Martin Brown, the CEO who created search engine Wine Searcher, has stepped down – for the fourth time. He will be replaced by Julian Perry, creator of UK based tech company Limitless.
Wine Searcher, based in New Zealand, was created in 1999 by three former employees of Berry Bros & Rudd in London: ecommerce manager Martin Brown, marketing strategist Nicolle Croft and Karen Gerard.
“It was the height of the dotcom rush,” Croft told Meininger’s back in 2009, “and we wanted to be part of it. We looked at a number of different ideas, but it was really wine that we knew about.” The trio put their heads together to come up with an idea that would work for the wine trade – and came up with the idea of a search engine that could display wine prices from different merchants.
The site was launched with their own money and based on a few hundred spreadsheets sent over by wine merchants.
“What amazes me is how slowly it all took shape,” said Brown in a recent statement. “You read about booming IT companies, but it took seven years before I could pay myself a salary. We have been organically growing without VC funding for years.”
Today, Wine-Searcher is the world’s wine, beer and spirits search engine. The site offers not just pricing and merchant details, but tasting notes, critic scores, a chatbot (Casey), an app and label recognition tool. Still based in Auckland, the company now has a staff of 65 people.
“These days we are at the forefront of what’s happening in IT – natural language, pattern recognition and clustering algorithms that we use in conjunction with our expert wine matching team,” Brown continued, adding that wine recommendations were a new focus. “We are pushing the boundaries for the wine trade, making use of changes that have come along in IT that make it easier for consumers to buy wine.”
Founder Martin Brown has stepped down before. Previous managing directors include Anne Walsh and Adon Kumar. Brown says, however, that he never wanted to be CEO: " I come from an IT background, the functional end of the business, and have never enjoyed being out front,” he said. “I'm looking forward to stepping back – I'd like a new set of concerns. I'm not entirely sure what those concerns are going to be, but I'm looking forward to some new ones."
His replacement Julian Perry founded Limitless in the UK in 1995, a company offering a web site design, hosting and development services. Limitless Wine offers ecommerce services for wine merchants.