Exeleon Magazine

Ellen Deng: Uniting the World through Wine

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From reading the biography of Steve Jobs to being part of one of the fastest growing e-commerce startup in Southeast Asia, from travelling across 30 countries to building her own company, Ellen Deng’s journey has been nothing less than inspiring.

In an Exclusive Interview with Exeleon, she talks about her journey and Vinofy, which is the first video-based social wine app for people to discover, share and shop wine together all in one place.

What according to you makes for a powerful women? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

For me, being powerful means, you are empowered to make your own decisions and work on things that bring meaning to your life. With my team, I always give them the freedom to create and make decisions.

What is your earliest memory as a leader/ entrepreneur that you can remember?  

I have always admired leaders growing up. For me, it means dedicating to something that is greater than oneself. And it’s only natural for me to develop skills and have experiences that can help me become a leader

What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the tech space?

It started when I read the biography of Steve Jobs. I just finished business school with a Finance degree. I decided I didn’t want a career in Finance. I was fascinated by the ability for tech companies to make real impact. Then I got a job at the fastest growing e-commerce startup in Southeast Asia and the rest is history.

What was the idea that led to the formation of Vinofy? What was the thought behind its name?  

I have lived in 10 countries and traveled to over 30 countries in the past 10 years. Through my travels, I learned that the appreciation of taste is a uniquely human gift, just like music, dance, and how we can connect over it. And wine is such a unique product that represents the culture, the people, the land and so on. That’s why I started Vinofy.

It is the platform and community for everyone from different cultures and backgrounds to unite over this universal human experience – the love of wine, food, and anything tasty.

We want to bring technology to the industry and the name is inspired by other tech companies such as Spotify. Like Spotify, Vinofy is the Hirst video-based social wine app for people to discover, share and shop wine all in one place. We are building a platform and community for everyone to connect over the love of wine. And video is a great format to make the experience more fun, social, and engaging.

Being the CEO and Founder, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?

We are still at a very early stage so as a founder, it means I’m very hands-on in day-to-day work, from talking to users, networking with partners and investors to creating content for social media. Prioritization is the key and the hardest task as a founder. Another very important job is to take care of the team and make sure they have everything they need to make the company a success.

What has the journey been like for Ellen Deng over the years? Looking back, what would you have done differently when starting out?

Before I took the jump as a founder, I started my career in tech when I joined a fast-growing eCommerce startup (Lazada Group) where I learned entrepreneurship and the rapid scaling of a unicorn tech company. It was acquired by Alibaba with a multi-billion-dollar valuation within 5 years after launch. Afterward, I joined a global travel tech startup as the head of e-commerce and product, leading a team of 9 to build and grow an experience booking platform live in over 30 countries and serving 18 million travelers globally.

What would be your advice for aspiring and young women leaders and entrepreneurs?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or it’s a bad idea. Take feedback but it shouldn’t change your vision. Things might seem ugly and impossible at the beginning; the key is to start and continue.

Finally, what does the future look like for you and Vinofy?

We have many exciting features planned on the product roadmap, such as live streaming, virtual tastings, group etc. We are also planning a global launch in all major wine countries and the launch of Vinofy Marketplace to help wine inHluencers, wine professionals, and winemakers to engage better with their audience and monetize better on their content.

And it’s not only limited to wine because Vinofy, at its core, is about tastefulness. We will expand to other categories, such as spirits, coffee beer, and cannabis. Our vision is to unite people from different cultures and backgrounds over this universal human experience, the love of wine, food, and anything tasty.

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