Business

Attention early-stage brands: There’s a new VC firm you need to know about.

LONDON — Last week, Natalie Massenet’s long awaited (and long rumored) VC fund was all but officially confirmed. Based on the scoop, reported at WWD, it sounds like her firm is now firmly in play, though a spring announcement will be made to make things official.

In the meantime, here’s what you need to know now that it’s (unofficially) confirmed…

The name: Imaginary Ventures. The two head honchos involved: Massenet herself and Nick Brown, a partner at 14W — a New York VC firm that’s been highly active in modern luxury investments over the last five years.

The backstory: Massenet had it registered as an organization in the UK back in October 2015, right after she parted ways with Net-a-Porter. Speculative articles had been written about the registration around that time — and all of them had been met with stone cold silence from her. But we’d also received a tip in December that she was finally ready to launch the fund, so it was clear that that something was being set in motion on that front. Turns out our sources were right.

The focus: Early stage DTC companies and MLCs across several categories. First investments are rumored to be in the luxury space (Farfetch — not exactly an early stage company), and in the wellness space (Daily Harvest, an “organic ready-to-blend “superfood” soup and smoothie delivery service”, and and Dirty Lemon, a “beverage company whose products are only available for purchase via text message”).

The (immediate) competition:

  • Forerunner Ventures: The VC firm that sits at the top of the MLC space. They focus almost exclusively on MLCs and DTC upstarts. Partner Kirsten Green, as the biggest name in the MLC VC space, sets founders’ hearts a-flutter, but Massenet and Brown have put Forerunner on high alert: There could be a new sheriff in town for MLC investments. Forerunner’s MLC portfolio: Birchbox, Bonobos, Glossier, Joor, M.Gemi, Outdoor Voices, Reformation, Warby Parker
  • Lerer Hippeau Ventures: Raden, Warby Parker, Tracksmith, Glossier, Joor, Casper, Everlane, The Black Tux.
  • 14W: This is a big one. 14W is on par with Forerunner here. But even with Brown leaving to run Imaginary, 14W’s MLC portfolio is nothing to sneeze at: Raden, Outdoor Voices, Lyst, Reformation, Glossier, Tracksmith, Moda Operandi, The RealReal, Everlane.

Final thought: Modern luxury companies (MLCs) are a hot item with VCs at the moment. And make no mistake, Massenet’s and Brown’s combined track records in the modern luxury space gives Imaginary Ventures a clear advantage over more generalist firms. Remember: Smart MLC founders know that linking up with the right type of investor — one that has industry-specific expertise, and can offer more than just a check — is what’s needed to build out brands over the long term.

We look at the relationship between UK-based investors Pentland and Tracksmith as the perfect example here. You can read more about that dynamic here.

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