By Nancy Dahlberg
Plum founder David Koretz announced on Monday a change at the top of his company that created the first fully automated appliance for wine.
Appliance industry veteran Michael Traub will be CEO. Koretz will move from CEO to the newly created Chief Product Officer role and will continue to serve as Chairman of the Board at the Dania Beach-based company he launched in 2017.
“Plum is on a high-growth trajectory and Michael is the right person to lead Plum into the future,” said Koretz. “Michael has an impressive background in the consumer durables sector and appliance industry, and I am really excited to partner with him to drive this next round of growth.”
Traub is former CEO of Serta Simmons Bedding, the leading bedding manufacturer in North America, where he orchestrated the merger with direct-to-consumer mattress brand, Tuft & Needle, and led the company through the most significant transformation in its history. Before that, he served as President and CEO of BSH Home Appliances for North America, which includes the Bosch, Thermador and Gaggenau brands that he successfully positioned in the premium and luxury segments of the market and increased market share. Traub also is President and CEO of BSH’s Latin America division, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“I’m truly honored to lead as CEO, working alongside David to scale Plum’s business globally,” said Traub, who joined the Plum board about four months ago. “David and his team have disrupted the appliance industry by merging hardware, software and AI to deliver an incredible user experience with the most innovative appliance the industry has seen in decades.”
Plum, founded in 2017, developed a high-design wine appliance that holds two standard bottles of wine, automatically identifies any varietal with artificial intelligence, keeps each bottle chilled to its ideal serving temperature, and preserves wine for 90 days or more, offering a new way for people to enjoy wine by the glass with a single touch of a button.
Now that Plum’s appliance is selling nationally and globally to hotels, consumers and most recently luxury home developers, Koretz said he decided to seek a CEO that had decades of global experience across all aspects of the consumer durables and home appliance industries, particularly distribution. “There are nuances to distribution in every single country around the world,” said Koretz, in an interview with Refresh Miami. “Having a CEO that understands that to me felt like a huge asset to the company. I just didn't think it made sense for the company to try to have me stumbling through it to figure it out… when I can hire this rock star on the distribution scale side that can bring us global.”
Koretz, a serial entrepreneur that founded and ran two technology companies before launching Plum, could then turn 100 percent of his focus to where he is strongest and most passionate -- technology and product development (and wine) -- to evolve not just the hardware and software but also to roll out a series of new services in coming years.
Prior to today’s announcement, Koretz had already been expanding his senior leadership team.
In the fourth quarter last year, he hired Andreas Hansen, the US president of Liebherr Home Appliances of Germany, who was able to expand Plum from one retail store to several hundred very quickly, Koretz said. “We'll be in north to 500 by the end of the year. And so that's the part of the business that's really scaled dramatically.”
This year, Plum also hired Justin Dopp, the former treasurer of Chewy, to be VP of finance.
Plum has also been developing a trim kit that allows Plum to be built into cabinetry, rather than sit on the counter, and has made number of deals already selling to developers and distributors in new construction and renovations of luxury condos and residences.
“For builders, designers and architects, they don't do anything with countertop appliances -- we were an anomaly. Their world is all about building it in and integrating into the design,” Koretz said.
In the past six months, Plum has also started aggressively selling in Mexico and the Caribbean and has deals pending in Asia and Europe, Koretz said.
Plum won the Gold Medal at KBIS, the largest kitchen and bath industry show, in February. There, Koretz pitched that Plum is a far more practical substitute for the 40-bottle wine refrigerators built into most luxury homes and condos. The great majority of the 40 percent of Americans who drink wine are not collectors of wine – they buy as they drink it -- so many refrigerators largely go unused. Collectors, on the other hand, need a lot more space than 40 bottle coolers. “So, as far as I can tell, for the last 30 years kitchen designers and architects have been installing a product that is designed for a market that does not exist,” Koretz said.
Hotels, where Plum appliances are already deployed in thousands of rooms, continues to be a meaningful business segment for the company, Koretz said. While he expected the hotel business to fall off badly because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s assault on the travel industry, that’s not how it’s been playing out. While business is down in dense metro locations like NYC, Plum has seen a resurgence of business at hotels in places like Napa Valley, Hawaii and even Las Vegas, Koretz said. "What we've seen is there's a fatigue settling in as people are realizing that COVID is not likely going away in months and maybe some places take several years, and you know people are not going to stop living. It’s been an exhausting set of months for everybody."
Plum has nearly 40 employees at its Dania Beach HQ and its Palo Alto office and has raised $23 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. Fort Lauderdale-based funder Las Olas VC is an investor in Plum. Plum is not raising funding now but will likely raise one more round, Koretz said. “We're on track to reach profitability by the end of next year.”
As for Koretz, “I'm going to go put my head down and work on some things that I'm super excited about on the product side. We have some really transformative stuff coming next year.”
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