When you think of venture capital, if you’re like me, the first thing that pops into your head is typically not things like, “health and wellness,” and definitely not “inclusivity,” but Tracy Dubb and her team at M3 Ventures have their sights set squarely on changing that.
M3 Ventures is a venture capital firm focusing on all things health and wellness in the consumer space. They invest in some of the hottest consumer brands like Rumble Boxing, Carbon38, Kosas, Mooala, and more, and are showing no signs of slowing down.
We sat down with Tracy, co-founder and partner of the relatively young firm (they got their start back in 2015 and already have two funds!), to talk about M3 Ventures, what it means to be a woman and millennial in the traditionally male-dominated world of venture capital, and how she maintains a healthy headspace in such a high-pressure industry.
Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came to co-found M3 Ventures.
Tracy Dubb (TD:) My path to M3 Ventures wasn’t obvious. I probably didn’t know what venture capital was until after college. I majored in Urban Studies, where I learned about how commerce has shaped and reshaped society throughout history. I ended up working at Credit Suisse after college in the retail and consumer products group. It was just after the Great Recession; millennials were hardly talked about even though they were turning tiny ‘better-for-you brands’ into massive ‘disruptor’ companies. There was a lot to learn during that time, but what stuck with me was the power these brands had in changing people’s behaviors and ultimately their lifestyles.
After that I worked in business development and private equity at Marvin Traub and for Tommy Hilfiger, two of the greatest brand builders ever, and I kept finding myself advising, working for or connecting with compelling new brands. When I met my co-founder Martin, and we connected over a similar interest in these disruptor brands, and the fact that, despite how obviously important they were, many just could not get funded. At the time, venture capital mainly went into the technology sector and these deals were too small and risky for private equity. We wanted to solve that problem, and M3 came together from there.
How is M3 Ventures different from other Venture Capital firms?
TD: Inclusivity. We have three partners from three very different backgrounds, which has naturally led to us backing a diverse group of entrepreneurs. The fact that Martin chose two female General Partners immediately set us apart from most of the rest of our industry. That one of us is 30 and another was a working mom reentering the workforce is even more unusual. We are also singularly focused on branded consumer and retail investments, which is not typically the case in VC. We consider ourselves brand builders and have been able to share learnings and resources across portfolio companies, which has been our biggest advantage in growing M3 Ventures.
I see from your website you target, “Youth culture and healthy living.” Tell us about a few of your investments, and how they help people achieve the coveted “healthy lifestyle.”
TD: In many ways, health and wellness has become a staple to youth culture, which we define as millennials and Gen Z. We’ve observed that the choices that millennial consumers make are heavily influencing Gen Z and baby boomers, which has been a key factor in the cultural shift towards healthy living. We have a true 360-degree view of what promotes a healthy lifestyle. This means investing in anything from clothing to exercise in, like Carbon 38 and Spiritual Gangster, to places to work out like Rumble Boxing or eat mindfully-sourced food like Little Sesame. It also means investing in brands that make it easier and more affordable for people to live this lifestyle. Denver-based Choice Market is committed to bringing healthy, locally sourced food choices to the convenience store customer, who is currently limited to unhealthy and highly processed food options. Another example, La Ligne, creates clothes that reflect the way a modern woman lives her life, with affordable, high quality clothing that you can wear to a dinner party as easily as you can on a walk with friends or at home with your family.
What do you see as the next big trends to happen in the wellness space? New workouts, food trends, etc.
TD: We are excited about opportunities that broaden the ways that people can incorporate wellness into their lives. Rumble’s forthcoming at-home concept is a great example of where we think the fitness space is headed. We observe tons of trends, especially in food and diet, and while we’re interested in learning about all of them, we typically try to avoid trend investing. Instead, we believe strongly that clean ingredients will become the new standard, as reflected in investments like Mooala and Kosas cosmetics. We are actively investing in CBD, which has definitely emerged as one of the largest new wellness trends, and we recently backed a new dance fitness concept called Forward Space, because we believe dance and movement are going to become staples in the workout industry.
Tell us more about what it’s like to be a millennial and a woman working in the Venture Capital industry. Do you think the industry is becoming, or will become, more inclusive?
TD: Throughout the years I’ve seen the industry shift from largely dismissing millennial preferences as ‘trends’ to paying close attention to them as important indicators of success. My experience as a millennial in VC has somewhat mirrored that change. It hasn’t been without challenges, but its extremely gratifying for me to work with entrepreneurs who share the same beliefs as me. My age and perspective has been one of biggest drivers of my own success. Similarly, I’ve seen a shifting emphasis on diversity in the industry that has already begun to have a huge impact, but there is still a long way to go. Female and minority founders still continue to experience inequalities in funding and support, and the same is true for many women in VC. There are people across the industry that are working hard to create opportunities for all people, and we have to continue to support those efforts in order to really achieve inclusivity.
Working in this industry can be high pressure and high stress. What are some of your tips on how to de-stress and re-center yourself when you have a hectic schedule?
TD: I do whatever I can to get away from my phone and stop talking about work when its possible. Somehow our generation has become indoctrinated with the idea that you always need to be working (and talking about how hard you’re working). Personally, I think Europeans get it right. At M3, I try to promote hard work in the office, but time off when needed and the idea that family time or personal time is sacred.
What’s next for you and M3 Ventures?
TD: We are excited about Gen Z and learning more about who that customer is and what their needs are. They are the first generation of people that never knew life before the internet, so it will be interesting to learn how that impacts their life choices as they become adults. And we are excited to continue to support brands that make people’s lives better, which has been and always will be a top priority.
For more on Tracy Dubb and M3 Ventures, visit: www.m3ventures.com.