“What we want to do is make the experience of shopping for wine burden-free and fun,” said Melody Koh, a former associate venture capitalist at Time Warner Investments and one of Betabeat’s 2011 25 Women Driving New York’s Tech Scene. The venture capitalist turned entrepreneur is now the cofounder of FirstCrush, which launched this week in beta.
FirstCrush essentially takes the burden off the buyer to know anything about wine. With a simple series of questions and a rating system FirstCrush determines your wine palate and matches wine to your personality. The wine is sent to the drinkers doorstep for them to enjoy and rent.
Ms. Koh left Time Warner Investments for Harvard Business School, knowing that she wanted to get her hands dirty at a startup. “I found that it takes a lot of time to overcome the lack of direct experience in operating or running something,” she admitted.
Since making the leap to entrepreneurship, Ms. Koh has been busier than ever. “I am enjoying it but once in awhile I stop and ask myself ‘Am I just being crazy?’ I would say 90 percent of the time, I love it and summer has been great because I can focus on it.” Ms. Koh finds being an entrepreneur much more engaging than being an investor. “It is more exciting to be a co-founder because I’m actually making an impact on a problem I care about. Building is definitely more exciting than investing.
The shift from VC to startup is hardly Ms. Koh’s first pivot—she came to the startup world from the banking industry. However, there are some things she misses now that she’s crossed over. “I do miss the breadth of exposure to different sectors and verticals within tech,” she said. “When you’re working on a startup you get the depth, but not necessarily the breadth of things happening across the ecosystem.”
Ms. Koh and her cofounder Yue Zhao played with a few ideas—a site for finding a meeting place for coworkers, a site where you could hire fourth- or fifth-tier chefs—before settling on FirstCrush. “Yue and I were frustrated with the wine purchase process,” Ms. Koh said in an email. “I love to drink wine and I love to buy stuff, but I really don’t know how to buy… it ends up being a very crappy shopping experience that ended up with me buying something because it looked nice and it was in my price range.”
She knows what she like now, though: “I do have summer moments where I enjoy a glass of white but for the most part I drink red. I can’t give specific bottle but in terms of varietals I love Malbec from Argentina.”
If all goes well with FirstCrush, Ms. Koh said, “we won’t have to go back to school.” Dropping out of Harvard: the ultimate validation.