Selva Ventures Co-founder Kiva Dickinson

Investor Q&A is an interview series with investors in the health, fitness, and wellness markets.

In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Kiva Dickinson, co-founder and managing partner of Selva Ventures, an investor in early-stage consumer wellness brands. Kiva shares his firm’s “5M” framework for making objective partnerships and details investments into category-defining brands like MUD\WTR, Mid-Day Squares, and Surely.

Can you tell us about Selva Ventures?

Kiva Dickinson: I founded Selva Ventures in 2019 with the mission of investing in brands that make consumers’ lives better.

After seeing a pervasive theme of innovation in health and wellness during my time as an investor at TPG and CircleUp, I began to notice that there were few investment firms focused on supporting wellness brands at the earliest stage.

Seed and Series A are critical times for brands to build a strong foundation of differentiation and talent, and there was a clear opportunity to provide both capital and resources to companies at this stage.

Selva Ventures was founded to address this need and be the go-to partner for brands looking to make a big impact on consumer lives.

Do you have specific investment criteria?

KD: Today, we invest up to $2M into brands with under $10M in sales across food, beverage, personal care, beauty, wellness, and pet, largely at the seed and Series A stages.

We want to get involved early on—either as a lead or strategic co-investor—to be that go-to partner for fast-growing emerging brands.

What’s the firm’s thesis as it relates to health & wellness?

KD: We believe that health & wellness is one of the most important pillars of the consumer economy. Healthier people are happier, more productive, live longer, and cost less for our healthcare system.

For many people, living healthier lives is complicated, confusing, expensive, and inconvenient; we hope to play a part in changing that.

We know one thing for sure: When healthy habits are engaging, rewarding, and fun, they are far more likely to stick and therefore have a lasting impact.

Do you use any frameworks or filters to evaluate potential investments?

KD: We actually created a framework called “the 5 Ms” to keep our partnership honest and consistent in evaluating companies across categories. It has been hugely helpful to keep us objective in a subjective world.

Megatrend: What major consumer theme will drive this company’s success? It’s infinitely easier to succeed by investing in a rising tide. Conviction in these themes—be it plant-based, healthier alcohol, low sugar, etc.—helps us focus and proactively source as well.

Matter: What big consumer problem does this company solve? Great brands scale by giving their consumers better lives, which means solving problems that matter to them.

Management: Why is this the team that will solve this problem? This could be the uniqueness of the product/brand they’ve created or an unfair advantage in their own skills or experience.

Notably, some of the best CPG founders I’ve met are first-time founders without brand-name resumes.

Momentum: What has this brand proven? What statistics suggest this brand is an outlier? This can be sell-through (velocity), distribution (doors), unit economics (LTV/CAC), or audience (PR/social).

We also consider future momentum killers, like margins and capital intensity.

Market: Is this market big enough to matter? Not “what is the TAM?”, but rather “can this be a big business?”

We didn’t invest in MUD\WTR or Haus because the US functional chai and aperitif markets are massive today — we underwrote the ability to grow a category.

Can you share a few notable investments you’ve made and your rationale for investing?

KD: Last year, we invested in Surely, a nonalcoholic wine offering the feel and taste of wine without the compromise of alcohol. As the “sober curious” movement gains steam, consumers are looking for guilt-free options that fit their existing habits of consumption — and nowhere is this happening faster than in alcohol.

Almost two years ago, we invested in Mid-Day Squares, a functional chocolate bar offering indulgent taste plus the nutrient density needed to curb cravings through your afternoon. This brand has combined a fantastic product with an incredible content strategy, sharing every part of their crazy journey in building a fast-growing, self-manufacturing chocolate company.

What’s your process for sourcing deals? How can a founder get on your radar?

KD: We do a ton of research before investing in a category and try to write about our learnings publicly on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium.

If you’re building in a category that we have talked about and there seems to be alignment, engage with us on these platforms and let’s get to know each other.

At the same time, the emerging consumer segment is a small world, and we trust our collaborators deeply. We’re far more likely to engage with brands that our advisors and co-investors admire, so if we have friends in common, let us know!

Are there specific concepts or categories you’d like to invest in?

KD: We are so fascinated by what we call “sleep fitness,” forming the third leg of the wellness stool with nutrition and exercise. Sleep is such an important driver of our overall wellness, but consumers (until recently) have ignored it as an opportunity for optimization.

We see opportunities in consumables, hardware, and tracking that will make better sleep more engaging and accessible, and we’ve already seen great success from brands like MUD\WTR in our portfolio who have tackled it head-on.

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