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Two years ago I started an annual reflective exercise of looking back on lessons that resonated with me from books I read that year. A lot has changed since then, both in my life and the world around me. The entrepreneurial journey has lived up to the hype, both in its highs and lows, and it’s safe to say the “uniqueness” of 2020 magnified these swings in a very big way.

With Selva Ventures, the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship starts with the size of our ambition: to build the best consumer investing firm in the world; and our mission: to invest…


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Balancing profitability and growth as a consumer brand during COVID-19

There has probably never been a more confusing time to be the CEO of an emerging CPG brand. A worldwide pandemic has confined consumers to their homes, 30 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, GDP declined 5% in Q1 with inevitably more severe declines to come in Q2; and yet for most, sales are…up. Nearly every CEO I’ve spoken to since mid-March has confirmed the same trends: declining ad costs, increasing conversion rates and overall greater consumer willingness to spend on wellness products. The optimism is cautious though; they are mindful that a recession could be different (and worse) than…


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Unique times call for unique levels of transparency. I’m sharing the letter below verbatim that I sent to my investors this morning (April 14, 2020). Typically such a letter would be private, but given the magnitude of COVID-19 I wanted to give brands in our community an open look at how a venture investor is approaching this situation and communicating with their stakeholders. It’s only an n of 1, but I hope you find it helpful. Stay safe — better times are ahead.

Dear Investment Partner,

First thing’s first, I hope you and your loved ones are safe. This past…


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A year ago I wrote a post on my Lessons Learned in 2018, which I closed with the call to action: “do something scary in 2019”. Sure enough, this past June I followed my own advice and quit my job to start a new investment firm (more on that later). If my lessons in 2018 followed themes of objectivity, risk and decision making, 2019’s lessons are about the human elements of any narrative. …


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There’s a theory in the world of consumer products that says proliferation of preferences will lead to more winners with smaller outcomes. I agree with that theory for a number of reasons, but the past ten days have been an onslaught of headlines for billion dollar brands that weren’t around just ten years ago:

May 6: Beyond Meat goes public at a $1.5 billion valuation ($25/share). Ten days later the stock closes at a share price of $87, up 248% since IPO, a market cap of $5 billion

May 9: Harry’s is acquired by Edgewell (owners of Schick) for $1.37…


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Why and How Consumer Brands Should Track Repeat Rates

Okay, let’s talk repeat purchase. If you’re a consumer brand entrepreneur that sells online (partially or 100%) and we’ve talked about your business, I probably asked about your repeat rates within the first 30 minutes of our conversation. I probably wanted to ask in the first 5 minutes because for any consumer brand that sells through e-commerce my belief is that repeat purchase rate is one of, if not the most important metric you can track in evaluating the health, value and potential of your business.

In light of that, when I speak with entrepreneurs I’m commonly struck by two…


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Looking back on last year, I wanted to document some of my favorite learnings from things I read. The books I read differed quite a bit in topic and style, but there were two key themes: how do we as humans make better decisions, and how can I better understand the entrepreneurs I work with every day. What I loved most about these lessons was their ability to affect both my professional and personal life. There were certainly more lessons than could fit in a short blog, but below you’ll find the five that resonated most.

1. Life isn’t chess, life is poker

“Life, like poker, is…


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Image Credit: AdvanceTrack

How CPG investors think about outsourcing vs self-manufacturing

At CircleUp I spend the majority of my time getting to know Founders and CEOs of early stage consumer brands in the food, beverage and personal care space. One of the more common questions I’m asked in those conversations is “do you think we should completely outsource the manufacturing of our product?” Truthfully I always say it depends, but here’s hoping this can shed some light on the question from an investor’s perspective.

The Case for Outsourcing

The first thing to acknowledge about supply chain in early stage CPG is that most brands use a contract manufacturer (“co-man” or “co-packer”) to make their products…


Unpacking the ways data-driven investors compete in public and private markets

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Part of building a new way of approaching private investing with data science is studying how others have succeeded in disrupting their own industries. Lately for me that’s been a fascination of learning from public market investors, brought about by Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s podcast Invest Like The Best. Earlier this year, Patrick interviewed Jason Karp, Founder and CEO of Tourbillon Capital Partners and Co-Founder of Hu Products (sidenote, if you haven’t tried their chocolate then get ready for your life to change).

Jason had a philosophy that I really liked — the gist is, in public market investing you have 3…


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Last summer I took the biggest leap of my career. After spending three years at the private equity firm TPG, and learning from some of the best private market investors in the world, I made a bet on a five year old company that was using data science to invest in an important way that nobody else was. Now, eight months after joining, I thought I would start my series of blog posts with a reflection on my time at CircleUp so far.

I’m probably a rare case in the investing world in that I grew up hanging out in…

Kiva Dickinson

Consumer Investor / Founder of Selva Ventures / Proud Canadian Living in San Francisco

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