Wine in a can: San Francisco startup backed by music heavyweights

Jay-Z and The Chainsmokers backing this year’s hit holiday gift

Get ready to be impressed by canned wine. Maker Wine, a San Francisco startup born at Stanford, has a hit holiday gift and a new round of funding that includes investment from some big-name entertainers.

The company just pulled in $2.3 million in early stage funding from investors including Marcy Venture Partners, the San Francisco venture capital firm cofounded by Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z, one of the very biggest names in hip-hop. The Grammy-winning electronic dance duo The Chainsmokers also chipped in.

Two of Maker Wine’s founders, Sarah Hoffman and Kendra Kawala, met at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where they set out to package and sell wine using great tech – and no wine snobbery.

The company – composed of six women, including a third co-founder, Zoe Victor – has a hit holiday gift: It’s an advent calendar box with an 8-ounce can of independent wine under each day’s tab. Why cans? Think about it: They’re easier to ship (which they do to 45 states) or take on a picnic. So you get craft wines from independent wineries in an easy package.

The firm has done more than 250 wine tastings with tech companies including Coinbase, Carta, LinkedIn, Samsara, Slack, Lacework and Pinterest. And Maker Wine thinks like a tech company, prioritizing a lightning-fast website, makerwine.com, that can be quickly reconfigured with new products and content. That’s in part due to the company’s adoption of “headless commerce,” the tech strategy that separates a website’s front-end (like design and user experience) from its back end (like programmer code and server set-up).

San Francisco startup Maker Wine has a hit holiday gift product with its advent calendar box of independent wine. (Clara Jones Photography)

San Francisco startup Maker Wine has a hit holiday gift product with its advent calendar box of independent wine. (Clara Jones Photography)

“We have the best tech stack in wine,” Kawala told me…

What if City Hall started hooking voting up to the internet, a notion many experts believe is dangerous? And then everyone involved just wandered off without answering questions? A bizarre, federally funded, $1.5 million online voting project has been raising questions around San Francisco’s City Hall for a couple of weeks, and the Elections Commission is asking the Supes to look into it.

A strongly worded letter expresses “deep concern” for the project’s “references to both internet voting and the use of blockchain protocols – as well as the lack of transparency” around the project. Last week a slew of experts, including the Electronic Freedom Foundation, blasted the project for wandering into the risky cybersecurity area of online voting without clear direction or leadership. Who put in for the federal grant and launched this thing, and why won’t they come forward and take responsibility?…

Stores empty of the traditional Thanksgiving weekend shopping rush. Alarm about a spike in street crime. Safety concerns about large gatherings. “People aren’t sure they want to go out, period,” the head of ODC Dance Theater told The Examiner. But “just being with other people” again after a time of fear and loss seems important. Does any of that sound familiar? Welcome to San Francisco on Thanksgiving weekend – in 2001. Suddenly this year doesn’t feel so unique in its challenges, right? After 9/11, 20 years ago, everything felt strange. Would we ever get back to normal, we wondered? Just a gentle reminder, San Franciscans, that we have rallied back from strange times before…

If you have conflicting feelings about returning to the office, imagine managing that transition with multiple jobs. That’s one of the things folks are discussing at overemployed.com, the community started by a Bay Area worker of two jobs during the pandemic for others working more than one job. Working multiple tech jobs from home has been a uniquely remote work trend, presenting a few challenges as in-person work returns.

“I’m on the hunt for (a second job) and my current FT job is not remote. But it is flexible and I can disappear without people caring where I am some days,” one member posted this week. “Someone at (my first job) just mentioned they missed me in the office and I should come in next week. I might have to search for remote-only jobs in the future,” another said. And you have to admire the chutzpah of the multi-job employee who posted, “I literally won’t poop, walk or shop unless it’s on company time.” Founder Isaac Price (a pseudonym) describes his community as “capitalism disrupting capitalism from within”…

Finally, please don’t pass the green beans candy corn. The candymaker Brachs has a special 2021 limited edition bag of candy corn that includes flavors straight from the Thanksgiving table. The flavors include roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green beans. Why couldn’t that have gotten stuck in the supply chain traffic jam?

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