Have you ever opened a bottle of wine and it didn’t taste like it did at the winery? New Greek start-up, Istmos, can solve this common problem.
Greek start-up: Istmos
When wine leaves the winery, a winery has no control over what happens to the wine on its journey to the consumer. This problem, which affects the quality of wine, has plagued winemakers for eons. It’s such a big issue, that many wineries have elected to only sell their wines from the tasting room, so they may control the quality. This limits their businesses considerably. So what do they do? Enter tech gurus Tasos Oikonomidis and Stamatis Poulimenos, founders of the Greek start-up Istmos.
Tasos and Stamatis are website applications developers. While designing a new website and an ecommerce solution for winemakers in Nemea, they were approached about this issue. Anastasios explained.
“They told us they had an ongoing problem and asked us to help find a solution through technology. They wished to preserve the quality of their bottled wines, once they leave the winery.”
The founders said that winemakers have no control over how their wine is stored once it leaves the winery, and don’t know the conditions. Mishandling and improper storage can seriously affect a wine’s quality, and ultimately, create a bad experience for the consumer. They looked at available tech tools, which led them to explore, in a partnership with the Agriculture University of Athens, a solution based on Internet of Things (IOT) technology. According to Wikipedia, “The IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention”. So what does that mean?
It means creating a monitoring system to control the temperature, humidity, luminosity, and even vibration in all parts of the supply chain: winery-transport-storage-store/restaurant-consumer.
Istmos was founded in 2015. The name comes from the Greek word, isthmos, or isthmus, like the one that allows travel between Athens and Nemea. They also said that that connection was an appropriate metaphor for their business. The new Greek start-up quickly acquired initial seed funding from the EU. Tasos elaborated.
“Our 1st phase was successful. We built a system prototype, which allowed us to collect data, and evaluate the quality of the storage, and if proper techniques were used to store wine. The next phase was to monitor the supply chain.”
Sente and 1871: Istmos in America
To do this, Stamatis and Tasos needed to secure additional funding and support. Through the portal F6S which assists start-ups, they connected to Sente, an international accelerator program for entrepreneurs. They were accepted, and attended a program with 11 other start-ups in Istanbul. There, 5 teams were selected to go to Chicago for mentoring, and other opportunities at 1871, Chicago’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center. This partnership between Sente and 1871 expands opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The founders explained that in addition to mentoring workshops, 1871 helped them establish a U.S. entity, and placed them in front of would-be investors. The pitches were successful, and they expect the first round of funding soon.
When I met with Stamatis and Tasos at 1871, I asked them why, in their opinion, they were selected to come here. Stamatis said that it’s because there are many opportunities for a business like this here. Since Chicago is a transportation hub, and because (and this seems to be among the best kept secrets) Illinois produces wine.
“It gave us the opportunity to provide added value to local wineries.”
While here, they attended the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and met with several wineries. They also traveled to Texas on invitation from the Hellenic Initiative.
“We attended the South by Southwest conference. There’s a lot of wine in Texas.”
Additionally, Istmos was also part of the MIT Enterprise Forum.
“In the 1st phase, a selection committee chose Istmos among 25 start-ups. We ended in the top 10. The US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt invited us to his house since we were one of the Greek start-ups who participated to SXSW, and after the finals of the MITEF competition, to discuss the Greek start-up ecosystem and the possibilities to penetrate the US market.”
How it works
The Istmos platform monitors the conditions of wine storage in all stages, from the wineries to distributors and retailers, including liquor stores, supermarkets, and restaurants. Through the use of technology, they winery is informed about any problems during the storage and transportation process. The program indicates trouble spots that can be isolated and fixed. The software also provides information about wine quality to end users — the consumers, wine buyers and enthusiasts. Wines transported using the system create a marketing advantage — their wines maintain their high quality once they reach the consumer.
RFID technology, paired with scannable QR codes, allows wine to be tracked and identified. With a mobile app, the QR codes are scanned for information about that specific bottle. The platform may be used as the technical basis for a quality certification.
The founders are back in Greece, and working on the next phases of their Greek start-up. They’re making connections with more wineries, transportation carriers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants. They are also about to run a pilot project with Duetsche Telekom (COSMOTE) using the new technology of Narrow Band IoT (NB-IoT) in Northern Greece.
“The end goal is for consumers to enjoy the same quality in the wines as they do in the tasting room, which leads to much more enjoyable experiences — and more business for winemakers.”