As she has experience as the founder – of fashion brand Bow & Drape, launched in 2012 – Aubrie Pagano, general partner of venture capital firm Alpaca VC, is adept at determining whether a founder is worth the effort. to invest.
“It’s about understanding what your customer needs from the brand and how you can grow the brand with that founding voice,” Pagano said on the latest Glossy Podcast.
Pagano founded Bow & Drape at a time when personalization, be it a Chipotle bowl or a T-shirt, was growing in popularity. “We were very excited to create a more personal and expressive fashion,” said Pagano. She decided to focus on the millennial demographics at the time. “[We] launched our sweatshirt which became an eponymous product, ”she said, referencing Bow & Drape’s best-selling style which reads“ Goal Digger ”in gold letters. It was worn by Serena Williams in 2015.
Although Pagano sold Bow & Drape in 2019, the seven years she spent developing it has allowed her to experience the evolution of brands.
When Bow & Brand entered the retail space with companies like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom in 2015, “It was a symbiotic opportunity back then,” she said. The brand gained a platform, while retailers were able to engage customers in new ways.
Now, “the future of brands is omnichannel,” Pagano said. “It goes wherever your customers are, whether it’s direct commerce or retail, or online through a traditional PDP. “
As Pagano went from founder to investor with Alpaca VC, she also discovered that tenacity and magnetism are key traits in assessing a founder’s potential.
“Alpaca is a seed fund focused on the intersection of the digital and physical worlds, where people are using technology to transform everyday life,” she said. Pagano was drawn to the firm because of the team’s understanding of the “entrepreneurial journey” and their “research-driven approach to how we invest in business”.
One of the areas in which Pagano has invested at Alpaca is “re-commerce space”, or the reuse of goods. It has to do with the fact that “consumers, especially Gen Z, are saying, ‘There is too much,” “Pagano said. Direct trade, returns, and cross-border trading are also areas that Pagano deems worthy of investment.
“The internet has allowed culture to atomize in such a way that you can speak very specifically to a very vertical audience,” Pagano said. “Speaking to a specific audience and having an affinity and a community that you speak to is paramount.”
Below are additional conversation highlights, which have been edited slightly for clarity.
Be a “real partner”
“I try not to care what people think, but it affects me. When you are selling your business this is very important. You often need to get consent from your current investors. I went around and told all of my investors about where we were at, what I thought was best for the company and for ourselves. The sole decision to sell the business took about four months and a lot of math. It was the most difficult decision we had to make as a company … [But] the conversation [with me, was], ‘You’re a crappy entrepreneur for giving up,’ and that was a metaphorical slap in the face. He’s not a real partner. If you are a true partner, you have come a long way and you know that when they come to this decision, it is not easy.
What Makes a Founder Worth Investing in
“A lot of early-stage investing is in the people, ultimately, and the founder. There are a couple of things I’m looking for… One of them is this tenacity and courage. Have they shown ingenuity, in terms of setting up a pilot, in terms of finding clients in non-obvious places, securing partnerships through interesting networking angles? There are ways, even in the early stages, to go below the surface and understand how someone is motivated and motivated. The second thing is to associate that with magnetism … which is a catch-all for [asking], ‘Is this person convincing to others?’ And then the third is what we call the founding market adjustment. Is this person only placed on this planet to run this business? “
The hallmark of a brand’s experience will be feedback
“On the supply chain side, there are two [areas] which interests me [investing in]. One is in the returns; I keep saying that feedback is going to become a hallmark of a brand’s experience, just like delivery. We have all been trained now with Zappos and Amazon which “today” is the gold standard [for delivery]. It will be the same for returns. Customers will convert less if they know there is a tough return policy and if someone has a bad return experience, in terms of labels, packaging, and handling. A lot to [already] there, but there is room for end-to-end solutions on the return side.