Epicure (Indonesia)



Michael Baum, CEO and Founder of Vivant

When Michael Baum, CEO and Founder of Vivant, became the first American owner of a Burgundy vineyard, Château de Pommard, the technology entreprene­ur began applying his innovative ideas to the ageold domain of wines, leading to the creation of online platform Vivant.

Michael Baum is curious by nature, and a creator of successful start-ups. Having founded six different technology companies over the years, he’s more recently been focused on starting and running Founder.org, including supporting the 128 companies started with university students around the world, Rootstock Music, and Vivant. That’s on top of his investment in Château de Pommard in Burgundy in 2014, which he has since converted to biodynamic viticultur­e, a topic in which he is now a passionate advocate.

“The results (of biodynamic conversion) went beyond our expectatio­ns, and our wines are now more aromatic, flavourful, and energetic than ever. We have clients all over the world in 92 different countries. To share our story with them meant we had to physically travel, creating a carbon footprint and going against our very belief in caring for our planet. So to scale, we challenged ourselves to create the magic of greeting people at the chateau, but online,” Baum explains.

“Soon, we realised this was an opportunit­y to help other responsibl­e winemakers tell their story too and connect with potential clients around the world. This is something most of these smaller producers would never have the chance to do otherwise. We brought together an internatio­nal team of wine educators, product designers, software engineers, and media producers to create a new platform where people can meet responsibl­e winemakers and taste their wines alongside expert wine advisors, no matter where they are.”

The Vivant platform is a slick showcase that incorporat­es video, live classrooms, wine tastings and more, but there’s a more serious issue that underpins it – that currently, less than 3% of global wine is responsibl­y made. “Today, the wine industry isn’t sustainabl­e at all. We’re putting all these chemicals in the ground and in our bodies. Not good at all,” laments Baum. “The problem is winemakers who produce responsibl­e wines are in the minority, and their voices aren’t heard. Through digital wine experience­s, we let them reach a global audience in a really fun way. For the consumer, we have created a way to distribute smaller tasting tubes of wine so it can now be cost-effective to taste a producer’s wine, no matter where you are in the world, during a digital experience.”

Baum points out that it’s not just a producer’s problem; it also traces back to consumer demand. “We’re making wine education more accessible and fun than ever, and a considerab­le part of this education piece focuses on responsibi­lity: The responsibi­lity we have to care for people, care for our planet, and care by supporting the producers who are the future of the industry. A lot of this is about consumer behaviour. We hope to not only connect responsibl­e producers with consumers but also modify consumer preference­s and behaviours, leading them to make better choices.”

One of the most interestin­g aspects of technology is when humans are able to take an innovative idea in one domain and apply it to another. Baum explains that this idea fascinates him. “At my previous company, Splunk, I had the idea, while working at Yahoo!, to apply search technology to troublesho­oting complex computers and software. But the inspiratio­n came from watching the success of search being used to find informatio­n on the web.”

Baum recalls that as a child, he loved to disassembl­e and reassemble appliances, audio hi-fi systems, and eventually computers to understand how things worked. But it wasn’t until he got to university that he fell in love with math and algorithm. “Fortunatel­y, the world of software was in its infancy at the time, and I was able to get involved at a very early stage of the industry,” says the 57-year-old. “I’m very interested to see advancemen­ts in AI and human-computer interfaces. I want to be able to control access to informatio­n with my brain, just by thinking, not by typing or speaking, which is too slow. On the other hand, I own several Teslas, but autonomous driving scares me.”

On the kind of revolution he wants to see in his lifetime, Baum replies, “I want to see dramatic changes in the way

More globally, I hope that my work, in general, is helping make the world a better place than I found it. There are so many ways technology can contribute to improving people’s lives. We just need to focus on the opportunit­ies.

humans grow, package, and distribute our food. We are eating things with no flavour because they were grown with synthetic chemicals and kept alive for weeks during transit. Alternativ­e methods of agricultur­e and plant-based substitute­s for chemical fungicides can enable us to farm more rationally and build back the resources we have destroyed. Plastic packaging has to evolve; we’re killing the planet with so much waste. Just because we can ship edibles from one part of the world to another doesn’t mean we should. Advancemen­ts in farming techniques can enable people to go back to growing their own food, locally.”

For someone who is so wired and connected to technology as his work medium, play medium, and social medium, how much technology is too much? Baum leaves us with his advice, “For many kids growing up now, it is the main way they communicat­e with each other, share experience­s and passions. For adults, we’re all so used to meeting people online. I’ve heard people use the saying ‘zoomed out’. And Covid has certainly accelerate­d all of this. So while it is easy to say, turn it off, walk away, leave the phone at home. It’s not so easy as technology is now the medium that many people live and work in. With that said, our planet provides an incredible respite from technology. Nature has a way of counterbal­ancing the ill effects of too much screen time. So I’d advise people to spend at least as much time with nature as they do with technology.”

 ??  ?? Michael Baum
Michael Baum
 ??  ?? Vivant online platform
Vivant online platform
 ??  ?? Behind the scene with winemakers at Vivant
Behind the scene with winemakers at Vivant
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