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New version of wine app Drync wants to make it easier to buy a favorite bottle

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 11, 2013 08:00 AM

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Brad Rosen launched the mobile app Drync back in 2008, to help oenophiles keep track of favorite wines, or read reviews of vintages with which they might not be familiar. But even though Drync has had a nice run as one of the more popular wine-related apps, selling a premium version for $3.99, alongside the free app, didn't yield a big business.

So Rosen has been trying to get closer to the cash register, making it possible to purchase favorite bottles of wine without leaving the app. The latest version of Drync, called Drync Direct, launches this week in conjunction with the Boston Wine Expo.

"I can never find the wine I enjoyed at a restaurant when I'm at the store later on, or I can't remember it," says Rosen. "One issue is that retailers stock less than two percent of the overall number of wines available. So we wanted to help consumers who create an emotional connection with a wine — yes, maybe they're intoxicated — and help them buy it right then and there. The idea is to buy a wine you love, in the moment."

At a restaurant, or at the Expo, you can use Drync to photograph the label of a bottle of wine. The, the app either automatically recognizes it and shows you the price and a rating (on a scale of 1-5 stars), or the image is sent to a Drync employee who tries to identify it, and the results come back in a few minutes. Once the wine has been ID'ed, you can add your own tasting notes, and "tag it" with the location where you tried it. It's stored in a list of "My Wines" in the app, and you can opt to purchase it now, or perhaps weeks or months later. If you purchase more than six bottles, shipping is free. (And Drync is offering free shipping for all purchases at the Boston Wine Expo, which takes place this Saturday and Sunday.)

Orders are fulfilled by existing retailers and distributors, Rosen says: "We can recognize 700,000 bottles of wine, and our launch partner in Massachusetts stocks 15,000 bottles or more. But our model is to have multiple fulfillment partners." Drync takes a "marketing fee" from each order as it passes it along to retailers and distributors. Right now, Drync can only ship to 22 states, because of regulatory restrictions.

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 9.41.11 PM.pngOddly, at the Boston Wine Expo and many other expos, "you can't buy the wines you taste, and it can be hard to find them afterward," says Rosen, left. Drync will change that, with pre-populated lists of wines being showcased at the expo's various tasting events, like the "Affordable Bourdeaux Seminar."

When I tried the app on 15 random bottles I had at home, it did pretty well: Drync recognized ten of the labels automatically (and the company's human helpers punched in the other five within about an hour.) The app wasn't very good at getting the correct year (see the screenshot above), but you have the ability to adjust that. Five of the fifteen bottles I photographed were available for purchase through the app. Drync worked well when there was ample or even moderate light to take the photo, but as you might expect, low light tripped it up.

Drync's three founders treated the app as a side project until last February, when Rosen decided to focus on it full-time. The company won $50,000 in the 2011 MassChallenge competition; at that point, it was focused on becoming sort of like Groupon for wine, offering discounts on bottles that had been selected by Drync employees. Drync raised a small seed round of funding last year. Rosen says Drync has four employees, and is based in Boston's Financial District.

I featured Rosen last year in a column titled, "Entry is easy, but few prosper in app development."

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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