From (under-)graduate to start-up founders

Manuel Männle and Moritz Liebergesell react with Vinogether to #stayathome

By Katrin Reil

Keeping your distance, wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds – the corona pandemic continues to dominate not only your academic but also your everyday life. Manuel Männle and Moritz Liebergesell, a student and alumnus from the BSc International Management Double Degree programme, had an idea about how to provide ”savoir vivre“ despite restrictions to public life. With their start-up Vinogether they have been organising virtual wine tastings since the beginning of May 2020.  

The idea was born when Manuel’s mandatory internship in Berlin was shifted from company office to working from home. Actually, the son of a cellar master had already planned to conduct a physical wine tasting with his colleagues. Suddenly this was no longer possible due to social distancing measures. Instead, Manuel quickly sent wine tasting packages to his team colleagues throughout Germany and conducted the wine tasting via video conference. Through social media comments posted by enthusiastic wine tasters, ESB alumnus Moritz Liebergesell became aware of the idea and saw potential for an innovative business model.

The concept for the online wine tasting in cooperation with a vintners’ association from Durbach in southern Baden was quickly developed: after booking, each of at least six participants receives a tasting package with six different types of wine in bottles of 0.25l each sent to their homes. On the day of the wine tasting, everyone dials in for the wine tasting and is virtually welcomed by a professional wine tasting speaker who guides them through the programme for about one and a half hours and answers questions about viniculture and the varieties tested. After the official programme, the wine tasting can be continued among friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Meanwhile, Vinogether has held more than 115 online wine tastings with up to 8o participants throughout Europe – including ESB alumni.

“Even though the social distancing regulations are no longer as strict as they were at the beginning of the corona pandemic, we see many “business cases” for virtual wine tastings, to put it in business terms. After all, each of us now has friends who don’t live in the same place and who we see far too rarely, but who we would like to share experiences with,“, says Moritz Liebergesell. In the meantime, the young company is already receiving the first bookings for virtual Christmas parties in addition to requests for online summer parties.  

“What started out as a small project is now one of our most valuable experiences“, affirms Manuel Männle. Starting and building up a company alongside work and internships was quite a challenge, he says: “From the start we wanted to do everything right, so we worked on the processes for a long time. That cost us quite a few phone calls late into the night.” Moritz Liebergesell adds: “The time-to-market was also a particular problem because at no time did we know how long we would be in the situation where families and companies would be physically separated from each other and therefore be really interested in our offer. So the quick business registration, the rapid creation of a website and registration with the tax office were also quite challenging. It’s a good thing that there are also helpful YouTube videos on some topics“.

Both underline that they wouldn’t want to have missed the experience. “Of course, we were able to apply quite a lot of what we learned at university. But no matter whether it is marketing, accounting or data protection – in self-employment you have to master all of these at once. It was helpful for me that I took the elective module Business Plan Creation at ESB and thus had a first approach to starting up a business in mind. Despite everything, our learning by doing with Vinogether has been a unique experience for me“, summarises Manuel  Männle.