Venture Socialists?

Two years ago I attended an “Entrepreneurs Forum” hosted by Sherbrook Capital at the Expo West Natural Food Convention. It featured a panel made up of people from different VC groups charged with identifying promising young companies in which to invest. I asked the panel this question: “How much value do you place on cause related marketing strategies or values based marketing positions when it comes to assessing product potential?” There were seven panelists and they all agreed on the answer. “None. Product appeal and margin potential are the big drivers.”

Now this would not have surprised me if I were at, say, the National Association of Food Manufacturers convention, but this is Expo West – ground zero for the natural product industry. A community that owes much of its success to the LOHAS consumers… those erstwhile hippies (us) and their children (ours) who shop with principles of health and environmental sustainability in mind. “How times change,” I thought.

Fast forward to this year’s Expo West. Another Forum. This one for entrepreneurs looking to learn how to raise capital for their fledgling businesses. What was the basic message this time? There is real value in principled positioning. Consumers are actively looking for companies that connect with a larger purpose. VCs want principled visionaries who understand business.  “It’s an emerging and hot trend.”  How times change.