New York-based startup Lot18 is bringing its online wine business to Europe, acquiring Paris-based Vinobest for an undisclosed sum. The two-year-old company, often referred to as a sort of epicurean Gilt Groupe because it sells wine and gourmet food via online flash sales, now looks to tap into Europe's $100 billion market.
"Europe is the world's biggest wine market," says Philip James, cofounder of the invite-only service. "A lot of really good wine is made in Europe. Not only can we access consumers based there, but we can look for more wine that can be drank in Europe or shipped over here for the American market—a double benefit."
James and cofounder Kevin Fortuna founded Lot18 in 2010, and since then have seen remarkable growth. The company has raised three rounds of funding in the last 12 months alone—totaling $44 million from the likes of Accel Partners—to keep up with its rapid expansion. The service has ballooned to more than 600,000 registered members, and is reportedly generating roughly $2 million in revenue per month—on track to gross more than $25 million in 2011.
With the acquisition of Vinobest, a similar wine flash-sale service in France, Lot18 hopes to bring the success it's had in the American market overseas. James says Lot18 will aim primarily to serve lucrative markets such as the U.K., Germany, and France. The company has already seen domestic sales of more than 700,000 bottles of wine.
Recognizing the potentially huge business, Gilt Groupe launched its competitor, Gilt Taste Wine, in August, bringing aboard Ruth Reichl, the former Gourmet editor and chief and New York Times restaurant critic, to oversee editorial.
But that hasn't slowed Lot18, which has grown from six to 90 employees in a short period, and recently expanded to selling gourmet cheeses and curated "epicurean experiences," such as food-themed travel excursions and exclusive dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants.
[Image: Flickr user Caliterra]