Q&A With Consumer Tech Investor Andrew Mitchell, Brand Foundry Ventures

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Brand Foundry Ventures is far from a Minnesota fund, with headquarters at 7 World Trade Center in the heart of New York City.

But that distance isn’t limiting for Founder and Managing Partner Andrew Mitchell.

With deep roots in Minnesota and a keen eye for emerging consumer technologies, Mitchell opened up about his strategy for bankrolling entrepreneurs:

When and why Brand Foundry Ventures?

Brand Foundry Ventures is the evolution of my experience as a venture capitalist.

I had previously been involved with a number of angel investments before establishing Brand Foundry, which formally started March of 2014 as a $20m micro fund for seed stage startups the consumer, retail, and e-commerce markets.

I’ve had some good and some bad experiences, but the goal is to leverage my knowledge and resources to help other entrepreneurs build amazing companies.

What is your connection to Minnesota?

I’m connected to Minnesota in three ways: I’m from Edina originally, about 1/3 of our fund LP’s are from Minnesota, and we’ve previously invested in Minnesota-based companies.

What is Brand Foundry Ventures thesis?

It’s setup to invest into about 18-23 companies in the consumer space, with reserves for series A and B.  So far, we’ve made 14 public investments in the average amount of $250k, which could be as high as $400k for the first round.   I like to lead or co-lead.

What kind of opportunties appeal to you?

As a staring point, I’m into those that are building a brand directly with the consumer…that could be high tech sports products like Trace, or low tech, such as tampon delivery service Lola — both are in our portfolio.

The companies I’m interested in are effectively leveraging technology around them one way or the other, with varying degree to support their models.

What’s your angle and strategy for connecting startups with brands?

What do all consumer startups have in common?

They need serious marketing support and sales…on top of money.   We have 29 agency partners in the collective with pre-established relationships that flow both ways.  I can bring new and exciting brands to these partners that could add tangible value to the startup, and the agency can bring deals to me.   It’s a point of differentiaton for us and a value add on top of the money.

What are you looking at right away when assessing an investment opportunity?

The first thing I do is look into the eyes of the entrepreneur; the team, the market size, and whatever the prototype design/product experience are usually the top three things we start with.

What are some of your red flags?

Lack of determination and confidence…walls will be hit, and I like to invest into people who can pick back up and carry on strong.

What is your engagement process?

An introduction from a warm source, followed by an email exchange/deck that may lead to an in person meeting.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

There’s a lot of people acting as investors who may technically be (or have been before), but are far off in terms of their domain knowledge when it comes to starting and running a modern company.

For example, I may have money but no valuable advice or connections in the medical device space, so don’t pitch me on that…I’m a specialist, not a generalist.  In that sense, Entrepreneurs can better serve themselves by being smarter about who has both capital and other resources in certain areas.

I would also encourage entrepreneurs to spend less time hopping from event to event. Just because you’re either on a panel or at some event pitching, doesn’t really make your odds much better.  This is usually more of a vanity than a value add, relative to what else can be done with the time and limited resources.

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