Know thy customer

Published Nov 20, 2020

It’s an ethos that three of Victoria University of Wellington’s entrepreneurs—co-founders of Wellington UniVentures’ spin-out MaramaLabs—have been embracing this year. “We’ve been focused on super-charging our business strategy and continuing to add more value for our beachhead market—the wine industry—in ways that have never been thought of before,” says Dr Brendan Darby, MaramaLabs CEO.

CloudSpec is a next generation spectroscopy instrument that enables cloudy or opaque liquids to be analysed more quickly and accurately than traditional methods—making it perfect for helping to quantify the colour and phenolics of fermenting wines, and ensure a consistently high-quality end product.

“Traditional spectrometers can only measure liquid that is absolutely clear; wine in its fermentation stages is most definitely not,” explains Brendan.

“CloudSpec, however, can analyse what’s happening to wine during all stages of the production process. It gives winemakers easy and rapid access to reliable data about quality attributes at key decision points during vintage, giving them more time to focus on actually making their wine.”

With a number of their CloudSpec units already deployed around the world, the MaramaLabs team began working on the next stage of their vision: to develop a software platform that combines retail insights with the chemical colour and tannin data that CloudSpec quantifies during production. The additional insights from the platform will enable wineries to go further in understanding the needs of today’s wine consumer, and enhance production decisions to meet these needs accordingly.

“The three main challenges for a winery are planning for vintage, keeping production costs down and ensuring a strong brand position in the market,” says Brendan. “The CloudSpec platform will help wineries on all three fronts, and continue to improve over time as the dataset grows.”

He says their idea of a centralised visualisation, planning and prediction tool for colour and tannin has had really positive feedback from the wine industry in New Zealand, leading them to undertake a second capital raise to fund its development. “With consumer buying preferences changing faster than ever, and new beverage categories like hard seltzers and low alcohol alternatives growing, the need for wineries to leverage consumer insight data has never been more important.”

The team—which also includes co-founders Dr Matthias Meyer (Chief Technical Officer) and Professor Eric Le Ru (Science Adviser)—plan to use the funding from the capital raise to employ the key software skills and expertise they need, and to expand the dataset that their platform will leverage.

“Our aim is to deliver laser-targeted data during key decision-making points to enable winemakers to create new product styles, differentiate among the market and add value for their customers,” says Brendan.

“It’s always been our plan for CloudSpec to move forward from simple, lab-compliant data for production purposes,” says Brendan. “Now we’re connecting production with the consumer in order to truly enhance the way wineries do business."

He says the team’s other big news is that the patent for their novel CloudSpec spectroscopy technique has recently been accepted in the United States, thanks to in-house expertise from Wellington UniVentures.

“Dr Stephanie Grant—Wellington UniVentures’ IP Manager—was super-supportive of our patenting strategy, and helped us to make all the major decisions we had to make around how we wanted to protect our intellectual property.”

Wellington UniVentures’ CEO, Dr Anne Barnett, is watching the developments at MaramaLabs with interest. “It’s exciting to see our spinout companies start to work independently of the incubation process,” she says. “The MaramaLabs team has demonstrated a clear understanding of the customer pain points and then identified innovative solutions as a result. We look forward to the next steps in the MaramaLabs story.”

While the team’s initial focus is on wine, the MaramaLabs vision is for its technologies to be adopted across the food and beverage industries in the future—and potentially even further afield to environmental and wastewater testing. 

For more information on this investment opportunity, please email Brendan at or contact the commercialisation manager below.