NakedWines' website, featuring a pastoral northern California winery, looks calm and comforting. But the company, which uses a crowdfunding payments model to reduce steps in wine sales, is trying to stir up some chaos.

Its crowdfunding model is meant to disrupt the way wines are made and sold today, with clear jabs at supermarkets "strong arming" suppliers.

"We take wine that rich people drink and make it more affordable for normal people," says Rowan Gormley, the co-founder of NakedWines, which has offices in Napa, Cal.

A group of about 200,000 investors globally pay NakedWines about $40 each month, and NakedWines then uses that money to fund local winemakers. The site's patrons, who NakedWines calls its "angels," can then purchase wine for discounts of about 60%. 

"We don't see that monthly money as sales. We don't think of revenue until the customer has ordered the wine," Gormley says. "We take the monthly investment fee to fund the purchase of grapes, barrels, storage and that sort of thing."

NakedWines takes a cut of about 20% of the wine purchase for revenue and expense, he says.

While 20% seems high for a transaction fee, Gormley contends it's less overhead than is typical for wine sales. "A $100 bottle of wine has about $10 worth of grapes, there's other costs for packaging, retailers, distributors, etc., who each charge and take payments" Gormley says, adding his model results in a charge of about $40 for the same bottle.

NakedWines built its own website to receive orders from consumers, and places the monthly membership fees into a trust after the payments have been processed. NakedWines then receives the orders for bottles of wine and ships the wine to the consumer. It accepts credit card and electronic payments for both monthly investment fees and wine orders, which it funnels through Adyen for processing. Adyen additionally handles encryption and payments data management to take NakedWines out of scope for Payment Card Industry data security compliance. The technology also enables NakedWines to accept payments in more than 180 currencies.

Gormley likens his company's strategy to Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site in which consumers contribute money to fund technology developers and other entrepreneurs.

Other companies are also using the crowdfunding model. Patreon, which uses Stripe as a transaction partner, accepts payments from people who wish to fund entertainers such as musicians (Pomplamoose band member Jack Conte is one of Patreon's founders). Another company, Flattr, has a "tipping" model that lets fans apply a portion of prepaid funds to an artist they like.

NakedWines' model is also similar to Tesco, anther discount wine seller, says Gareth Lodge, a senior analyst at Celent. Tesco powers its payments with BuyaPowa, a British company that combines social media, e-commerce transaction processing and online storefront development.

"There is an old but relevant adage here: it should be easy to buy, not easy to sell," Lodge says, adding many towns in France have small vineyards, but use a cooperative model for scale in business.

The idea of pooling funds to cut costs for farming is also not new, but NakedWines has added an e-commerce spin to it, Gormley says.

"If you go back 2,000 years, this is what people would do in a community. They would all chip in money to help farmers," Gormley says. "The Internet makes it possible for strangers to do it over a long distance."

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