We just closed an investment in Tommy John, a manufacturer of the best men’s underwear on the planet. Since we are technology investors, it might be fair to ask why we are investing in a company that makes product. The reason is simple: we will use technology to transform how a product brand is built in today’s retail industry.
Ecommerce retailers and bricks and mortar retailers who sell on the web are not new by any means. Nor are brands that sell directly to consumers via the internet. But what is different is that these strategies are simply extensions of a retail business model that has been in place for ages: aggregate customers geographically by building stores where they are and sell to them. The future is aggregating customers by who they are, what they like and what they want to be. This is not a geographic phenomenon; it can only be done on the web (I have an entire blog post on this topic here). This may sound pretty much the same as the old way, but it is actually completely different. For a brand, it means that they need to connect directly to the customer and not rely on retailers for most of their revenue. For the retailer, they are no longer the gatekeeper to the customer relationship; they are a promoter for the brand and will be compensated on the value they add, not on the value they take (I have another blog post coming on this topic later in the week).
Tommy John has a small, meager web presence, but that is where we can help. Their products are anything but meager – they have a loyal following for their undershirts that never untuck and their boxer briefs for men that are the best I have ever worn. In fact, if you buy them (www.tommyjohnwear.com), I will guarantee you that these products are the best you have ever worn (sorry ladies, it’s a men’s brand) and I will personally reimburse you if you don’t agree.
We are not investing in a clever web business model or a discounter with the most efficient distribution channel – we are investing in a better brand, with better product that a customer will pay a better price because it is a much better value. Tom Patterson is a product genius and there is a long list of additional products behind his first two products that you will see in the near future. What he needs to do is to build a team of entrepreneurial-minded web geniuses and that is where we come in.
We know this industry and we have a long list of portfolio companies that are doing very well in it (Pinterest, AHAlife, Shopify, Lot18 to name a few) and we know how to bring the right people to the table to help Tom to reinvent the retail industry. Honestly, what we do is more fungible than what Tom does, so we are confident that we can bolster his skills and capabilities with a great team that can implement a great internet-based infrastructure. It’s really hard to find an entrepreneur who can make a really extraordinary product. We found that with Tom Patterson and his company, Tommy John, and now the journey begins.