An entrepreneur's journey from a company's first days - which are typically fueled by the goodwill and support family and friends - to closing its first significant funding round, can seem like a monumental leap with very few stepping stones in between.
This is where Springdale Ventures is seeking to help propel brands.
"Our ideal stage is between friends and family and where they might level up to a CAVU or AF [Ventures] that’s waiting for about $5m in revenue. We do find we’re around the table with angels that may be writing a little bit bigger checks, and we like that... It’s a good space to be in, because the investments at that point are somewhat de-risked, but the valuation is still generally not crazy yet," Gilbreath told FoodNavigator-USA.
Springdale Ventures has a proven track record of growing early-stage brands across the consumer packaged goods market since it was first founded by Gilbreath, who has worked 20 years in the consumer goods and natural foods industry, and Dan Graham, an entrepreneur with decades of experience growing and scaling companies in the consumer tech space.
Across its portfolio of 23 companies – which includes emerging brands Better Booch, Fit Joy, KOS organic plant-based protein powders, and Karma nuts snacks – Springdale Ventures has averaged five times revenue growth and attracting a variety of brands of which nearly half of are led by diverse and underrepresented founders.
The VC also recently led the $11m Series A investment in fresh baby food brand, Tiny Organics.
'Is this a founder that we really believe in?'
Asked what types of brands and companies Springdale Ventures may be targeting with potential additional cash to make investments, Gilbreath said that entrepreneurs don't need to be the next Tesla, but that in terms of companies Springdale is most interested in, they all must have one fundamental thing in common:
"For us, the first thing is always the people. Is this a founder that we really believe in? Do they have the vision, and do they have the ability to execute on the vision, and can they recruit the right people to be around them? That’s something that we look at early stage, who are the people that they have around them?," she said.
"When we look at the products themselves, there obviously has to be a large enough addressable market. They have to be doing something disruptive enough that it’s making a difference."
'When women have control of the money, they invest it differently'
Once armed with a second fund twice the size of its first fund, and the hiring of Marissa Epstein to general partner, making Springdale Ventures
among the 10% of VC funds with two or more female general partners, Gilbreath said she looks forward to bringing more diverse perspectives to the investment table.
"In terms of impact, when women have control of the money, they use it differently, and they invest it differently. They’ll tend to invest it in other women and more diverse founders," said Gilbreath.
Gilbreath shared that bringing on Epstein as a general partner will deepen this perspective even further. Epstein has spent nearly a decade partnering with business leaders to build innovative brands and driving nutrition initiatives at The White House, where she was associate director of the Let’s Move! Campaign for former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.
Most recently, Epstein was the director of The University of Texas Nutrition Institute, where she developed programs and courses that guide early-stage food and beverage entrepreneurs from ideation to product-market fit through iterative, consumer-centered design.