Is Silicon Valley Coming For Rosé?
The early backer of Facebook, Airbnb, Lyft and Spotify wants to cash in on rosé all day.
Founders Fund, the San Francisco-based venture capital firm founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, announced Tuesday that it has led a $7 million investment round in Bev, a woman-run canned rosé startup based in Los Angeles. Other private investors include DJ duo The Chainsmokers and Facebook’s vice president of social good.
It’s the firm’s first investment in an alcohol company. But partner Lauren Gross says it’s really a bet on Alix Peabody, Bev’s 28-year-old founder and CEO. “We’re founder-driven,” Gross recently told Forbes. “While we’re often rooted in hard tech, we truly are a generalist firm. It’s really about investing in any founder that can build in any sector.” Gross says Peabody stands out for being particularly “bright and authentic.”
Peabody’s story started four years ago, after a stint at hedge fund Bridgewater and later a San Francisco tech recruiting company. Then, at 24 years old, she suddenly went into organ failure.
As her health stabilized, she decided to freeze her eggs. But since the lengthy process can cost tens of thousands of dollars and is rarely covered by health insurance, Peabody needed to make money quickly. She started hosting ticketed parties aimed at women looking for a safe space to unwind and made enough to cover her medical bills.
She realized she could be onto something: “There are so few products that are emotionally branded and speak to women in an authentic way. It’s an industry that is so male-dominated. Whether I wanted to or not, I decided I had to go into this space.”
When it came time to start making a product in 2017, Peabody found out about a long-forgotten $30,000 retirement account Bridgewater had set up for her. After discovering it, she cashed it out, taking a tax penalty and using the remaining $20,000 to fund her first production run.
Today, Bev sells just one kind of canned rosé, although Peabody plans to launch more drinks soon. Eventually, that could mean ones that are either low-alcohol or completely free of it. “I want to build a product for any type of woman who wants to have fun anytime she wants to,” she says.
While Bev is currently sold online and also has distribution throughout Southern California, Peabody will use much of the recent funding round to build out sales teams in Nashville, Austin and New York, as she further pushes Bev into retail.
But Founders Fund, she says, has signed on for far more than just a direct-to-consumer alcohol company. She envisions Bev eventually opening up permanent social spaces like The Wing, a female-only social club.
“What I’m really trying to build is a company that could fight with the likes of Budweiser,” Peabody says. “We’re trying to build the foundation that over time can be of that scale and can build out a voice for women in the space where there hasn’t been one.”