The Local Look: Ullo

Funded by Kickstarter, Üllo is a wine product that aims to bring clarity to the wine-drinking experience. The device remove sulfites, the only artificial ingredient in wine. We talked to Founder James Kornacki about how he’s disrupting an industry seeped in tradition.

Ullo removes the sulfites, the only unnatural ingredient in wines, that you'd otherwise consume when you sit down to dinner.

Ullo removes the sulfites, the only unnatural ingredient in wines, that you’d otherwise consume when you sit down to dinner.

Why did you choose Chicago?  Tell us about what it means to be a business in Chicago.  

Chicago is a fantastic food and wine city that isn’t dominated by dogmatic wine rules, making it the perfect location for disruptive innovation in the wine world. I chose Chicago, more generally, because, while working on my Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and Northwestern, I had the opportunity to engage with the business communities of both universities, as well as Chicago’s community at large. I realized how important these startup ecosystems would be to Üllo’s success, so it was a natural decision for me to stay in Chicago. I also chose Chicago because it was inspiring to see so many other startups that I respected choose our city.

If you could go back in time before you became involved in running the business and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?

I would stress the importance of always believing in yourself. As a trained scientist, many of my skills were applicable to the business world, but so many more were not. I needed to learn very quickly the rules—both written and unwritten—of business. It was a steep learning curve and required a true belief in my ability to adapt.

What are your next steps?  

The next steps are to continue to judiciously accept investments and move toward production. This means setting up strategic partnerships that will help get Üllo into the hands of wine lovers everywhere, especially those who supported us on Kickstarter. This requires a lot more than just manufacturing, which is why we are looking forward to making additions to the Üllo team to help expand and accelerate.

Üllo is a new product with revolutionary technology so we also have plans to learn how wine lovers’ are integrating Üllo into their wine drinking experience. We hope to further refine Üllo and to enhance the wine drinking experience because, at the end of the day, our goal is to help wine lovers everywhere have the best wine drinking experience possible.

We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.  

The Dock At Montrose Beach—it’s too great of a secret to give more information than that.

Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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