New Bright Cellars CEO hopes to bring joy back to the world of wine

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Joe Megibow, the newly named CEO of Milwaukee-based Bright Cellars, was blunt in saying most people wonder why he would leave his past role at a $700 million-plus public company for a not-yet profitable startup. He was also matter of fact in his answer: he sees a legitimate opportunity to continue to grow the business.

Megibow comes to Bright Cellars from Utah-based Purple Innovation, Inc., a manufacturer of comfort products including mattresses, pillows, cushions, sheets, and bases. He led Purple to profitability while more than doubling its revenue.

While Bright Cellars was conducting a search for a new CEO, Megibow became acquainted with company leadership through personal connections. He had been introduced to a few different companies but was looking for a consumer-facing business that’s focused on solving a problem. Megibow and his family have a natural love of wine, cultivated since he was a child, so Bright Cellars piqued his interest.

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“I actually spent my first four years growing up overseas. My dad was in the Air Force, and we sort of brought back that European sense of wine. It’s very different there. (Wine) is much more common in households and it’s just part of every meal,” Megibow said. “It’s a staple in the house like having salt on the table.”

While wine is meant to be enjoyed by all, wine culture has distanced itself from the average consumer – an issue Bright Cellars seeks to address. The overwhelming amounts of information required to learn more about wine and high prices can be off-putting and even frustrating to newcomers.

Joe Megibow

Bright Cellars polls customers on which wines they like from its monthly wine subscription service in order to make personalized recommendations. The company then leverages data it collects to generate insights, which have allowed Bright Cellars to develop its own portfolio of wines. The company raised a $11.2 million Series B round last fall. 

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“Wine and joy go together, and everyone deserves joy,” Megibow said.

In his new role, Megibow will split his time between Milwaukee and the San Francisco Bay Area, where a good portion of Bright Cellars’ wine production takes place. The company’s headquarters will remain in Milwaukee, but continue to hire workers across the country.

While the jump from comfort products to wine might seem like a big one, Megibow said the two companies are more similar than you might think. He describes each as being a novel company disrupting categories that had not previously seen a lot of innovation.

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“Purple was my first CEO job, so I got to learn to take the training wheels off and come into my own there. I have the benefit of bringing those experiences into Bright Cellars,” Megibow said.

Bright Cellars is earlier in its journey than Purple Innovation was when he first joined as CEO. Bright Cellars is also smaller than Purple Innovation was. Both companies were not yet profitable when Megibow joined them. His priority as he transitions into his new role is to remain “laser-focused” on the consumer and build relationships with them, something that can be a difficult task in the world of online shopping. Leading Bright Cellars to becoming a profitable, sustainable business is also front of mind.

“If you think of the world of Amazon, the notion of being able to have that kind of transparency and authenticity and convenience that we’ve come to expect in other categories just really hasn’t translated over to wine yet,” Megibow said.

He sees Bright Cellars as becoming a lifestyle brand, selling a variety of products related to the world of wine. The company has been examining product expansion – previously testing categories such as cheese and charcuterie boards — and different distribution models that go beyond subscription boxes.

“We want to become the trusted supplier that helps people get set up on their wine journey completely. It starts with building that relationship and that trust, and once we’ve done that, it opens up possibilities,” Megibow said.

As for what his personal wine go-to is at the moment, Megibow said he enjoys a quality Pinot Noir for most occasions.

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