For eVineyard.com CEO Larry Gerhard, Slow and Steady Wins

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risk takers

SOMETIMES executive conservatism pays-even in the roller coaster world of Web business. Case in point: Two years ago when Larry Gerhard, CEO of online wineseller eVmeyard decided to cooperate with, rather than buck, the wine industry's complex distribution laws, prospective venture capitalists and fast-moving rivals like Wine.com and WineShopper.com might have laughed at his slowgrowth approach.

Since then, Wine.com and WineShopper.com merged to survive-and eVineyard scooped up Wme.com, the combined company, in April 2001. How? eVineyard concentrated on slowly building "logistics centers" that comply with state wine distribution laws.

Meanwhile, rivals Wine.com and WineShopper.com together burned through more than $240 million in advertising and lobbying costs focused on changing wine-selling regulations. By late 2000, Gerhard knew his company would win. "One of the turning points came when we saw rival wine retailers having trouble [during third and fourth quarter] raising their next rounds of money," he said.

"Very early on, we spent a substantial amount of time learning the statutes in each state," Gerhard said. "Our business plan leveraged building a logistical infrastructure that was legal. …