BOTTLES provides SA with alcohol-in-emergency services

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We’ve all been there. You’re at a late night braai, the beer runs out, but you’ve already had a drink so can’t drive to the bottle store. If only there was an app for that.

Well, now there is, thanks to South African startup BOTTLES. Launched in Johannesburg at the end of February, BOTTLES is an on-demand alcohol delivery app that makes having a good time as simple as using your smartphone.

The service – thanks to partnerships with a number of suppliers and third-party delivery services – delivers cold drinks to your door within 60 minutes.

“In our busy lives, we often don’t have time or forget to go to the bottle store, or run out of drinks at a party and are not able to drive,” co-founder Vincent Viviers told Disrupt Africa. “With BOTTLES, you can now have a liquor store in your pocket.”

The idea for the startup came about in early 2015, when Viviers and co-founders Enrico Ferigolli and Martina Mondelli were at a braai in Durban with friends, and – as you can probably guess – ran out of drinks.  

“Since we had all been drinking, we could not drive to a bottle store, and it was getting late and stores were closing shortly. So we went, “Imagine there was an app, that delivered drinks to your door in this time of need?”. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to press a button and have drinks magically appear?” Viviers said.

“This is how the idea of BOTTLES came to life. From there, we went on a journey of taking the idea and building it into a business, and finally launched publically in Johannesburg at the end of February.”

The very next day after that braai, the team started doing some online research to find out that this business model already existed in the United States (US).

“Also, the fact that some of these apps had successfully raised large amounts of capital made us realise we were onto something,” Viviers said.

“Excited by the opportunity, we started analysing the South African e-commerce space, only to find that nobody was offering an app-based on-demand delivery service, just the boring 1.0-way of “order on our website and we will courier the goods at some point in the future”. We also called dozens of bottle stores to better understand what the brick-and-mortar market was offering.”

What the team realised was that there was no easy way to order alcohol on the phone without a menu in your hands, that no store was geared up for on-demand door-to-door delivery, and that those that had a delivery system in place wouldn’t do so in less that four to eight hours. Most also had expensive minimum order requirements.

“From there the decision was clear: we were going to create an app that works like Uber, but for alcohol, and that allows users to get their favorite drinks delivered to their doorsteps within 60 minutes and without a minimum order quantity,” Viviers said.

Until now, BOTTLES has been fully self-funded. However, now that the app has been in the market for three months and has successfully proved its business model, the team is seeking investors to help scale the business and make BOTTLES a nationwide service.

“We are currently meeting and negotiating with several potential investors, as well as entering startup incubator programmes to find the right partners to make BOTTLES a success,” Viviers said.

“Our vision is to become the preferred way for people to buy alcohol across South Africa, while hopefully also doing our bit to prevent drinking and driving.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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