Investing in the New World Order
HVO Search brought together
Zach Duane (Partner, ABLT and former CEO, Victoria Beckham)
Gina Kirch (Founding Partner, The Venture Collective)
Patrick Schneider-Sikorsky (Founder & Partner, Beast Ventures)
and leaders working at the intersection of retail, digital and creativity to discuss the changing investment landscape and what investors are looking for in brands / companies right now.
How has the Landscape of Investing Changed?
Zach: There is much more activity in early stage investment. The consumer funds I'm in touch with who typically reach out to much larger businesses are coming to us regarding earlier stage deals.
People are also talking about fashion much more as a potential target, it is no longer seen as such a 'difficult' category for investors. I'm aware of a couple of new investment vehicles that have been set up to help early stage fashion brands.
Trends that existed pre-pandemic have been accelerated. Such as: customers googling founders of brands, wanting to know exactly where and what they're buying from, researching materials and ingredients of products.
Maria: Transparent communication was already happening but has accelerated as people take stock of what's happening across the world.
Gina: Entrepreneurs need more and more resilience and resourcefulness.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been huge and the pandemic hasn't been able to stop this. Looking at the numbers, it's going to be a record-breaking year for investing in under represented founders.
People are shopping less and less, so brands really need a differentiated quality.
Patrick: At the beginning of the pandemic there were some panic investing, especially in healthcare companies. Towards the end of this year, people have started thinking more broadly and philosophically about what they're investing in and why.
The pandemic has shocked people and questioned why we weren't prepared.
People are thinking about other potential challenges on the horizon that could be prevented by technology. I've seen a big shift towards climate technologies. A lot of funds have been raised with an aim to have a positive impact.
Daniel Eck (Founder and CEO, Spotify) has said he's going to invest $1billion of his own money into deep tech.
What has Made the Biggest Difference Among Successful Investments in 2020?
Gina: Founders who have long-term vision. One of the troubles I've seen is people focusing on recent revenues and not thinking strategically about long-term.
Understanding dynamics of where companies can go is really interesting. A lot of companies have huge opportunities and potential.
Founders are so important, more than ever we need strong leaders who listen to advice and are thoughtful.
What Top Innovations are You Seeing / Investing In?
Gina: We're seeing a lot of interest in sustainability, health technologies and the future of work.
One of our recent investments has revolutionised health tech for vets. We've also worked with a company harvesting leather alternatives.
A silver lining is the progress on climate change, innovations on not only doing well but doing good.
Maria: What I'm hearing from conversations I've been having, is the desire to come together, share insights and discuss issues you've been having. Working together to progress beyond the product.
Zach: In the cosmetics space, we're involved with a business trying to eradicate landfill products. They're also trying to create products that don't use water.
In fashion, there's enough material in circulation to make any number of products. Innovative packaging solutions have also improved. These have become far less niche as consumer demands have shifted.
What are the New Skills You are looking for From Entrepreneurs?
Gina: It's really important to have a team that compliments each other. In deep tech for example you need someone with technological experience but also other people who can explain the story well and have commercial acumen. Balance between technical and commercial is key.
Diversity of experience. People who don't necessarily have the same background but together can bring so many different ideas to the table.
Zach: Huge amounts of intelligence in the way you manage your business and team. People who can deal with the day-to-day today challenges of crisis management. And understand how to manage a team in France, versus New York versus London.
Maria: In situations of chaos you have to deal with what is and use your creativity and find new ways of doing things. In my opinion, this is what successful businesses do, they innovate and they test new ideas.
Any Advice to Entrepreneurs Seeking Funding Now?
Patrick: As a founder you need a reality distortion view with the ability to carry on. We can't just shut up shop and wait it out. You need blind optimism which most good founders do have.
Look out for opportunities. As a result of the pandemic, there a lots more opportunities to invest in more positive things as a result of people's reaction to the pandemic.
Gina: Listen. A lot of people will go head-strong into things, I would say to sit and absorb feedback and make the most of every piece of advice you're given because investors want you to succeed.
Zach: Don't worry about what you can't control, plan and strategise for what you can.
What do You Want to See in Companies Post-Covid?
Zach: They need to be much more digitally aware than they ever were before. Brands are scrambling to build their in-house capabilities and engage their customer in different ways.
Brand that find super creative ways to innovate their physical spaces. If not to bring in sales but to bring in awareness, experience and engagement. I saw one brand redesign their store into a giant vending machine which is safe, on brand and exciting.
Who Will be the Winners and Losers?
Zach: In the businesses I'm involved in, those that have found it easier to adapt have Founders with the ability to deal with the short-term crisis whilst staying positive about the long-term and not losing the sight of that.
Creating a culture of being responsible for your own outcome, that promotes agile decision making in each department and being open when you need help on something.
Maria: Companies that promote transparency and openness are better at bringing their teams together to make key decisions that make an impact for their brand. Not to mention, talent retention and loyalty.
The Venture Collective
Gina Kirch is Founding Partner of The Venture Collective (TVC), a transformational, early stage venture business that is rethinking the VC business model.
TVC is on a mission to bridge the funding gap for underrepresented founders.
Prior to TVC, Gina spent 8 years at BlackRock and was promoted to the youngest Director globally in 2018.
Gina is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and active philanthropist who recently received Great Ormond Street Hospital's 2019 Charity Team of the Year Award and CASCAID's 2018 Individual Fundraiser of the Year Award for Cancer Research UK.
Founder & Partner,
Patrick Schneider-Sikorsky is an early stage technology investor and founder of Beast Ventures where he has invested in multiple deep tech companies in the US, Canada, UK, Switzerland and Israel.
He is a graduate of the University of Oxford and MIT Sloan School of Management.
Zach is a former CEO who has worked alongside high-profile creatives and entrepreneurs, overseeing the launch and development of their businesses.
This includes Victoria Beckham Ltd, whose brand he oversaw for nine years including launch and setting up the company's first growth investment round at £100 million valuation.
Zach is a qualified lawyer with extensive media, fashion and consumer expertise.