The importance of wellbeing has become increasingly recognised in modern society, with issues surrounding one part of this – mental health – moving up the social and political agenda. As is often the case, innovation has more than matched demand, with a proliferation of startups seeking to enhance all aspects of personal and mental wellbeing. VC funding has helped support this movement, with wellness-focused startups raising c. $4.6bn in the first half of 2020. At True, we have recognised this consumer trend and backed Unmind in its seed round in 2017, a B2B2C platform created to proactively support employee mental health.
To complement this wider market trend, other elements of our emotional and physical wellbeing have begun to experience innovation, as society acknowledges the importance of wellness for the full human psyche; with sexual wellness being one of them.
It is of no surprise that the $40bn sexual wellness market has been disrupted in recent years by a plethora of brands seeking to challenge the traditional male-centric, ‘sleazy’ rhetoric associated with the industry. With its sleek, gender-neutral branding maude is a leader in this mission to destigmatise the sexual wellness category for all.
Founded by Eva Goicochea in 2018 after a successful career in health legislation and brand strategy (at Everlane), the maude brand is built on quality, simplicity and, most importantly, inclusivity. The fundraise follows a highly successful year for the company, which experienced 50% Q-o-Q growth in 2020 and had over 22,000 pre-orders for its best-selling Vibe product. The sex essentials market continues to grow at over 13% p.a. driven by consumers more openly embracing sexual health as a form of wellbeing, with maude well-placed to capitalise on this growth as a fit-for-future omnichannel brand. The fact that maude’s products can be purchased anywhere from Urban Outfitters to MOMA is a testament to the changing tide being experienced in the sexual health category, and the inclusive vision pioneered by Eva.
Concurrent with our investment, Dakota Johnson (the highly-acclaimed actress associated with the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise) joined the business as an investor and co-Creative Director, becoming the latest in a series of female celebrities to publicly back innovative brands in the sexual health category. Lily Allen partnered with Womanizer to create her own vibrator, the Liberty, whilst Cara Delevingne has been named co-owner of sex tech company Lora DiCarlo. At the centre of all of these ventures are female founders utilising sleek, modern design and progressive messaging to bring the conversation of sexual health to the forefront of everyone’s agenda and enhance sexual inclusivity for generations to come.
To us it feels like the sexual wellness category is going through the same seismic shift in perception that the mental wellness category was experiencing 4-5 years ago, and investing in companies at the forefront of this movement is central to our DNA. In working with True, maude has joined a growing number of beauty & wellness brands within our portfolio, such as men’s make-up brand War Paint, colour focused haircare brand Bleach and Unmind. This gives the team the benefit of having an investment team that can be truly supportive in sharing sector relevant insight and operational best practice. However, our involvement as an investor doesn’t stop there.
With a number of investments in the US, including Zwift and Shameless Pets, True has a growing reputation in scaling brands across online and offline channels. This, coupled with the strength of True’s Live Network has played a pivotal role in the rational for Eva and her team choosing to work with True.
A key goal of the investment round was to secure funding to support maude in the next stage of its growth and launch the brand internationally. Not only is True well positioned to support Eva in the execution of this given our team’s expertise, but by working with True maude gains exposure to a variety of relevant international retailers, grocers and consumer groups, such as our Partners Johnson & Johnson and John Lewis & Partners. Additionally, our innovation flow of over 3,000 technologies and enterprise businesses is also an attractive proposition for the team, with maude being keen to see any cutting-edge technologies that can assist in scaling the business.
We look forward to supporting Eva and her team with the launch of the brand in the UK and Europe and opening-up the conversation around sexual wellness for all.