Sophia Amoruso famously founded the retailer Nasty Gal, growing it from an eBay store that sold vintage items to a darling of the fashion world that was seeing more than $300 million in sales at one point.
Somewhere along the way, however, Nasty Gal lost its way. After raising $65 million over its 10 years of operation — including from Index Ventures and renowned retail executive Ron Johnson — the company last November filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in part to address “immediate liquidity issues.”
The company was ultimately acquired for $20 million in February. In the meantime, Amoruso, who’d stepped away as CEO of Nasty Gal in January of 2016 but remained on as executive chairman, is on to a new business, and now it’s venture-backed. Indeed, the media company that she began building on the side three years ago — Girlboss — is today announcing $3.1 million in seed funding led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, whose partner, Nicole Quinn, led the deal and joins the startup’s board.
The round also includes unnamed tech and digital media investors, according to a release.
Lightspeed’s interest in Girlboss isn’t surprising, given the many e-commerce brands it has supported previously, including early bets on The Honest Company, Stitch Fix and Snap.
Amoruso’s built-in following is substantial, too. The Girlboss brand began as a best-selling book about the founding of Nasty Gal and Amoruso’s business philosophies, and was later adapted by Netflix into a show that launched this year. A podcast called Girlboss Radio followed, and by last year, Amoruso had begun organizing Girlboss rallies, which have reportedly sold out and that Girlboss will continue to host twice a year.
In fact, in an interview with the WSJ published this morning, Amoruso said Girlboss’s events, tickets to which cost attendees between $350 and $700, drives its biggest partnership deals.
Yet it’s so-called digital tickets for these events — for which fans pay to access video recordings and a social media group for attendees — that most interested Quinn. She likens the model to at-home fitness classes hosted by the New York-based company Peloton, which offers cloud-based live streaming of its instructional cycling exercise content on a console that’s equipped with social elements.
“You pay to go to an actual class, but the majority of people watch it through digital means,” Quinn tells the WSJ. “That, to me, has huge scale.”
Quinn has since elaborated in a post on Medium, saying that in her view, “brand can in itself be a core network effect,” with “community and content” giving it defensibility.
Lightspeed, like a lot of investors, is also on the hunt these days for new brands that are “more authentic to their target demographic.” To Quinn’s mind, Girlboss tidily fits the bill on this front, too.
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