UV50 Startups to Watch: Brandless

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THIS STORY IS so ON BRAND. Last year, James Clarke of Clarke Capital Partners saw an opportunity to buy startup Brandless out of the Bay Area. The Provo firm is known for being “operators first and investors second.” So after Clarke Capital Partners acquired Brandless and added the consumer products platform to their portfolio, they brought in smooth operator Cydni Tetro as CEO. Her brand is technology, growing companies, and celebrating girls and women in STEM. Together, Tetro and Clarke are giving a brand to the Brandless.

Brandless was originally launched in 2017. This first phase validated the opportunity and brought in millions of customers. Some of the original investors wanted to move their funding and focus elsewhere. In 2020, Clarke Capital Partners bought Brandless and its inventory of consumer products and moved the headquarters to Silicon Slopes.

James Clarke and I first met 12 years ago when he was on the board of a company I interviewed with. We’ve sat on numerous boards and panels since then. Shortly after he bought Brandless, he invited me to come in and talk. I had been spending more time at home thanks to Covid and because I had merged my company a few months earlier. My son had come home from an LDS mission in Ecuador; it was a good time for me to be home more and travel less.

I’ve built, led and sold multiple companies. I knew I would be looking for my next opportunity at some point, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready.

Then I met with James and saw that Brandless was in an exciting re-start phase. My career has been stacked with all of the categories Brandless cares about including technology and customer experience. Throughout my time at Disney and in tech, I have always been drawn to mission-driven companies.  I aligned with the mission of Brandless and jumped in last December.

I’ve worked in lots of companies that move fast. But the speed at which we execute is the fastest of any company I’ve ever been in. Each day we get more data, which drives our plans and our pivots. My engineering and computer science background get applied in everything I do here — agile development is key.

Our strategy to become a multi-billion dollar company is by acquiring companies and developing technology to help us scale. Right now, we’re averaging one acquisition per month. Brandless doubles in revenue every six weeks — and our employee size mirrors that growth as well.

The opportunity is significant. More than 850 products have been created as part of Brandless, and now we own a manufacturer as well. Our products sit under four categories: wellness and nutrition, clean beauty, personal care, and green clean. It’s pretty cool that we can create “brandless” products and go to market quickly with our technology and marketing data.

To accelerate our growth, this past summer I raised $118 million in equity and debt to help Brandless scale. It was the largest raise ever by a female CEO. It’s a demonstrable moment in time that shows the capital landscape for women has changed. It’s amazing to be “first” or “highest” of something, and to me it means that I hope a whole bunch of other people break that ceiling again soon.

Whatever I think my day will look like when I envision it at 8 a.m. is not how it ends up turning out. Ever. I fully change what I’m doing every 30 minutes. I’ll be negotiating a term sheet and then solving a marketing issue and then conducting an interview. I value teammates who are also willing to do whatever it takes. Sometimes we are stacking Brandless blenders in the garage and then other times we are closing million-dollar deals.

The irony is that Brandless is unapologetically a brand. We take the frills out of branding to create more value for the customer. We want people to “brand less” and “live more.”

Even though being the CEO of a fast-paced company is demanding, I’m also “living more.” This is an exciting time, and all of my previous experience is coming together at Brandless.

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