The enterprise may be sexy again, but consumer startups are still looking pretty good. At least Maveron thinks so. Today, the venture capital firm announced the formation of a new early-stage investment program that will provide seed funding to consumer-facing startups.
As part of this initiative, Maveron aims to make at least one seed investment a month ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 in companies working in commerce, education, and health and wellness. Cofounder Dan Levitan said that tech-enabled consumer businesses have created almost a trillion dollars in equity over the past 10 years, and this interest in seed stage companies will make Maveron a central player in the next generation of consumer success stories.
“With new technology enabling consumer-facing businesses to spread their message to consumers faster than ever, there couldn’t be a better time to build the next big billion-dollar consumer business,” Levitan said in an email to VentureBeat. “This is why Maveron remains very bullish on investing in early stage consumer businesses. We believe the technological innovation that began transforming consumer businesses more than a decade ago, will continue apace, if not accelerate, the creation of vastly disruptive new businesses.”
Levitan cofounded Maveron with Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz. The firm invests exclusively in consumer companies. Like most venture capital institutions, it traditionally held off investing until a startup progressed beyond the seed stage and demonstrated traction, growth and/or revenue. However, the environment for seed financing is changing. Venture capitalists are investing in startups earlier in their lifecycle in an effort to snag larger chunks of equity and guide the fledgling companies to their next milestones.
Building a successful, sustainable company is about more than a great idea. The ability to execute, iterate, and build a strong connections are also important, and venture capital firms can offer strategic support in these areas as well as financing. Maveron’s expertise on consumer habits and network of resources and partnerships can benefit younger companies and help them build enduring brands.
Maveron has made more than 15 seed investments in the past two years, including well-known startups like Everlane, CircleUp, CourseHero, and Julep, which recently raised a $10.6 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Maveron, and is one of the fastest growing beauty brands in the country.
“Many venture capital firms told me point blank that they only did a handful of deals a year, and they didn’t want to work with a beauty company,” said Julep CEO Jane Park. “What they didn’t understand is that I wanted to do more than create a beauty company, I wanted to use the potential of the web and social media as the foundation to build the next great enduring beauty brand. Maveron got it immediately.”
Maveron was founded in 1998 by Levitan and Schultz and has offices in Seattle and San Francisco. Portfolio companies include eBay, Groupon, Lemon, Lively, Shutterfly, and Zulily, as well as nontech businesses like Pinkberry and Potbelly sandwich works.