High Stakes: Yao Ming’s Wine Has a Good Shot at Its $3M Crowdfunding Goal

The former NBA star wants to open tasting rooms in Napa and Shanghai as he expands Yao Family Wines

Could former NBA star Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 Chinese center who became an international sensation, turn into the wine industry’s next juggernaut? The chances seem to look about as good as his impressive free-throw percentage.

Last month, Napa Valley’s Yao Family Wines, which Ming co-founded in 2011 and which sold more than $8 million of wine in its first 39 months while racking up impressive Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast scores, started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $3 million to expand its business and open tasting facilities in both Napa and Shanghai. With 21 days left in the campaign, Ming is within reach of that sky-high number. The campaign has already gotten commitments for more than $2.4 million, upwards of 80 percent of its goal.

When we first heard about this campaign (which will also finance a direct-to-consumer platform for sales to China) last month, its success seemed like a tall order. This was a big number in a crowdfunding world where Roy Choi’s Loco’l successfully asks for $100,000 and Starry Kitchen falls short in its attempt for $500,000.

But this isn’t a “Donate $50, and get a T-shirt”-type campaign. It actually makes those who put in their money, starting at a $5,000 minimum, investors in a growing company with a $15 million valuation. The crowdfunding page has a detailed investor deck for those who want to see where their money is going.

And because this is a high-roller campaign, the perks are significant for ballers with big bankrolls. Investing $5,000 gets you a shareholder party invitation and some wine, but $1 million also gives you two business-class tickets to and a luxury suite at the grand opening of the Shanghai tasting room. 

Anyway, this is a lot easier than investing in an NBA team. So let’s raise a glass to diversifying the portfolio.