Backing the Next Generation of Consumer Brands with Tina Bou-Saba
With over 20 years of experience in the consumer ecosystem, Tina Bou-Saba is an active investor across beauty, health and wellness, e-commerce, and more. She’s the cofounder and managing partner of Verity Venture Partners, where she backs generation-defining brands and the tech that supports them. Tina’s personal investing track record spans many top emerging brands including Olive & June, Rae, Kosas, Hydrant, Saie, and Huron.
We sat down with Tina to run through her diligence criteria, ecommerce enablement drivers, evolving consumer appetites, clean tech stacks, and the new fund she’s raising at Verity.
Diligence Criteria: Sticky Customers & Organic Reach
Over the course of her career, Tina has gained a deep appreciation for the power of brand and customer loyalty — two key characteristics she looks for in potential investments. When Tina evaluates a brand, she asks:
- Is there a sticky audience that’s making repeat purchases?
- Are there loyal customers who share the brand organically and even form communities around it?
- Does this company have a clear customer acquisition edge?
In terms of metrics, Tina looks at repeat purchase rates, product margins, percent of customers on subscription, social media data, and a healthy mix of paid and organic acquisition strategies. She points out that while average order value and other traditional e-commerce metrics are useful to frame diligence, she prioritizes evaluating the broader business model, community engagement, and how founders creatively leverage data.
In her words, consumer brand investing requires identifying categories that can hit a high multiple exit over a five to seven year period. The industry structure in many consumer categories is centered around conglomerates, so as a venture investor, Tina focuses on unlocking exits in the branded consumer ecosystem.
Outside of consumer, Tina sees a massive opportunity in the enabling technology space and is actively investing in the field. Her experience working with emerging independent brands over the past five years has given her insight into what infrastructure tech brands are using, what tools they actually need in real-time, and which software tools aren’t mission-critical.
“As we think about the eccomerce ecosystem, at its core are branded consumer businesses. Adjacent to them are the tools that support those businesses, including enabling tech like Tydo. That’s a segment we’re actively tracking and investing in.”
Verity’s Value Add: Collective Operating Intelligence
Focused on backing early-stage companies, Verity is looking to lead or co-lead most of their investment rounds. Typically, they’re writing checks from $750K to $2.5 million.
In terms of engaging portfolio companies, Tina and her business partner Matt Levin leverage their collective consumer and retail backgrounds to up their advisor and operating networks.
Having straddled the investor/operator line for most of her life, Tina likes rolling up her sleeves and helping founders navigate the weeds of their businesses. This is a different approach from many early-stage investors, but one which differentiates Verity. From firsthand experience, Tina knows that early-stage brands are looking for genuine value-add partners — folks who can really help them think through the day-to-day and smaller decisions, such as which retail term sheet to take, while also helping them navigate larger strategic issues
From her vantage point, there’s a unique opportunity right now for a firm that has expertise both on the consumer product and service side, as well as on the enabling technology side. That’s the Verity sweet spot.
“Investors have to straddle two priorities: portfolio construction and sourcing and winning great deals, while also zooming out to a 30,000 foot view of what’s going on in the ecosystem and how consumer preferences and behaviors are shifting.”
Leveraging Data as a Competitive Advantage
Consumer brands have access to seemingly endless amounts of data, but most companies, especially smaller brands, are leveraging very little of it. While some of that might be due to bandwidth or a knowledge gap, there’s a clear opportunity for investors to help brands engage with their first-party and zero-party data and implement quant-driven growth tactics accordingly.
Tina specifically recommends that brands start by cleaning up their tech stacks, or at least outlining and establishing hygiene best practices. In her words, Tydo’s a great place to start.
For companies who do one to ten million in sales, the hardest part is bandwidth. Their data strategy falls through the cracks because they’re constantly fighting fires. It’s just not a priority.
The other piece of the puzzle, Tina points out, is a lack of education and awareness of what’s possible with data. There are so many tools out there, but it’s hard to decipher how a tool impacts a specific function. Again, that gap in knowledge can be partially filled by experienced and engaged investors.
“For me, the question is around how we can help cut through the noise and support founders of fast-growing consumer brands by clearly defining best practices, and partnering with founders to execute accordingly.”
The Future of Consumer Brands: How to Win
It’s never been easier to launch an independent brand, but it’s also never been harder to grow and scale one because of the hyper-competitive nature of the ecosystem at large.
Consumers have an insatiable appetite for newness, but according to Tina, the winners will be the emerging brands that form authentic connections with consumers, and build communities with real meaning and longevity.
While a hot brand might sprint out of the gates with a ton of press and attention, that doesn’t necessarily mean that its underlying business model, go-to-market strategy, and operating margins ensure healthy growth over the months and years to come. Rather, true brand durability derives from a loyal audience, product that delights customers, and clear acquisition advantage as it relates to unlocking organic growth at scale.
“That’s the core of Verity’s thesis: backing brands that aren’t necessarily the flashiest, latest, greatest things. Rather, they have genuine longevity and durability, driven by passionate customer communities and supported by sustainable business models.”
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