At Your Fingertips

Bridging the language barrier with ease.
This story first appeared in the July 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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Fast Track

Names and ages: Robert Olson, 48, and Peter Granoff, 44

Company name and description: Virtual Vineyards, a multimillion-dollar online retailer (http://www.virtualvin.com), specializes in gourmet foods and little-known wines primarily from family-owned vineyards in California and Europe.

Based: Palo Alto, California

Founded: 1994

Growing strong: Sales multiply 10 per-cent to 15 percent every month; the com-pany expects to sell 100,000 boxes of wine this year.

Online patrons: They hail from 50 countries to date, although 90 percent of the business is domestic.

Ripest international market: Japan; the Web site currently features a Japanese language option. "There seems to be a real cultural change going on in Japan, [with consumers] moving away from hard spirits to ones with lower alcohol [content]," Olson explains. "Wine is still a very new drink there." The partners also expect to extend their reach farther into Europe, despite tariff barriers.

Attention-getters: "One of the things you have to do as an Internet marketer is have a hook," Olson says. "There's got to be a reason why people come to you. We give them access to lots of different wines they couldn't get any other way--and that's a valuable thing."

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