By Rachel Brown. This article originally appeared on Beauty Independent on February 11, 2019.
Sekhmet Ventures, a new venture capital firm dedicated to the beauty and wellness category, has launched with an investment in superfood ingestible brand Stamba.
The firm is putting seed investments ranging primarily from $500,000 to $1.5 million toward companies targeting specific concerns with rigor baked into their business models, differentiated products and patentable intellectual property. It’s also assembling an infrastructure to buttress the growth of emerging brands by shoring up their technological, financial, marketing, retail sales, production and supply chain capabilities, among other functions.
“What I want to do is fund companies where there is scientific evidence for the efficacy of their products and regulatory evidence for the cleanliness of their products,” says Sekhmet Ventures founding partner Barbara Paldus. “A lot of the claims in this segment are unsubstantiated. It’s like the California Gold Rush of 1848, where it was a complete free-for-all. What’s missing is the science.”
Like many clean beauty consumers, Paldus was exposed to clean beauty products after the birth of her son nearly 10 years ago. He suffered from eczema, and Paldus explored topical remedies for his condition, only to be disappointed by the ingredients they contained and their results. A longtime entrepreneur and investor trained as an electrical engineer whose last company, bioprocessing equipment specialist Finesse Solutions, was purchased by Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2017, Paldus concluded she could assist beauty and wellness startups with the corroborated benefits that she noticed were rare.
“People have relied too much on influencers and too little on data. There’s an incredible opportunity for education and providing information in a transparent way so consumers can make informed decisions.”
“There is a huge demand for these kinds of products, but I believe that people have relied too much on influencers and too little on data. There’s an incredible opportunity for education and providing information in a transparent way so consumers can make informed decisions,” she says. “People are not recognizing that need, and we will be addressing it with companies that solve these problems.”
Paldus was drawn to Stamba because its founder, Asa Siegel, is tuned into the latest research on nutrition, and its products zeroed in on digestive and inflammation issues that plague human bodies. Introduced in 2013, Stamba’s first product, Daily, a supplement with cacao, acai, ginger, turmeric, chaga, reishi and maitake, remains a bestseller. In the ensuing years, the brand’s lineup has expanded to include Travel capsules for globetrotters and the powder blend Perform for active customers. Maca Macha tea and Liquid Probiotics are up next.
“Stamba is based on an uncompromising commitment to quality ingredients that are validated by traditional use and modern food science. There is nothing isolated, synthetic or reproduced,” says Siegel, a certified holistic health counselor, continuing, “I see a lot of brands in this space right now diversifying, and Stamba has no intention of going into products in the beauty space that are unrelated to our core ethos.”
“Stamba is based on an uncompromising commitment to quality ingredients that are validated by traditional use and modern food science. There is nothing isolated, synthetic or reproduced.”
Stamba began with online distribution and has since spread to select stores, spas and hospitality properties such as
CAP Beauty, Clover Grocery, ABC Carpet & Home, and the forthcoming Equinox Hotel and Club in the New York development Hudson Yards. In 2019, the brand is projected to cross $1 million in sales and build its distribution network with key partners bridging beauty and wellness.
Prior to Sekhmet Ventures’ investment in Stamba, Siegel was pursuing capital to strengthen his brand’s structure to elevate its business. Stamba had been struggling with out-of-stocks. “Meeting Barb and Sekhmet was completely serendipitous. We were ready. They were ready,” says Siegel. “We connected on a very deep level over our common values and a common commitment to quality and a global vision. My vision for Stamba is most certainly for it to be a global brand, and Barb and Sekhmet immediately shared that vision.”
Sekhmet Ventures has recruited a number of advisors to guide rising clean beauty and wellness brands, including Dianne Vavra, founder of Spotlight Beauty PR and former senior vice president of press relations at Dior Beauty, Jacqueline Kissenpfennig, an international marketing and brand development consultant previously in training and marketing positions at Crabtree & Evelyn and La Prairie, Kerry Whorton Cooper, president and COO of Rothy’s, and e-commerce consultant Jenny Skinner Robinson, former vice president of digital marketing and e-commerce for Tatcha. The firm plans to secure three additional investments this year and is set up to participate in funding that follows its investments’ seed rounds.
Paldus views Sekhmet Ventures, which gets its name from the mythological Egyptian warrior goddess Sekhmet, as playing a largely unfilled role in the VC community fortifying clean beauty and wellness brands as they’re getting off the ground. “There has been over $1 billion of venture capital going into the beauty space over the last three years concentrated in less than 20 companies. There are hundreds of brands that need funding and this kind of help, and there are maybe a dozen small VC firms addressing the clean beauty brand space,” she says. “There is really no infrastructure support for these young startups and, if they don’t get it right, they will mess up their cash flow and, if they mess up their cash flow, they are completely dead.”