The biggest exit for this L.A. venture firm may wind up being . . . canned water – TechCrunch

earlier this week, Science Inc., A 10-year-old, LA-based incubator and venture firm, started a blank-check company on Nasdaq, raising $ 270 million for the founding firms Peter Pham and Mike Jones, which he says is used for the public company Will take place in the mobile, entertainment or direct-to-consumer service space – or maybe combine the three.

If they have one of their own portfolio companies to take public, they will not say in the conversation tomorrow. Science will have some interesting candidates out of which it has to choose. It helped incubate Amateur escorts platform After Fame Plaves met his founder Delaine Parnell on a dance floor south of the Southwest festival. It is also an investor in micro-mobility company Bird, which is reportedly working with Credit Suisse. Make a deal With a blank-check company. And it helped build and grow Liquid Death, a company with a tongue-in-cheek marketing strategy selling mountain water in aluminum cans – This is a lot, Says Pham.

Indeed, we have spent much of our time talking about building a powerful consumer brand in 2021, when there are so many, saturated platforms with plenty to pay attention to. More than that dialogue, lightly edited for length and clarity.

TC: You have this new blank-check company. You are about to start talking with potential targets. Would you consider a company that you have incubated or funded in science?

MJ: No. Therefore SPAAC is an independent institution. We think there is a universe of over 100 companies that will fit the credibility of what we are seeing within the stack. Some of those companies, we may or may not have investment risk [to them], But the process of analysis is independent of the science portfolio.

TC: So you won’t dismiss it.

MJ: We have independent directors. So, there is a different process that has to go through if we are looking at a company in a portfolio. But right now we are gathering the right universe of possible targets. And then we will go through a formal process on it.

TC: The metrics you want to see? You specialize in direct-to-consumer companies. Do the companies you are targeting have to be profitable?

MJ: When we look at different, potential companies that we are interested in, we are not saying that they have some specific level of profitability or specific level of revenue. . . We do not uncover the core metrics and revenue drivers that we think make for successful companies within sectors. But we are a super data focused team. We are at the forefront of next generation Gen Z and millennium oriented marketing. And there are very specific things that we see that we think can build a breakout brand.

TC: You both know the social media space. There are new social media plays that are attracting a lot of attention, such as the clubhouse. Back to your core business in science, is there any investment in those areas in the area you are looking at?

PP: It was a decade ago when YouTube became a marketing platform. Then six seven years ago, Instagram [became a platform for marketing]. And then Snapchat came along, and then all of a sudden Instagram stories [emerged], And then Tiktok and now another stage, which is the club house. There is always something new around the corner.

You can’t remove your eyes from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but the clubhouse is real. It is almost radio, but it is participation. If you go south to southwest, it is almost a clock-like SWSX panel. This is a really interesting dynamic where you can be in a crowd, raise your hand, and if they drag you on stage, you are now part of the panel. So there are many – for the possibility of being searched [and] The chance to hear his voice is heard by a large audience.

TC: Do you think its growth is sustainable?

PP: The moment marketers join a forum [you know]. When real marketers, people who are selling classes to make money, how to have real estate, how to make money [selling] Types of Real Estate Marketing – When [they show up], It is a mediation. These are basically very smart people who make a lot of money considering that every minute they spend doing this is more valuable in terms of ROI, customer acquisition costs, and revenue, time on this other thing. Compared to spending which is on everything else.

TC: How do your portfolio companies use these platforms in 2021? You are an investor in liquid death. You helped incubate MeUndies, a subsidiary underwear company that saw $ 40 million At the end of last year. You were involved in the early days of Dollar Shave Club. How do you break through noise with things like water, underwear and razor?

PP: Platforms are always a springboard. You cannot rely on these places long term because the rules of the game change, feeds change. Ten years ago, when we launched the Dollar Shave Club, we had an autoplay on the homepage Youtube video Was just about driving customers to buy something. At the time, no one thought of posting a YouTube video to buy something. Apply mehndi [used] Instagram. Who would imagine membership of underwear? But every month, there is a holiday – Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. What if there was something interesting and fun that you could wear?

With liquid death, it’s still plenty [focused on] Instagram and now probably TikTok. But in all cases, one should be qualified to talk about what is interesting about it and even to defend it.

Mike outlines our data side, but we constantly measure everything in terms of how much each of our businesses is happening, including social reach, their engagement, business retention, how often customers are returning, we How much revenue each person is earning, what each piece of marketing is worth. They all get stuck in this complex engine [helps us determine], Is there any business behind this thing? Can it grow on its own without dependence on Facebook? With most companies, if you don’t understand how to build your community, your brand, and your audience, ultimately the winner on the back end is Google or Facebook.

TC: How do you build that community right now?

I have personally handed over 4,000 boxes. In the early days of Liquid Death, I just remember handing it to a group of teenagers, and six out of 10 would take a picture and send it to their friend. It was just a moment that I kept seeing again and again, and all I knew was, this is work. If you saw in March and April and May how boring your Instagram feed was, [it was] Because everybody was at home and there was nothing to do. But we [had this insight to] Give someone a piece of material.

TC: Liquid Death is now available in some stores, including 7-Elevens. Are people buying water online? What percentage of them buy through membership?

PP: One third of our customers who shop online [at the site] Buy goods They are buying $ 24 hats, $ 45 hoodies – we are constantly selling merch. This is the brand, this is a lifestyle. Mike Cesario, CEO, says he is building something that is like your favorite band. Product allows you to be a fan of cheese [including] Because it’s not a piece of plastic that’s going into the ocean [like other water bottles]. It is not Chinese. It is not alcohol that can result in drunk driving.

This is the nature. This is the reason for someone to say hi. It is an icebreaker. It’s fun. It is irreversible. This is dumb. This is funny It is everything to everyone, but something worth talking about, something worth watching.

The trajectory we are hard to measure, you have to see it, and when you see it again and again, it is clear.