My journey with JamJar Investments started very fortuitously! I was working for Unilever, having studied economics as an undergraduate, then a masters in global politics. To be honest, working at a big company wasn’t for me and I was looking pretty unimaginative to get into consulting to save time while I figured out what I really wanted to do.
That’s when JamJar contacted me on Linkedin. Katie, one of the partners, had come across my profile and even though I was slightly younger than they were looking for, she liked my academic background combined with my consumer experience.
Although I know next to nothing about VC, I was luckily invited for an interview and spent about 7 rounds of memory (!) before getting the job. I remember thinking that if I didn’t get this role I would be devastated because JamJar sounds like one of the most awesome companies in one of the most interesting industries in the world. Somehow I got the offer – thank goodness.
That was 6 years ago – I joined as a junior partner, learned the business of being an entrepreneur and now am a director. We have just closed our second £100m fund and I look forward to supporting the next generation of groundbreaking consumer businesses.
What industries do you work in?
JamJar is the innocent drinks founders’ venture capital funds. We focus on supporting early-stage mainstream brands (i.e. typically pre-seed to Series A). Most of them are tech or tech-enabled, but we also do the odd classic offline or retail brand. Our portfolio includes Deliveroo, Babylon Health, Toney’s Chocolate and Tails.com.
By definition, my work is very varied – right now I spend a lot of time looking at alternative proteins as well as the electrification of the automotive industry and next-generation credit card proposals. Never a boring week!
What are you looking for in a founder?
We actually have 15 qualities we look for in a founder, these fit into 5 buckets covering
- Strength of their commitment and vision
- Sharpness of their thinking and strategy
- Quality of their execution
- Ability to attract and develop top talent
- A little more open looking at what’s on the team will really speed up this opportunity over others who might try it, their secret sauce if you will.
Of the 15, if I had to pick the most important, I’d say how ruthlessly a founder prioritizes what’s in the thinking and strategy bucket. This is the quality that our top founders have done very well on: can they identify what is most important and focus only on that with the limited resources they have?
Can you tell us about your current portfolio?
We have almost 60 first fund companies, so I won’t list them all. Maybe just a few that I find very interesting on a personal level.
The one that is close to my heart is skin+me, which is a subscription-based, prescription-only personalized skincare company. I have struggled with acne in the past and taken some pretty nasty medication to get over it. Plus I had to wait months and months for NHS treatment or pay money to go private.
This company uses telemedicine to provide you with a personalized treatment plan that varies the dosage of tretinoin (one of the most effective active ingredients for fighting acne) through a telehealth consultation. With only 650 dermatologists across the UK, access to this topical treatment is limited for many people and no one offers the personalized dosage, leading to better results and much higher compliance. The reviews are absolutely brilliant and I just wish it had existed when I was growing up.
Another one I like is On – they offer all-inclusive subscriptions for electric vehicles. For a monthly price you get a car, top-up, road tax, insurance, etc. It’s an incredibly convenient, economical and risk-free way to go electric. Check them.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you operate?
Before Covid, we were in the office every day, not working remotely too much, which obviously changed overnight. It was a relatively seamless transition if I’m being honest.
Obviously all of our locations have moved from in-person to Zoom and there have been pros and cons to that. Primarily, we can now record heights. I like this so I can fully focus on what the founder is saying, instead of writing notes to remember things later. It’s a real conversation. The downside is that I think you’re missing a lot of non-verbal cues, especially when it comes to the dynamic between the co-founders. It’s very difficult to judge on a computer screen!
What does the future look like?
Wow, great question. I think 2 huge changes will be around environmental awareness and action as well as distributed web 3 infrastructure – not particularly novel but hard to argue against.
Most people have a good understanding of the dire straits we find ourselves in environmentally; the IPCC report of a code red for humanity in 2021 was a huge wake-up call for many. You see people reconsidering having children because of it, going to jail to protest inaction, changing their lives in ways that were unthinkable even five years ago. Consumer pressure will be essential in this regard as long as we can fight misinformation, and I am excited to see what companies and propositions will be built and rebuilt on this.
Second, Web3 and related technologies should enable consumers to shift power from big tech and centralized bodies to a serverless world where they can control their own data much more easily. Until now, consumers have been happy to trade privacy and control for experience and ease of use, but this next frontier of the web will hopefully make that trade-off non-existent. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m excited about what will come out of it.
What makes JamJar different?
I love that JamJar is founded and run by operators who are entrepreneurs first and investors second. We are not a financial fund. Adam, Rich, and Jon founded Innocent Drinks with just a $200,000 angel investment and retired for over $500M with no further funding. It is one of the most iconic challenger brands of the last 20 years and the help, guidance and experience in branding, operations and marketing is very hard to match among first-time consumers.
What advice would you give to founders?
Take a reference on your investors! We spend a lot of time referencing founders and you should do the same with us. Make sure you know what they do best and where they can help and, just as important, what they don’t support. It can be quite difficult to get someone out of your cap table once they’re there, so ask to speak to a portfolio company that did well and one that didn’t plan to get a full picture of her in different situations.