WineryConnect receives $1M to create virtual jobs

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Sam Weiner, founder of WineryConnect and Grape Squad.

To help wine producers thrive in the connected economy, Rochester startup WineryConnect started the Grape Squad, a virtual information technology service.

It set out to raise $400,000, but the coronavirus outbreak highlighted its value — technology that connects controlled-beverage producers with customers — attracting $1 million from a local investor.

“I’m excited that we closed a VC round during the pandemic and are hiring for virtual jobs,” CEO Ben Weiner said. “Grape Squad has a family culture where we train anyone with a good STEM background to support wineries and craft beverage producers. Our expertise can be applied from seed to sale to social to scale.”

“It took us seven long years to create our niche verticalized integration-platform-as-a-service for controlled commerce, but what excites me most about the future is not just that we’ve built a better mousetrap to capture payment processing revenue, or even that we’ve built a better mousetrap to capture clean, well-structured data which we can build into intelligence,” said Sam Weiner, chief technology officer and founder. “What excites me most is that we have a piece of pure cloud infrastructure which is intimately tied to a requirement for us to create virtual middle-skill jobs supporting producers.”

WineryConnect’s mission is to reduce the distance between producers and consumers, and help their customers drive to new business solutions. Its Grape Squad provides producers with a virtual, in-house IT department. Grape Squad helps producers sell their wine, fix software problems and set up servers.

Currently, WineryConnect works with over 30 beverage producers. The business employs seven people, including contractors.

Winokur, the family's pre-Ellis Island name, was an occupational surname meaning "spirit distiller."