Paul Mabray has been in the wine and spirits industry for over seventeen years. He has worked for Napa Ale Works, Niebaum~Coppola, WineShopper/Wine.com and also was the North American Beverage Consultant for Sumitomo Corporation of America from 2003 through 2005. He founded Inertia in 2003 as one of the first major companies established to bridge the barrier between wineries and their customers. Paul Mabray was CEO from 2002 until 2008 creating the largest and most powerful e-commerce platform for the wine industry, the Rethink Engine. Under his leadership, Inertia created incredible new products for the wine industry to help open up the ability to sell and market direct including the innovative Direct to Trade, ReThink Compliance, Brix Open Source CMS, Marketplace Enablement, and many more. For his last six months at Inertia, Paul was Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Business Development in charge of creating key strategic direction, business development, and mergers and acquisitions. VinTank is a continuation of his desire to help revolutionize the wine industry through e-business and innovative digital products and marketing.
A key contributor to the Inertia blog, a two time American Wine Blog Awards finalist, he has also been a guest lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, UC Davis and many other symposiums, seminars, blogs, and periodicals for his leadership in the wine industry.
Paul formerly sat on the Board of Directors for the leading wine business social network, Openwineconsortium.org, and the Board of Advisors for Snooth.com.
Paul Mabray is currently on the Board of Directors for Cruvee.com and the Board of Advisors of Taste.com.
What are you working on right now?
We are working on quite a few projects.
The two most exciting are a report about how the internet will change the wine industry and we are helping our client build the free data distribution hub for the wine industry which will be the substrata that new wine/tech companies will be able to innovate and will help catalyze the success of wine online.
3 Trends that excite you?
Social CRM (SCRM). The notion of connecting conversations to customers to better service them is amazing.
Use of mobile devices to help wine consumers make buying decisions at point of purchase (POP).
The use of aggregate wine conversations on social networks and how it creates “crowd scores” that have never been seen before in the wine industry and help off-set the imbalance caused by only a few key professional critics.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We follow a pretty disciplined routine for making IP a reality.
Harvest – Our discovery phase where we find all the strategic levers and possible friction.
Crush – Ideation where are things are possible.
Blend/Filter – Is it achievable? Does it make money? what has the best ROI?
Bottle – Let’s take this idea to market.
We call this process Agile Business Process (named after Agile Software Process) and it emulates some of the efficiencies of that methodology. The only three tools we use to create and execute this are a whiteboard, PowerPoint and Excel. The results of this process:
A PPT with the strategic goals defined.
An XLS with an activity calendar, KPI’s, Costs, Revenue.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
My goal has always been to help the entire wine industry succeed using digital tools. As CEO of Inertia Beverage Group, I invented Direct to Trade, a new channel that allowed wineries to sell directly to restaurants and retailers using the internet. In my hubris, I tried to make it a channel for all customers instead of focusing on the right customers that would help change buying behavior. As a result we suffered from trying to solve not only the problems of building a new channel, but of trying to help brands that had other problems other than distribution. It was like pushing a rope.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
A book that constantly challenges my assumptions is Free by Chris Anderson.
I use Evernote.com extensively to ensure that my thoughts are captured in free form and organized for future review.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Wine consumers that belong to clubs usually belong to 1-3 clubs. A central platform to manage all their club activity (change of address, change of credit card, etc) that cascades through to the wineries would be a useful tool. Moreover, that platform could be an awesome comparative engine for people looking to join new clubs (what are the benefits, how often, shipping costs, etc) and have user generated reviews on club experiences.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
I have been fortunate in my life to be part of many incredible companies (some very successful, some not, but all pioneers). What I love about all these companies is that each of them has added to the gestalt of the success of wine online. Each step I’ve been part of teams that help our industry get closer to actually making wine work online. It has been amazing to see the components that all of them have contributed to the infrastructure for the success that is just starting to blossom. We are just starting the bronze age of wine online. I hope to continue to be a key contributor to that story and to the evolution of wine online.
When you are not working, what are you doing?
When am I not working? LOL. Actually my other big driver in life is family. I am fortunate to have an amazing son, Finn, who is the light of my life. There is nothing better than a Saturday morning watching him learn and grow. I get recharged by his glow to go back and swing for the fences. I also am a huge video game fan and play a bit of Xbox360 at night (GamerTag – napa maestro) and focus on immersive first person games so that I am forced to not think about work which really is my passion as well as my occupation.
You can find more about me at:
Paul Mabray on Twitter – @pmabray
Paul Mabray on Linkedin –
Our site –
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.