Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » First 100 days: Matt Wolf, DRINKS

First 100 days: Matt Wolf, DRINKS

Matt Wolf joins DRINKS as CFO, bringing a dynamic blend of SaaS and financial leadership to fuel the company's innovative expansion in the booming alcohol e-commerce industry.

In January 2024, DRINKS appointed Matt Wolf as CFO.

With a background that blends over a decade of financial leadership in SaaS and emerging technologies, Wolf was chosen to steer the innovative beverage company through its next phase of growth.

His prior roles have not only honed his expertise in navigating highly regulated industries but also in mastering the intricacies of mergers and acquisitions, making him an ideal fit for DRINKS’ innovative approach to the $250 billion alcohol market. This transition comes at a pivotal moment for DRINKS, following the divestiture of its direct-to-consumer unit, Wine Insiders, to sharpen its focus on its core offering: a transformative alcohol e-commerce enablement technology.

Wolf’s track record of driving significant revenue growth and operational efficiency, notably at Roadster and ChartHop, alongside his tenure in consumer goods and tech with industry giants like AB-InBev and Morgan Stanley, positions him as a key asset in DRINKS’ mission to accelerate the digital transformation of alcohol retail.

In February, Wolf sat down with The CFO to speak about his first 100 days in seat.

What prompted you to join DRINKS?

I joined DRINKS at an exciting time, soon after it sold its direct-to-consumer, or DTC, online wine business. I saw it as an inflection point, and the ideal time to come onboard, with DRINKS now fully focused on scaling its core technology that was first built to serve consumers but has since evolved into a powerful enterprise product.

What stood out from the start, and becomes more and more apparent to me every day, is the strength of the leadership team here and the positive team chemistry. Everyone is experienced and focused on one common end goal, which is helping put just about any business into the online alcohol business.

You join the company at a time when it is refocusing on its core growth opportunity: its alcohol e-commerce enablement technology. How will this influence your strategy?

DRINKS’ choice to go all-in on scaling its enterprise products is self-defining in terms of our core growth opportunity.

There are three specific areas that I want to focus on. First is operations. I want to maximize the scalability of our SaaS foundation, which we call WaaS, as in, Wine as a Service. Next, I want to further develop and activate our flywheel, which starts by identifying the right partners for our platform. And finally, attracting the right investors for DRINKS – ones who understand our technology, grasp what it has already done and see its full potential.

Having transitioned from CFO roles in different industries, what unique challenges and opportunities do you anticipate in the alcohol e-commerce sector at DRINKS?

The alcohol industry is highly regulated, and I’ve worked with regulated industries before. What makes alcohol different is its immense tangle of federal, state and local regulations that date back to the repeal of Prohibition and the rise of the three-tier system, whereby suppliers and brands must, by law, first sell to distributors, who then sell to retailers before a consumer can make a purchase.  I experienced something like that during my time in the automotive industry, which also operates in tiers and regulated by franchise laws.

I see this system as both a challenge and opportunity, as we look to grow within an entrenched regulatory structure that, make no mistake, we will always stay on the right side of. Many tech companies generally only deal with data privacy compliance. At DRINKS, we have another thick layer that we have to navigate. We’ve succeeded at that owing to expertise and technology that is genuinely unrivalled in our category.

Matt Wolf, CFO, DRINKS

Considering DRINKS’ focus on innovative e-commerce enablement technology, what financial strategies do you foresee implementing to support this innovation?

I want to be sure that we are deploying capital in a way that is fully aligned with our overall strategy. That includes creating budgets people can understand, implementing processes that can evolve and instituting financial controls that don’t impede, but rather, support innovation and growth.

I’m also focused on fostering an ongoing, open, and clear dialogue with investors, and on telling our compelling story.

How do you plan to navigate the complex regulatory landscape of the alcohol industry to ensure compliance and maximise efficiency?

While there are many intricacies to this industry, I am fortunate to have some of the industry’s top alcohol compliance experts in house. I learn from them every day and will continue to rely on them as we evolve and grow.

How will your background in tech finance influence the integration of new technologies and platforms at DRINKS?

Technology has been part of my DNA from the early stages of my career. I started out in data analytics and I’ve carried those skills throughout my career, which has given me a foundation and curiosity for the technology on which that the companies I work with are built.

Throughout my career I have worked closely with engineering and data teams and have learned how to speak their language. I can engage directly with them about how systems are built, how they operate, and how data is structured. This knowledge and understanding helps me evaluate and collaborate closely with those teams on the investments they need to fuel our growth and create long-term value.

How do you plan to build and lead your finance team at DRINKS to align with the company’s strategic objectives?

I view finance as the central nervous system of a company. Everything moves through us, which provides our team with an unmatched perspective on how the business is performing and operating. With that comes a responsibility to properly aggregate, interpret, and present that information in a way that allows managers to make better decisions.

A finance team needs to ensure that the rest of the company has the proper resources, properly deployed, to effectively do their jobs, spanning financial to human capital. This is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and I look for others who share this type of growth-oriented mindset.

What excites you most about joining DRINKS, and what personal philosophies or approaches do you bring to your new role as CFO?

As I mentioned, I am fortunate to be working alongside such a talented group of people at DRINKS. It starts with our Co-Founder and CEO, Zac Brandenberg, who has done a tremendous job setting this company up for success. Zac has established a clear set of objectives and does an incredible job articulating them to everyone at this company, starting with the senior leadership team, who are fully aligned with these objectives, which makes working to achieve them more efficient and fulfilling.

Everyone at DRINKS is extremely talented at what they do, and they have license to put their talents and skill sets to work in optimal ways, every day.

We have a lot of work to do at here, but our path is clear. My expectation coming in was that DRINKS’ story was going to be an exciting one. Now I know it for sure, and I’m extremely eager get out there and tell it.

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