True has completed the first close for its new seed stage fund - which covers pre-seed to Series A with M&S a cornerstone investor of the fund.
We'll be investing up to £5m in exciting, innovative brands who are stretching the possibilities of digital and changing the retail and consumer landscape.Men’s make-up brand Warpaint, workplace mental health platform Unmind and sustainable paint business COAT are just a handful of the trailblazing businesses in the current early stage investment portfolio, which achieved average growth of 600% during the last twelve months. In addition to funds, True seeks to create additional value for the entrepreneurs it backs, through introductions it can make to sector specialist talent, businesses and leaders and sharing insight from across the industry, ultimately creating the right environment for entrepreneurs to springboard their growth. Recent examples of portfolio businesses that have excelled as part of True’s founder-focused ecosystem are marketing platform Spirable which was recently acquired by US-listed Genius Sports and workplace food delivery service City Pantry which was acquired by FTSE-listed Just Eat.
As the cornerstone investor, M&S is seeking to accelerate its innovation programme right across every area of the business and establish a fast paced and forward-thinking culture to support its transformation. Through True’s new seed stage fund, the retailer will gain greater regular exposure and investment opportunities and ensure the retailer is at the forefront of offering best service and experience to its 30m customers. A partner of True’s since 2018, M&S has already seen the benefits of regular access to entrepreneurs and starts ups, such as Namogoo and C2FO, delivering material ROI and dynamism to the company.
As an own brand retailer with over 1500 stores across the UK and internationally, and the UK’s #2 clothing website, M&S has significant scale and access to a wide customer base making it an ideal partner. In the past year alone, the business generated over 100m digital interactions with customers, and has seen 200% year on year app download growth as more customers choose to shop with the business digitally. Alongside this it continues to invest in its stores and building an omnichannel offering so that customers can shop however and wherever they choose with the retailer.
The early-stage businesses that True invests in form the foundation of True’s digital-first portfolio of over 50 businesses and unique business model. True reimagines how traditional investment firms run. In addition to its growth fund, it has a private equity fund which nurtures digital-first consumer brands such as hush womenswear, Zwift and The Cotswold Company and it also operates a multi-disciplined innovation arm that works with large retailers and consumer partners such as Warner Bros, Diageo, Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens and Primark. These partners chose to work with True, to gain access to emerging technologies, breakout brands, strategic advice and more. All these businesses at different points on their growth journey work together in a community that support one another.
The initial seed fund close follows True’s recently announced £275m private equity fundraise, bringing AUM to £650m. This milestone for True has been instrumental in maintaining the support of its existing early-stage investors, some of which have been with True since its inaugural seed fund, as well as attracting new investors – including Marks & Spencer’s cornerstone commitment. As investors M&S will further its market-leading insight and visibility on the brands, trends and technologies shaping the future of the industry.
True’s CEO and Co-founder Matt Truman adds: “It’s been quite the year for us! We successfully raised our third private equity fund of £275m, achieved B Corporation status and we’re now in the process of raising our next growth fund at breakneck speed – double the target we set out for and four times the size of the previous growth fund. These achievements are testament to the work of everyone at True, but for this fund specifically I’d like to thank the commitment of our existing investors – and the faith from other major players from our community, such as Marks & Spencer, that have decided to invest with us. Given the size of the M&S real estate footprint, logistical capability, exposure to multiple categories and its new digital platform – which already includes Frugi, one of True’s portfolio companies – we’re looking forward to working even more closely with M&S.”
Marks & Spencer’s CFO Eoin Tonge says: “Our investment in True’s specialist fund is a demonstration of our commitment to embedding innovation and creativity right across our organisation. We’ve already seen the benefits of working with True and the forward thinking businesses we’ve had access to, and now as a cornerstone investor we’re taking our strategy to the next level to work with and learn from some of the leading entrepreneurs and fast growth businesses in our sector as we focus on shaping the future of M&S, as well as offering the scale and support through investment they may need to turn their creativity into reality.”
Spirable CEO and Co-founder Ger O’Meara says: “The team at True were early believers in our vision and became our very first investors. They have supported us with funding, sound advice and introductions to major retail brands right along the journey, including DIAGEO and Boots, as well as to growing businesses such as Ribble from their portfolio. Me and my co-founder Dave are very grateful for the big role that True has played in Spirable’s journey to date and we’re excited that more entrepreneurs will get to enjoy similar opportunities through True’s new seed stage fund.”