Sumeet handles sourcing and managing new opportunities at Brand Foundry Ventures. He has 6 years of experience across the startup and private equity industries, formerly running new business strategies at Gist Digital and handling business development and project work at Gotham Consulting Partners. He also assisted in the creation of XRC Labs, a consumer and retail accelerator run by Kurt Salmon and Parsons, as the Program Manager for their inaugural class. Sumeet graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering, specializing in Biomechanics.
What startup verticals interest you most right now?
Brand Foundry’s focus is in low-tech and high-tech consumer products and devices. It’s all about things you can see, touch, feel, and interact with. I’ve recently been really interested on more low-tech products challenging antiquated industry verticals that combine strong branding, a seamless supply chain, and great go-to-market process.
Examples include current portfolio companies Caeden (headphones) and LOLA (tampons), and rising startups like AWAY and Raden (luggage). What makes these four so exciting to me is how they’re each using unique ways to resonate with their customer (Caeden with form and function combination, LOLA with an unapologetic social media play, and AWAY and Raden tapping deep into product with strong outreach, AWAY with beautiful travel content and marketing and Raden with form and function fit with just the right amount of tech).
That said, I also am excited about where high-tech consumer plays both on electronics and hardware, ESPECIALLY VR. HUGE fan of Oculus.
What are some key factors necessary to build a robust consumer brand?
PEOPLE/PRODUCT/PIPELINE. I would want to see a strong, cohesive team (filling out the roles of Marketer, Operator, and Technician depending on how technical the startup is) with a focus on building a cyclical brand (a complete strategy on supply chain, production, distribution, and go to market). I’ve seen an unfortunate number of founders who are more focused on “Front-end” (marketing, advertising, beautiful product) and less on “Back-end” (supply chain, infrastructure) and they fail as a result because they basically built a house of cards.
What are your thoughts on direct-to-consumer, fully integrated brands like Warby Parker, Casper, etc.?
Well, we invest heavily in the space so I’m definitely a fan. Moreover, my boss Andrew Mitchell is an investor in Warby Parker. We’ve also done heavy investments in the space from Cotopaxi and Lola to AllBirds and Caeden. You also see some great young ones like Tecovas that are fighting antiquated competitors who are retail and brick and mortar heavy and yet use the same components to keep quality high.
But why am I such a fan? It’s because brick and mortar is absolutely broken; young and/or fast-rising companies have to work with the models of the retailers that are holding them, and as a result, they can’t control their brand. It’s so ass-backwards sometimes that you have to deal with their stubbornness of how “things work” for them. Moreover, the retail markup that brands have to commit to (more than 2.5x usually) screws the customer over.
What are your biggest predictions for the year ahead?
We will see the return of a focus towards building sustainable, strong businesses, but my biggest prediction is that 2016 will be the year that women in startups will rule. Female founders will FINALLY get the funding they so rightfully deserve. We take a lot of pride on investing in a significant number of women-led companies (9 out of 15 at the moment), but we didn’t do it to fill a damn quota. We did it because they are absolute badass founders who are building real businesses and challenging the status quos.
Moreover, I wish we could see more women in the VC top brass positions, but you also see some phenomenal female junior and mid-level VC positions who are slated to take over partner positions and/or start their own funds. Sometimes I get so irked that we STILL see women mistreated, mispaid, and misrepresented in our society. I still cannot understand why women aren’t paid the same as men. It’s not even a feminist opinion, it’s all about simple ethics. If we all are on the same level playing field (as investors, founders, as human beings), nobody would be complaining. It isn’t a hard problem to fix!
Are there any specific company ideas that you really want someone to build and would potentially fund?
As crazy as it sounds, it’s within the dating app space, specifically within apps like Tinder and Bumble. Those apps are more visually focused on one side of the spectrum and you have more content-heavy areas like OKCupid and Match on the other. I would love to see someone build out something in the middle, where push notifications or the like would be the center; these notifications would show questions that are pertinent to popular culture, current events, or values that would be with Yes/No/Decline to Answer options. The data can then be built within each person and as you “match” with someone, those questions can pop up as a way to open the conversation and engage with your match further. Better and deeper conversations can lead to better success stories from these apps.If you could have a magic wand and instantly have any imaginable solution to a problem you’re facing, what problem would you solve?
I think like most people, I’d love for any repeatable or “brain-less” task to be automated so I can spend more time focusing on harder problems to solve/more important tasks. I think AI can also arm people in the near future with a tool that streamlines a lot of these processes vs. fully automating them, so hopefully we’ll see that happen soon.
If you’re interested in Brand Foundry Ventures, feel free to reach out to Sumeet directly via email.
This issue was curated by Akshay Goradia (email, website). Akshay is a student at Carnegie Mellon studying Information Systems and Human-Computer Interaction. Having spent last summer at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in NYC, Akshay is interested in venture capital and is looking to gain more experience in venture. Drop Akshay a line here if you’re a VC looking for an intern this summer.
Requests for Startups is a newsletter of entrepreneurial ideas & perspectives by investors, operators, and influencers. If you think there’s someone we should feature in an upcoming issue, nominate them by sending Isaac an email.