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Jacob Ner-david started in tech as CEO of Ambient, Inc., Executive Chairman of Delta Three, Inc., CEO of NomadIQ, CEO of Zula, Inc., and investor in many others. Pursuing an interest in wine, he co-founded Jazreel Valley Winery. Since then, he has started Vinsent, an ecommerce marketplace for boutique wineries to sell Direct to Consumer, and Vinoventures, a trading fund centered on fine wines.
How did you end up in the wine industry? Was it by accident?
There is a lot of commonality between tech startups and wineries. You start with simple elements then you add skills, patience and luck. Hopefully, things workout and you get a great product/wine; then you start to sell it. I saw a lot of commonality and I always was interested in wine. Finally, the stars aligned (including a trained wine-making co-founder) and I pushed myself as an entrepreneur to start a winery.
What were some differences between tech & winery?
The biggest difference was the physicality of the wine industry. Particularly, issues of scalability. Ex. if you created a great app that goes viral and tens of million engage with it. All you need to do is add server space to scale. With a physical product like wine, you sell out and need 2 years to create more. Another issue was logistics, both regulatory issues and shipping.
What were some of the biggest challenges with starting Jazreel?
Whenever you are getting into a new industry, even if you think you know about the industry, you never know until you get into it. In winery, there are things you do that are difficult to pull-back from, that require a tremendous amount of homework. To make great wine, that’s a long process; it could take about 2 & a half years. WIth tech, if your idea fails, you can code a new idea and start again. With wine making, you’re stuck with your physical equipment etc and each harvest takes 2 years. It was a steep learning curve.
What do you think of the wine industry in Israel and your position as a boutique winery.
It’s fascinating, because 2000 years ago, Israel used to be a powerhouse in wine-making. 2 main reasons. 1) When the Romans conquered 2) When prophet Mohammed discouraged wine-making ( This was exacerbated during the Ottoman empire. Then the wine industry in Israel restarted about 100 years ago. Sadly, the first wave of wines were quite bad, due to various reasons such as lack of know-how. 35 years ago we started learning more and producing better quality wine. Comparing Israeli wine industry to a similarly aged one, we can look at New Zealand’s wine industry. In a country with a smaller population than Israel, in the same time span, how were they able to create such a distinct market for Kiwi wine. The answer is the New Zealand government and the industry cooperated and promoted and invested into creating a New Zealand wine industry and an identity.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Particularly during COVID, we will get past this. In the past few decades, we have had several market crashes( 1997,2001,2008 etc). While none of them were predictable, they were all predictable. While we didn’t know the specific form and time of when it would happen. We could expect a cataclysmic event. As entrepreneurs, you have to have a sense that we will get through this. This doesn’t mean you sit back, you still have to be active. As some will point out, some of the greatest companies came during these lows. It’s at those moments that we think, hey we could be doing something different. We don’t know what the new normal will look like but it definitely shed a new way of thinking.