How Vancouver-based Sipply is working to make the takeout experience better

Verity King and Caty Tedman founded Sipply—an app that recommends wine pairings—to make ordering in more enjoyable

It started, as things sometimes do, with a glass of wine between friends. Caty Tedman and  Verity King were joking about how life with toddlers often means ordering in. “I’ll spend $100 on dinner from [Vancouver-based eatery] Nook,” says Tedman. “And then, right after, DoorDash will be like, ‘Do you want a hot dog from 7-Eleven?’ And… no. Not now, especially, but not ever. If they instead said, ‘Hey, do you want a reasonably priced glass of chianti?’ I’d probably go, ‘Oh, that’s actually not a bad idea.’”

Tedman, who is originally from New York, worked as a social media strategist with the NHL and NFL before serving as senior vice-president at Vancouver blockchain startup Dapper Labs. King is a certified sommelier and former communications executive for brands like Arc’teryx. The two started poking around their networks. That led to meetings with people at DoorDash and Uber Eats. “What we heard from them is that they’re logistics companies, not recommendation companies,” says Tedman.

The pair saw a gap in the market, and addressed it with Sipply, which makes recommendations for people looking for a good wine choice to match whatever they’re eating that night. King wrote some 300 rules for the app so that users can type in a search term like “bacon cheeseburger” and Sipply will pop out suggestions like Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc or Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot.

“We found out through user testing that there’s some stuff that’s right from a sommelier perspective, but people don’t want it,” says Tedman. “People don’t order riesling unless they know exactly what the bottle is—you can end up with something that tastes like syrup or something that’s bone dry… But really it comes down to this framework of AI helping to scale decisions that an expert trained it on.”

Currently, the platform is only fully live in a subset of zip codes in L.A. and New York—while the U.S. has alcohol delivery services such as Gopuff, there isn’t yet a comparable service in B.C.—but Tedman hopes to expand Sipply to liquor stores and, eventually, the delivery behemoths. “Every time we talk to someone, whether it’s a consumer or investor, people say, ‘Why doesn’t this exist?’”

The market opportunity is super-sized. UberEats reported revenues of US$10.9 billion in 2022; DoorDash was at US$6.58 billion; Instacart, US$2.55 billion. “These companies make billions of deliveries a year combined and make really terrible recommendations,” says Tedman. “Even if we’re able to plug into one of those, it could unlock so much customer happiness.”

And while expansions to the ready-to-drink cocktail and craft beer markets are slated for the near future, there are other viable uses of the technology that those in the beverage industry may be able to  capitalize on.

“What we’ve heard is that this kind of real-time data at a postal code level is super interesting. We went from being a straight-up consumer company to a B2B2C structure,” says Tedman. “There are about 3,500 distributors in Canada and the U.S. where they could plug in and say, ‘This is the region I care about, down to a postal or zip code level,’ and understand not only what they’re drinking—because some of that they get from the liquor stores they work with—but also why are they drinking that, what are they drinking it with? Is it a party? Are they serving it to friends? There are all these interesting insights from the consumer side.”

Eventually, Tedman says, the company is building something that could be used across different industries. For now, she is using the same skills that helped her stickhandle social media strategy for major sports leagues at the start of the 2010s, when platforms like Twitter and Instagram were emerging.

“It always takes a little bit of education about how a new technology is going to benefit both an organization and consumers,” says Tedman. “It feels like the old days of: ‘How do you super serve the sports fan? How do you super serve someone who is making a conscious decision to order in?’”