By: Will Porteous and Maria Palma
What makes a great consumer brand? We ask ourselves this question all the time as venture investors. While there are always the business fundamentals that one needs to look at when considering any investment in this space (LTV:CAC, Unit Economics, Market Size, Scalability), at the core of it, the best consumer brands have soul. They are purposeful, intentional, and speak often about finding new ways to build community or express identity. No one understands this more than the Pattern Brands team, given their history as Gin Lane.
Whether you know it or not, chances are you have been touched by the work of the Gin Lane team. Their branding agency has worked on many of the most iconic new brands of the past decade — giants like Smile Direct Club, Hims, Harry’s and Quip. Over the past ten years they’ve worked with over 50 companies that collectively went on to create more than $15 billion worth of market value. Unbeknownst to them, the Gin Lane team was doing consumer research for what would ultimately become Pattern. As they conducted hundreds of consumer interviews across categories, they noticed recurring challenges for today’s adult generation.
Their thesis: today’s adult consumer is living in a burnout culture. Between full work schedules and technology always at your fingertips, people try to squeeze out every last ounce of “wasted time” in their day to become as productive and efficient as possible. In 2019, busy has become a badge of honor and you can never be enough. You can always be more or do more. Moments that used to be filled with wandering thoughts or doing nothing in between activities are now filled with responding to emails, listening to podcasts, or checking social media to be reminded of everyone else’s seemingly perfect existence. We live to work instead of work to live. As Anne Helen Peterson, a journalist at Buzzfeed (another RRE investment, tapped into the zeitgeist in the same way we think Pattern is), expressed in her article on the Millennial Burnout generation, “this generation has been trained, tailored, primed, and optimized for the workplace.” And it is tiring. The nationwide General Social Survey of 2016 tracked the attitudes and behaviors of American society since 1972 and found that 50 percent of respondents are consistently exhausted because of work, up from just 18 percent two decades ago. And people aren’t just optimizing for work, but for other parts of their lives as well. As Malcolm Harris points out, parents today are trying to optimize every aspect of their childrens’ lives to decrease the risk and increase the probability of their future success.
These articles and observations resonated with the Pattern team, as it mirrored what they heard from consumers they met through Gin Lane. It was also a reflection of their personal experiences, and ours at RRE. You don’t have to look far to see this cultural backdrop. It makes you wonder if there is a better state of being. Perhaps this is why we see a renaissance of books written about the value of wasted time and doing nothing, a cult-like following for Marie Kondo’s mandate to declutter your home, or the growth of meditation practices and apps like Headspace as people try to find ways to introduce calm and balance into their overscheduled lives.
Pattern aims to help today’s adult consumer tackle these problems. Their goal is to help their customers enjoy daily life and find fulfillment in simple pastimes. They will be launching multiple consumer brands all aimed at helping you enjoy daily life more in the home, whether it be through cooking, organizing and maintaining your home, or creating new hobbies. Each brand is not just a set of products, but an opportunity to learn, discover, and enjoy. It’s about making a moment for yourself to be fully present and try something, even if you won’t be perfect or even good at it.
And there is no better team to bring this vision to life. As early-stage investors, we always over-index on team. From our first interaction with the founders to deeper connectivity amongst the broader team, we have been blown away by the thoughtfulness of this group and their desire to help create a more balanced life for themselves and adults everywhere, starting with their generation. The culture of the broader team is one of trust and collaboration born of working together for years. In today’s norms of switching jobs every few years, we knew Pattern had a special culture when we watched the same team that had worked together for ten years to build Gin Lane present to us about how excited they were to bring along the entire team to build Pattern together for the next 10+ years.
After we knew the team and understood what they were setting out to build, it was obvious that this was a company we needed to back. Set against a backdrop of fragmented consumer brands and limited consumer attention span, we also fundamentally believe in building multiple brands underneath one company and central mission. There are real economies of scale in building multiple mission-driven brands under one roof, but there are also many complications in executing this approach. Like anything worth building, it will be challenging and come with its ups and downs, but it will also be rewarding and fun along the way. We recently led the Series A in Pattern Brands and couldn’t be more thrilled to be on this journey together with this incredible team.
In an effort to be present more ourselves, we thought we’d end this post with a challenge for you, and for us. Chances are, many of you reading this article are doing so in a moment where you are not fully present, perhaps filling some blank space with commuting, waiting for a meeting to start etc. If you do one thing differently today, try putting down the phone, looking around, letting your brain wander, or focusing all of your attention on the person sitting across from you. We will do the same. We’re all ready for permission to enjoy our daily lives.