. I prefer to make assess information, make a decision and move ahead.

This is probably the primary reason I know how to do a lot of the stuff I know how to do, because I didn't want to wait for someone else to get it done for me.

Over the last couple of years, the impatience has toned down a lot as I grow older and more experienced.

Once in a while it's still a surprise to me that I have to stop and and counter the "we have to get this thing done" impulse with the fact that there are times when waiting is what needs to be done.

Hopefully I'm getting better at that as we go:)

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Good People, Good Markets

Early this Tuesday morning, we went to our first Chamber of Commerce meeting in one of the markets we want to be in, and were very glad to meet some great people and learn good things about conducting business in that community.

Our thanks to Calabasas Chamber of Commerce and their "deputies" at the "Good Morning Calabasas" breakfast.

Y'all have to admit, it was somehow appropriate we ended up taking home a door prize of a bottle of wine from a random business card drawing:) We got a good laugh out of the coincidence!

It was a pleasure to attend a well-organized function that said it was about "relationship building" within the business community, and delivered on that in spades.

We look forward to being an active partner in the community as our business grows.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Great Wines for Dummies

Larry Lee, president of Vino Veritas, has a far more advanced palette than I do, and is hard at working on continuing up the scale of sommelier certification. But on my end, I'm mostly a dummy when it comes to "good wines," though I'm having a blast learning more.

We had some great friends come over last night for dinner and a movie, and they handed off a bottle of wine to my wife and I with the "well, we know you're connoisseurs, but this should be a pretty good bottle."

But as far as I'm concerned, pretty much ANY bottle that's enjoyed with great friends, IS a great bottle of wine. (and if it turns out to be a BAD bottle, then we all get a good laugh out of pouring it down the drain and opening something else).

~Drink what ya like~

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sweat Equity Ain't Just About Hard Work

A while back I had a post about the hard work, etc. of starting a new company and how to figure out the value of sweat equity, and that's a term that's been coming back in spades for Larry and I.

Sweat equity isn't just about the hard work you put into getting a new business off the ground, but as Larry likes to put it, "The sweat rolling off your brow all night long while you stare at the ceiling, wide awake, trying to hang in there long enough to make it all work."

Amen. We're all right there.

I'm reminded even more of this the last two days with news of one of the major companies I used to work with in the media biz abruptly going out of business with hundreds of unpaid employees locked out, and another shuttering it's operations in two other countries as it contracts as well.

It's a tough time to start a new business, but in no way does that mean we're giving up. To the contrary, it means we sink our teeth in to do whatever we have to do to get this done.