'The appropriate capital for them is not venture': Forerunner's Jason Bornstein on the tumultuous landscape for DTC startups
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The next billion-dollar brand probably won't be a DTC startup.
That's according to Jason Bornstein, principal at Forerunner Ventures. He's out there trying to look for the next big business to invest in, and he's not so sure online-only brands are the best way to go. Instead, he's focused on bigger innovations.
Bornstein joined the Modern Retail Podcast this week and spoke about his background, investing thesis and the areas on which he's focusing right now. "What we're really looking for here are new business models -- innovations -- on the tech side," he said. "So is there technology underpinning the business?"
Bornstein has been in digital retail for decades, hailing from early DTC entrants like Bonobos. And while those brands caught investors' eyes and were able to grow using a direct-to-consumer-only model, Bornstein isn't sure that will fly anymore.
"To be successful as a brand -- as a digital brand… there's going to be fewer venture dollars going into those businesses," he said.
In his eyes, VC doesn't work well with most consumer-facing brands unless they have a real differentiator that the market has never before seen. And the tricks that earlier brands used to grow customers aren't enough to merit billion-dollar valuations.
Instead, Bornstein is looking at new ways traditional business models are being upended. He named digital health care as one example, along with the rise of resale.
But beyond that, Bornstein said he's also interested in the ways companies find customers and keep them. In the past, he said, 'there was very little focus on loyalty and on retention." Now, "I think we're going to see the next generation of brands be successful by focusing on that."
Does that mean Bornstein and Forerunner aren't going to invest in any of the new digital-only retail brands? Not exactly. But, he said, "it's going to be fewer companies than we've done in the past."