Owning the category of taste

Local discovery and innovation at the forefront for Jennifer Tkachuk-Tremblay, founder and CEO of Somm.

Uncertainty over wine pairings is a thing of the past thanks to a new technology company founded by Jennifer Tkachuk-Tremblay (‘11 BCom).

“We’re setting out to be the Spotify of taste,” said Tkachuk-Tremblay, Founder & CEO of Somm, an app that curates wine recommendations based on a consumer’s individual preferences. Embracing the experiential side as well, Somm's lifestyle-focused membership program, Somm Cru and Grand Cru, offers users VIP experiences at Canada's top restaurants, hotels, wineries, global wine importers and lifestyle brands.

Launched in early 2021 — first in Ontario, followed by Alberta in November 2021 — Somm works by asking consumers a series of questions and then consolidates the data gathered to provide a personally curated wine list, no matter the user's budget or knowledge level. 

The aesthetically-unique app uses a recommendation engine that leverages behavioural machine learning along with an intuitive user interface, which is built to mimic the way a consumer is naturally inclined to think through a product selection process. It prioritizes credibility, consumer trust and an enhanced lifestyle experience for its users. 

Somm has also partnered with restaurants, hotels, wineries and more to offer its users upgraded loyalty programs for those in search of more exclusive benefits, such as monthly wine deliveries, complimentary beverages, private event invitations, hotel room upgrades and more.

“There’s a meaningful gap in the consumer experience,” said Tkachuk-Tremblay.

“Our app is designed in a really intuitive way and appeals to food and wine lovers looking to discover new products, get to know their palate and unlock incredible culinary experiences.”

To date, Somm has raised $2M in venture capital funding, the majority of which has been devoted to building a team of hospitality industry experts, developers and software engineers. The growing team is also majority female — a pride point for Tkachuk-Tremblay. (Tkachuk-Tremblay is one of about two per cent of female-owned startup founders to receive venture capital funding, according to figures from a CrunchBase report.) 

With a focus on launching in Ontario and Alberta in 2021, the company will spend 2022 expanding its Canadian presence and into the United States. Aside from continued organic growth, channel partners are a massive focus for the team at Somm, developing relationships with significant global loyalty brands and financial institutions, said Tkachuk-Tremblay. Currently, the app’s product of focus is wine, but Somm will be extrapolating its technology and user interface to other food and beverage components in the future.  

“We’re matching our technology with a physical, partner-driven experience, which is something that no other company is really doing in the consumer, culinary or lifestyle tech space,” said Tkachuk-Tremblay.

Somm was ideated in July 2020, the first summer of the pandemic, in a time where the hospitality industry was catalytically embracing technology. The rapid digital transformation, along with the trend toward supporting local and a hospitality industry eager to adapt to survive, gave Somm an advantage, said Tkachuk-Tremblay. 

“There was a different mindset when we launched, where restaurant owners were open-minded to any solution that would help them stay afloat or add operational efficiencies and new ways to help them engage guests and consumers,” she said.  

Though Tkachuk-Tremblay moved to Toronto to work in the finance and technology sectors for large organizations after graduation, she’s passionate about supporting the Alberta School of Business, its students and alumni. She is a current member of the Business Advisory Council and will be partnering with the Business Alumni Association for its Annual General Meeting on April 6. 

For business students or alumni considering a leap into the world of entrepreneurship innovation, Tkachuk-Tremblay said it’s vital to surround yourself with people that will believe in you and work alongside you. 

“People have good ideas all the time and it takes a lot of courage to actually try to make them come to life,” she said. 

“There’s no way we could have come as far as we have if I didn’t have a great team, great investors and partners encouraging and supporting me every step of the way.” 

Jennifer Tkachuk-Tremblay's Book Suggestions: 

Red Notice: Bill Browder

Life Undercover: Amaryllis Fox

Founders At Work: Jessica Livingston

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