Courtesy of Bev
- Founders Fund led $7 million seed round Tuesday for Bev, a female-led direct-to-consumer rosé brand. This is Founders Fund’s first investment in an alcohol startup.
- Alix Peabody, Bev’s 28-year-old founder, started the company in 2017 after draining her 401(k).
- Peabody says the male-dominated alcohol industry and macho drinking culture are ripe for disruption, and hopes her brand will create a safe space for women.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
Eleven years after investing in SpaceX, Founders Fund is betting on something more down to earth: canned rosé wine.
The venture capital firm recently led a $7 million seed round investment in Bev, a female-led direct to consumer rosé brand. It’s the Founders Fund’s first alcohol investment.
While going to Mars and swirling rosé might seem like incongruous missions, Founders Fund COO Lauren Gross tells Business Insider that the firm’s investment strategy comes down to betting on entrepreneurs with the right stuff to disrupt an industry.
"Some of our more compelling successful bets started with young ambitious founders," Gross said. And Bev founder Alix Peabody checked all the boxes, she said.
"We at Founders Fund pride ourselves in being intellectually honest and open to all founders in all sectors, and in this case, Alix was creating a powerful female-focused brand in a space that hasn’t seen as many."
Peabody, 28, didn’t have a background in the booze business when she started Bev in 2017. After emergency surgeries left her unable to start a headhunting job and shouldering expensive medical bills, Peabody started a side business throwing day parties (dubbed "day-gers," according to Peabody) in Sonoma.
She realized the alcohol brands she worked with were mostly run by men and did not paint a particularly flattering light of women in their ads, and she says she felt could do better.
Since Peabody wasn’t particularly well-versed in the supply side of the alcohol industry, she says she called up a man in the wine industry that she had been on a date with two years earlier, hoping he could help her make inroads in the tightly connected industry.
"He was literally the only person I knew in the industry," said Peabody. "I told him I wanted to buy rosé, he told me to go to the grocery store and I was like ‘No, I want to buy, like, a lot. So he put me in touch with someone who introduced me to someone else, and it was literally one phone call after another picking people’s brains on how to make this happen."
"The people running the alcohol industry haven’t changed"
Bev sells rosé in 8.5 ounce cans (available in six packs, 12 packs and 24-can "party packs") online and in retail stores in Los Angeles. Commenters on the Bev website describe the blend as a "crisp, dry rose–not super sugarey," and the "most instagrammable can out there." Another reviewer commends Bev’s lack of overcarbonation and "no funky aftertaste."
Bev websiteFor all her wine’s merits, Peabody says that the outdated laws and policies of the alcohol industry will continue to be a challenge for the young company. A patchwork of state laws make it difficult to sell and ship wine between states.
"The people running the alcohol industry haven’t changed but the people who are buying alcohol have," Peabody told Business Insider. "You have all these laws and regulations that are a result of Prohibition, and women barely even worked let alone run and build companies then. Many of the big alcohol companies are family-owned, passed down generation after generation, and are predominantly male."
Peabody believes the best way to change an outdated industry that some see as problematic is to change it from the inside. Her company’s mission to "break the glass," she says, extends well beyond alcohol and drinking culture. Peabody would not elaborate on the company’s additional plans except that she intends to increase the 12-person team and invest heavily in developing new product offerings based on what her core customer wants.
"We’re very much a ‘build the plane as you fly it,’ kind of thing," said Peabody. "It’s also just, you got to be in the game to play it, right?"
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