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《财富》专访: 他投资了奥斯卡影后的公司

Polina Marinova 2018年11月19日

这位投资者认为,影后格温妮斯·帕特洛是富有远见的企业家。

Felix Capital的创始人弗雷德里克·库特喜欢先行一步,创业项目还没成型时就抢先投资。这家伦敦的风险投资机构尤其钟爱客户对品牌狂热崇拜的“数字生活方式”公司。

库特向《财富》杂志介绍并购和并购者的每日简报Term Sheet表示:“我们投资的很多公司最初都是误打误撞做起来的生意。关键是客户喜欢。当今世界上,衡量客户怎样与品牌或者产品互动很容易,能早早与客户建立深厚感情的公司就是我们密切关注的。”

Felix Capital投资的公司包括刚刚上市(IPO)的FarFetch、Peloton、Mejuri和Highsnobiety,还有笔者个人最感兴趣的Goop。

投资Goop完美体现了Felix Capital的理念。Goop由好莱坞女星格温妮斯·帕特洛于2008年创立,最初只是提供生活方式建议的简报,如今已是一家经营生活方式业务的帝国,估值2.5亿美元,还获得风投资本支持。库特三年前投资Goop,现任该公司董事,他认为帕特洛是一位有远见的企业家。

以下问答中, Term Sheet与库特畅聊投资,他如何运用图片与食品分享社交应用Instagram开展投资交易,以及怎么看待追求生活品质提升的健康潮流兴起。

《财富》:你利用Instagram进一步投资,你最想投资哪种标的,又怎样接触有投资潜力的创业者?

库特:我们一直在通过Instagram观察多种领域,其中一类是珠宝。越来越多面向21世纪成年的所谓“千禧一代”品牌出现,特别是针对千禧一代女性。在珠宝之类的行业,年轻女顾客需要更有忠诚度,也更货真价实的品牌。我们通过Instagram发现了Mejuri的创始人。团队先接触到她,花两年时间培养关系。我们发现她的公司Mejuri业绩增长,对品牌产生了兴趣。等到他们希望融资的时候,机会来了,我们成为最适合的投资方,因为我们和这家公司建立了可以信赖的关系,他们很清楚我们能提供很多方面的帮助。这就是我们借助Instagram直接找到投资对象的案例。

Highsnobiety是我们投的另一个品牌,我是在职业社交媒体LinkedIn上接触到创始人,问能否谈一谈。幸运的是,当时这位创始人正在考虑找合作伙伴加入董事会。于是,我们开始谈,最终达成投资。

关于FarFetch,我从2008年10月他们发布第一份简报时起就是订阅用户,我花了一年时间和FarFetch的创始人结交,提出正式商谈。有时候,投资机会就摆在面前却没发现,这种情况发生过很多次。所以我觉得,做风险投资有一项关键素质是好奇心,做一些研究,判断即便离开创始人,相关创业项目是否可能也有投资潜力。我们很多工作都是积极地定期和别人接触沟通。

听起来,你已经投资了很多以资讯简报起家的公司。订阅用户的忠诚度是不是对投资者最有吸引力的一点?

库特:谈到品牌时,我们很感兴趣的是跟客户形成紧密的关系。《财富》创办的头脑风暴科技论坛就是个好例子。论坛为《财富》培养了忠实用户群体,这群人很乐意付费参会。我们最看好的就是这种。我们投资的不少公司都提供体验式服务,尤其是带有媒体属性的,就像Goop的健身活动。原因很简单,客户希望体验品牌。

你是Goop的早期投资者,现在又是公司董事会的成员。为什么你要投资这家公司,对于创始人格温妮斯,你看中她什么?

库特:我熟悉Goop,因为我一直在读他们的简报,获得出行的建议。十年前,格温妮斯在厨房里发出第一份Goop简报,当时是2008年9月。现在Goop就像时尚策源地,格温妮斯成了时尚教母。刚成立Felix的时候,我们接到风投公司NAE合伙人托尼·弗洛伦斯的电话,他认为我们会成为Goop的好搭档。我立刻发现格温妮斯拥有巨大的品牌价值,但当时Goop的业务规模还非常小。

三年前我们投资Goop之后,格温妮斯积攒了庞大的客户群,树立起强大的品牌。这家公司的模式实质上是内容运营,但很多内容都和产品和商业有关,所以能激发购买欲。正因如此,格温妮斯回到洛杉矶以后决定将Goop当成事业。她当然可以继续拍电影,但还是热情洋溢地全身心投入Goop的工作。我们投资Goop的时候,她还不是公司的首席执行官,但我们对她这位创始人,以及她具有的创新力量深信不疑。在我有幸共事的企业家之中,她是最优秀的一位,她还在和企业共同成长。

我们看中Goop显然是因为其打造出新的模式。作为消费类品牌,Goop营造了情境式的商业环境,出售精心挑选的一系列产品,其中部分来自我们投资的公司。同时也创造很多内容,都涉及跟女性用户有关的一些问题。

Goop因为散布伪科学信息而受到批评。(Goop刚刚达成和解,同意就出售未证实功效的阴道能量石而支付14.5万美元。)Goop不经筛选就向治疗师、心理研究者和所谓灵媒提供平台,身为投资人,你有没有疑虑?

库特:一点也没有。和大多数初创公司一样,Goop犯错也很正常,但在健康养生领域一直处于创新的前沿。Goop很早就介绍冥想,率先普及少吃麸质或者不食用麸质的好处,以及各种健康生活方式。因此,在这样一个宏大的概念中,Goop成长的过程也是学习的过程,公司还在推荐新的健康生活理念。

从内容的需求端看,人们希望更了解自我,过上更好的生活,这方面Goop可以为一些用户提供帮助。当然不能指望所有内容都老少皆宜。格温妮斯的看法是,只要是观点就总有些人会喜欢,有些人不在意,还有些人则会讨厌。身为投资人,我们也有自己的看法,就是看好Goop这个机遇。

所以你的意思是,只要有需求,公司推广未证明疗效的产品也可以接受?

库特:我支持Goop有关此事的公开声明。我理解为何有人感受不到产品与美感的联系,其实没关系,只要还有人欣赏就行。当然,我们也需要尊重法律,这也是Goop一直以来行事的准则。初创公司发展过程中就是容易犯错,可以从中吸取经验教训,然后迭代,确保不犯同样的错误。我们全力支持Goop的立场。

你是FarFetch的第一位投资者,这家伦敦的奢侈品网上交易平台不久前才上市。你能跟大家透露一下,对FarFetch的初始投资获得了多少回报吗?

库特:我没法透露确切的数字,不过可以这么说,回报率超过100倍。

刚开始决定投资的时候,你最大的挑战是要说服合伙人,让他们相信FarFetch可能变成巨头。你从FarFetch身上看到了什么,让你能满怀信心坚定投资?

库特:当时我对网上交易平台很感兴趣。我注意到,特别是在欧洲,数字领域最成功的案例实质上都和商业有关,比如旅行、快时尚或者奢侈品。因此,我觉得可能有机会出现新商业模式。和(FarFetch的创始人)何塞(·内维斯)一见面,我就感觉: “没错就是他了。”

我在做风投以前也开过公司,成立了一家纺织业的交易网站,最终因为做法太超前没能坚持。当时是1999年。这段经历让我对快时尚颇有了解,因此一发现FarFetch,我就知道这是天才的商业模式,我对何塞有信心。我本来就对这个领域有兴趣,所以能一早发掘其中的商机。

你投资的很多公司都像FarFetch、Peloton和Goop一样出售昂贵产品。是不是只有富人特别渴望提升生活品质?

库特:实际上并不是这样。财富和受教育程度有直接关系,涉及到健康方面更是如此。以Goop为例,很多内容都关于清洁美容和健康饮食。内容是免费的,是很棒的资源,但并不是所有人都具备相应水平的意识和好奇心。

去Goop会发现,很多产品通常都价格不菲,但所有内容都是免费的,可以通过内容体验品牌。FarFetch是一个时尚奢侈品的平台。Peloton也提供高价的产品,肯定也有奢侈时尚的基因。

与此同时,我们也投资了The Food Assembly,主要帮助农场主、生产商和消费者沟通,服务很平价。我们也投了免费应用Shine Media,提供很多健康方面的内容。

你认为,在数字健康市场,是Term Sheet的读者应该了解哪些趋势?

库特:关键是要了解,目前存在健康和养生的热潮,尤其是年轻一代。人们感兴趣的潮流之一跟食品有关,因为从食物能看出一个人是否健康。现在食用植物类食物的潮流明显兴起。

另外一个热门的趋势是清洁美容。年轻人希望了解产品的成分,厂商再也不能用复杂的标签隐瞒信息。这是两个重要的趋势。

我们发现,人们越来越需要接受有关健康方面的教育,在家庭和学校可学不到。把产品与教育结合起来就会成功,这正是Goop在努力做的事。我们发现有越来越多的人在为自己投资。(财富中文网)

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

Felix Capital founder Frederic Court likes to invest in founders long before their ventures are considered real businesses. The London-based venture firm backs “digital lifestyle” companies with a customer base that exhibits cult-like loyalty to the brand.

“We’ve backed quite a few companies that have started as accidental businesses,” Court told Term Sheet. “The key is customer love. In today’s world, it’s easy to measure how people are interacting with the brand or product. The emergence of a close-knit community early on is something that we look at very closely.”

Felix Capital has invested in companies including FarFetch (which just IPOed), Peloton, Mejuri, Highsnobiety — and the one I’m personally most intrigued by — Goop.

Goop encapsulates the firm’s investment thesis perfectly — it began as a newsletter of recommendations curated by Paltrow in 2008. Today, it’s a venture-backed lifestyle empire valued at $250 million. Court invested three years ago, and he now sits on Goop’s board and considers Paltrow a visionary entrepreneur.

In this Q&A, Term Sheet spoke with Court about his investments, using Instagram for dealflow, and the rise of the aspirational wellness movement.

TERM SHEET: You use Instagram for dealflow. What exactly do you look for and how do you approach reaching out to potential founders?

COURT: We have been looking at a number of categories through Instagram, and one of those categories is jewelry. There are more and more brands popping up for millennials, and in particular, millennial women. Jewelry was one of the categories where there was a need for a more engaging, authentic brand for younger female customers. Instagram is how we found the founder of Mejuri. Our team got in touch with her, and over two years, we developed a relationship. We saw the company’s numbers grow, and we developed an interest in the brand. So when it came to a point when they wanted to raise a round, we were in a perfect position to invest because we had a relationship of trust and they understood we could help in many ways. That came directly through our proactive research on Instagram.

Highsnobiety is another brand we backed where I just reached out to the founder on LinkedIn and asked if we could talk. It was luckily the time when the founder was thinking about potentially bringing a partner on board, so we started talking and we ended up in investing.

When it came to FarFetch, I subscribed to their first newsletter in October of 2008, and it took me a year to connect with the founder and ask for a meeting. There are so many times when investment opportunities are directly in front of us, and we just don’t see them. So I think a key trait for VCs is to be curious and do some research and decide whether it’s something that could be a potential investment even if the founder isn’t there yet. A lot of what we do is proactive where we reach out regularly to people.

It sounds like you’ve invested in quite a few companies that began as newsletters. Is it the loyalty of the subscribers that was most appealing?

COURT: When we talk about brands, what we are very interested in is a strong community. A good example is the community that Fortune’s built at the Brainstorm Tech conference. It’s a strong community and people are happy to pay money to be a part of it. It’s exactly what we’re looking for. A few of the companies we’ve backed — especially ones that have a media component — have an experiential component, like Goop’s wellness events. Customers want to experience the brand.

You were an early investor in Goop, and you sit on the company’s board. Why did you invest, and what did you see in Gwyneth as a founder?

COURT: I was familiar with Goop because I had been reading the newsletter to get travel recommendations. Gwyneth sent the first Goop newsletter from her kitchen 10 years ago in September 2008. To this day, Goop is very much a curation, and Gwyneth is the tastemaker. When we launched Felix, we got a call from Tony Florence at NEA who thought we would be good partners to Goop. I saw that Gwyneth had tremendous brand equity, but the business was still very small at the time.

Since we invested three years ago, she’s built a tremendous community and a very strong brand. The model was essentially content, but there was clearly a lot of content around products and commerce so there was purchase intent. So when she moved back to L.A, Gwyneth decided that Goop would be her thing. She clearly had opportunities to do more movies, but she really had a passion to work on Goop full-time. When we invested, she was not the CEO, but we had a conviction around her as the founder and the creative force. She is one of the best entrepreneurs I’ve ever had the chance to work with, and she continues to grow with the business.

Clearly we’re onto something with Goop as it’s about creating a new model. It’s a consumer brand that creates contextual commerce where we’re selling a curated list of products — some of which are our own — while creating a lot of content related to issues relevant to a female audience.

Goop has been criticized for peddling pseudo-science. [Goop just agreed to pay $145,000 in a settlement over unsubstantiated claims about vaginal eggs]. As an investor, do you have any personal qualms about the company giving an unfiltered platform to healers, psychics, and mediums?

COURT: Not at all. Obviously, there are some things where, like most startups, we don’t always get it right, but Goop has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to well-being. It was early to meditation and early to the benefits of eating less gluten or no gluten, and all these various things. So in the grand scheme of things, Goop is learning as it goes, and the company continues to offer people new well-being propositions.

When we look at the level of demand for the content, people want to understand themselves better and learn to lead a better life, and that’s where Goop can be a tool for a certain audience. But of course, it’s definitely not for everybody. Gwyneth has a point of view — there will be some people who love the point of view, some who don’t mind it, and some who hate it. As investors, we ourselves have a point of view, and we are very bullish on the Goop opportunity.

So you’re saying that as long as there’s demand, it’s acceptable for a company to promote unsubstantiated claims?

COURT: I stand by the company’s public statement on the matter. I understand why people may not relate to the aesthetic and the content, and that’s fine, as long as there are people who do find it relevant. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to respect the law, and that’s what Goop always aims to do. As you grow a startup, you make mistakes, you learn, you iterate, and then make sure it doesn’t happen again. We are fully behind the company’s position on this.

You were the first investor in FarFetch, a London-based luxury online marketplace, that just went public. Can you share what return you made on your initial investment?

COURT: Rather than give you an exact number, I’ll say it’s more than a 100x return.

When you first decided to invest, your biggest challenge was convincing your partners the company could be big enough. What did you see in it that gave you the conviction to go ahead and invest anyway?

COURT: At the time, I was very interested in marketplaces. I noticed that in Europe, in particular, the best success stories at that time in digital were essentially around commerce, like travel, fast fashion, or luxury. So I thought there would be an opportunity to come up with a new model. When I met [founder] José [Neves], I was like ‘That’s it.’

And before I was a VC, I was an entrepreneur and I started an online marketplace for the textile industry that ended up being way too early for its time. It was 1999. That experience gave me a good understanding of the fashion industry, so when I saw FarFetch, I knew it was a genius business model and it gave me conviction around José. I already had an interest in the category, so I was able to see the opportunity early on.

Many of your portfolio companies like FarFetch, Peloton, and Goop sell expensive products. Is indulging in this aspirational wellness movement only for people who are affluent?

COURT: The answer is technically no. But there is a direct correlation between affluence and education generally, especially when it comes to wellness. Goop, for instance, has a lot of content around clean beauty and eating well. That content is available for free and it’s a great resource, but not everyone has that level of awareness or curiosity to learn about it.

If you go to Goop, a lot of the products are generally premium offerings but all the content is free so you can experience the brand that way. With FarFetch, it’s a platform for luxury fashion. And Peloton has a premium offering, so there’s no doubt that it’s a luxury fashion proposition for sure.

But at the same time, we’ve also invested in The Food Assembly, which connects farmers and producers to consumers, and it’s a very affordable proposition. We have also backed Shine Media, which is a free app with a lot of content for well being.

What are some trends in the digital wellness market that Term Sheet readers should know about?

COURT: The big thing to know is that there’s a massive trend especially from the younger generation around wellness and well-being. One trend that we’re very interested in is related to food because you are what you eat. We’ve definitely seen a rise in plant-based eating.

Another one is around clean beauty. Younger people want to know what the ingredients in products are, and you can’t hide behind a complex label anymore. These are two key trends.

We see a growing need for people to be educated around wellness, which is not something that’s taught at home or at school. The success comes when you combine the product with education, which is what Goop does. We see more and more people investing in themselves.

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