Cavu Venture Partners Brings Better-For-You Products To The Mainstream With 3RD Fund, Its Largest Yet
Most early-to-mid stage investment firms raise a new fund every three or four years. But most investment firms are not CAVU Venture Partners. The disruptive, better-for-you consumer goods venture firm started by “Hollywood Brandfather” and Shark Tank TV star Rohan Oza and private equity powerhouse Brett Thomas is doing things differently.
Having already secured multiple large exits since the firm’s launch in 2016, they’ve been able to close three funds in rapid succession, spending only weeks on fundraising. In 2017, only 10 months after investing, they sold Bai antioxidant group to Dr. Pepper Snapple for $1.7 billion. Next up they invested in Beyond Meat, which is worth about $5 billion and had the best performing IPO in nearly two decades. Then, this September, the company sold ONE Brands to Hershey for $397 million.
In fewer than four years, CAVU has invested in some of the hottest, fastest growing consumer brands in the food, beverage, beauty, personal care and pet markets. CAVU co-founders and managing partners Rohan Oza and Brett Thomas announced their third flagship investment fund, an oversubscribed capital pool of $250 million, up from $156 million and $209 million from their inaugural funds in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The powerhouse duo shared with me why they decided to launch a venture firm dedicated to better-for-you CPG brands, their strategy for raising a third fund in under four years and their plans for the next generation of CAVU-backed unicorns.
Yola Robert: Why did you start CAVU?
Brett Thomas: We started CAVU with a pretty lofty purpose in mind, one that’s core to who we are and how we operate. We exist to democratize healthy living for as many humans as possible. If we can play even a small role in helping people feel better about themselves by supporting brands that offer healthier, accessible choices, we all win. At the end of the day, we want to improve people’s lives—and that starts with what we eat and drink.
Rohan Oza: Everybody in America is looking to feel better about themselves, and it all starts with what you put in and on your body. Tomorrow’s consumer is driving a seismic shift in our industry; we want to be a part of that story. By tapping the brands of tomorrow right now, the next generation of Americans can lead healthier lives.
Robert: Why did you decide to partner together?
Thomas: I’d long been a fan of Rohan’s work building some of the most iconic, better-for-you brands of the last few decades. He redefined an industry with his game-changing 50 cent/Vitaminwater partnership and has continued to disrupt the celebrity/brand partnership model with other A-Listers like Jennifer Aniston and Justin Timberlake. But it’s his amazing ability to forge lasting relationships with founders that sold me. He bonds with entrepreneurs like no one I’ve ever seen. With deep respect and trust, he helps founders craft a vision—and then realize it.
Oza: I’ve helped build some incredible brands, and Brett has always been a fantastic hunter and investor. We complement each other perfectly. I admire his fierce, winning attitude and his uncanny ability to identify, seek out and ultimately partner with some of the most promising better-for-you brands in our space.
Robert: How are you different from other CPG venture firms?
Thomas: We take an active, hands-on approach to helping companies evolve from promising upstarts into iconic, household brands. Unlike other firms, our approach is much more hands-on. We have in-house experts in marketing, branding, e-commerce, and talent…people who have actually walked in the shoes of our brand partners and come from the CPG, start-up and agency worlds.
Oza: We provide an internal brand-building resource for our partners. We’ve invested in top talent on the value-add side of the business so that we can offer this kind of help. We’ve completed award-winning caliber packaging design, cutting-edge creative campaigns, comprehensive e-commerce overhauls, and critical, nationwide expansions into major retailers.
Robert: Rohan, you have made a name for yourself with celebrity partnerships. Are there any recent partnerships with any of the CAVU that have been a success?
Oza: I think Kurt Seidensticker and the Vital Proteins team got it right with the Kourtney Kardashian partnership. She has been a fan of their collagen-based protein for years, so the collaboration was authentic. The much-loved kid nutrition brand Once Upon a Farm , co-founded by John Forakker and Jennifer Garner, is also doing incredibly well. Jen is highly engaged, a great mom and very vocal about the brand’s mission, as she was a driving force behind its creation.
Robert: Beyond the exits such as Bai, OneBar, and Beyond Meat, what are other investments successful investments in CAVU’s portfolio?
Thomas: We’re excited about all our brands, but a couple standouts include collagen-based protein market leader Vital Proteins, which has grown 500% since we invested, and HIPPEAS, the insanely delicious organic chickpea puffs, which has grown 800% since we invested.
Robert: What are your plans for fund 3?
Thomas: We will continue to seek out the most passionate entrepreneurs behind the most disruptive, innovative brands. We started out in food, beverage and pet care and are expanding more into personal care and beauty. Men’s personal care company Hims, valued at over $1.1 billion according to Forbes, marked our first major expansion into that category.
Robert: What are your future plans for the firm?
Oza: We’ve grown a lot in our short history. We’ve expanded from only three employees to a team of nearly 20 spread across Los Angeles, Austin and New York. We’ve invested significantly in our team because they’re critical to the long-term success of our firm and brand partners.
Thomas: We’ve never been more excited about the transformation of the consumer goods space, especially in food, beauty and personal care. The barriers to entry have never been lower for innovative entrepreneurs with disruptive ideas. We are more bullish than ever on partnering with incredible founders to ultimately help us all live healthier lives.