Wine-loving entrepreneurs create app for fellow enthusiasts

Dan Roycroft and Scott Steffan have always loved wine and wanted to find a way to access high-quality wines. They considered buying wine preservation systems and renting them out to restaurants to make the wines they were interested in available in the local area, but the cost was too high. Then they turned to mobile apps, and OpenBottle was born.

Using Reserve-a-Glass technology, the OpenBottle app lets restaurants make bottle(s) of high-end wine available for customers to purchase by the glass. The restaurant moves an expensive bottle from its inventory, while the consumer enjoys a glass of high-quality wine at a fraction of the price of a full bottle. Roycroft noted that it is not just customers who can take advantage of this app; one restaurant owner they were working with mentioned that when he got his wines listed on the OpenBottle app, he was going to buy a portion of one of them himself. He’d always wanted to try a certain wine in his own inventory, but was afraid to open the bottle.

The partners, who have successful careers in the engineering and high-technology industries, are boomerangers. The quality of life in the Buffalo area brought them back home, and their desire to establish something for themselves while contributing more actively to the revival of Buffalo and its thriving startup scene inspired them to launch their own business.

“One of the things that we often talk about with OpenBottle is, if we can prove that this works here, we can do this anywhere,” Roycroft said. “It’s a fact that there are not as many people as you would see in a larger market like New York City, Silicon Valley, or L.A., but we're making it happen here. We're demonstrating that if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”

While they are optimistic about the business, Roycroft noted that the partners still struggle with second thoughts about following their dream and making their passion a reality, something many entrepreneurs face.

“It creeps up on you and you need to beat it back,” he said. “You need to remind yourself why you're doing this--it's to build something for yourself, it's your own vision. You have a pride of ownership and want to build a legacy for your family and your children. Those are some of the philosophical mental challenges of the entrepreneur’s dilemma that have been difficult for us.”

Despite the occasional doubt, Roycroft still feels entrepreneurship is a worthwhile pursuit, and advises aspiring entrepreneurs persevere, be willing and open to learn, to listen to their users, test their product, and ignore negative criticism. Criticism abounds, he said, but testing proves whether your idea is practical.

“At a very early stage, it doesn't matter if it's practical from a scalability standpoint or not,” he said. “Get out and just see if there is demand. The minute you start testing, you'll receive valuable feedback. Then you can incorporate and, over time, you'll figure out how to either automate or scale the things that are really important to your customers.”

Currently, Roycroft and Steffan are seeking funding and hope to scale OpenBottle to unlock a whole new future of opportunities. They credit the Buffalo entrepreneurial community with mentoring them and sharing their experiences, which has helped them get to this point, and they hope to continue to build their team and create an amazing experience for their users. They also hope that when users enjoy high-end wine by the glass, they’ll remember that OpenBottle made it possible.

Check out the OpenBottle app on the Apple AppStore or, for Android users, on the Google Play Store, to see how it is changing the way wine is purchased and experienced.

Read more articles by Jeff Dahlberg.

Jeff Dahlberg is a freelance writer and the author of “Not Just Snow and Chicken Wings: Positive Stories About Buffalo’s Rebirth.” He was born and raised in Western New York. A University at Buffalo and Second City graduate, he longs for the day when both the Bills win a Super Bowl and the Sabres win a Stanley Cup.
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