Business

If you’re an emerging beauty startup, good news: Unilever is on the prowl.

LONDON — Unilever, by way of their investment arm, Unilever Ventures (UV), made a surprise statement of intent last week by leading a $3M seed round for two-year-old premium beauty brand, True Botanicals.

The investment now marks two key deals for Unilever in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) beauty space: True Botanicals, and the other, of course, being their $1B purchase of Dollar Shave Club in July 2016.

Two makes a pattern, and Unilever by way of UV seems to be stepping up its interest in emerging beauty and personal care startups.

We contacted Anna Ohlsson-Baskerville, a UV director, and the point person heading up the True Botanicals investment. She had this to share about the deal:

“While we have invested in direct to consumer businesses before, True Botanicals is our first investment in a digitally native, luxury beauty line.” Co-founders Hillary Peterson and Christina Mace-Turner, she went on to say, have done well over these last two years of really scaling up the brand, and UV is hoping the TB taps into Unilever’s resources to take things even further.

Speaking to BoF last week, UV chief Olivier Garel also had this to say: “True Botanicals ticked a lot of boxes for us: an early, but demonstrable high growth trajectory, a great founding management team, an authentic brand with a distinctive positioning as well as an innovative, digitally native business model. From a business perspective, the direct distribution enables the company to invest much more than has been traditional in the product quality and the shopping experience.”

What about LVMH’s new emerging luxury fund? You would think that LVMH would be moving for emerging brands of True Botanical’s caliber (and in some ways, through the L Catterton Growth Fund, they are). But so far, in the beauty and fragrance categories, it’s been Estée Lauder (Le Labo, Rodin Olio Lusso) and Unilever (TB, Dollar Shave Club, LXMI) making these moves. But LVMH also has a new emerging luxury fund that’s still yet to make a move here. So we’re left wondering what that fund’s investment thesis might look like, though we do hear they are kicking the tires of some MLCs.

Little known fact: Frederic Court, co-founder and partner at Felix Capital (a rising VC firm focused on the modern luxury space), is on Unilever Ventures’ advisory board.

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