The goal for incubator members is to build into their companies the following top line fundamentals. If entrepreneurs can successfully do all five, they are more likely to be successful. Basecamp InQb8r’s content is designed to support these five elements.
- Capture customer’s attention. Your products or something about your company have a “WOW” factor that grabs consumers quickly. You solve a problem, pain or satisfy a customer’s desire in a noticeable way. Think cheaper, faster, better, and/or more convenient than competing products.
- Defensible– can include any of the following:
- you have a patent or the potential for a patent;
- your products are hard to copy;
- you have a proprietary or close to proprietary way of selling and distributing;
- you collect data on your customers that is unique and which no other company can collect or is very hard to do so;
- or, anything else about your company that makes you unique that customers desire which is hard to copy or duplicate.
- Repeat purchasers. You are not constantly having to replace lost customers with new ones.
- Scales up. You can grow to serve a lot of customers, which by nature defines a typical consumer goods company that gains economies of scale with growth, but further means that the supply chain is not overly fragile. Your supply chain and production are closer to your customers, which means doing all possible to source supply and produce in the same country that you sell.
- Profitable at a 20% net margin that is sustainable. Sustainable means several things:
- You have good cost control in your cost of goods sold, your marketing acquisition costs and your operating expenses;
- Your products and operations minimize or even reverse resource depletion and minimize or offset environmental impacts;
- Your products lean towards consumer staples and not discretionary, so they sell well in most any economic environment.
If an incubator member is executing successfully on these top-line fundamentals or shows strong potential to do so, I may be open to investing.
The process is to become a member, learn how to build in these top line fundamentals through our content, start executing, and then as the startup shows progress and success, they may become a candidate for funding. If a startup is not yet executing on these top line fundamentals but believes they have strong potential to do so, they can still apply for funding.
Additional details about how I operate as an investor are as follows:
- Patient capital. When I take on a startup, my goal is to partner with the company by becoming an owner operator. I invest my time, expertise, technology and small amounts of my own cash to help prove out the opportunity. If larger funding amounts are needed, I work with other investors to help fund the startup. Ideally, I look to take on one startup every 12-18 months, which gives me the flexibility to really work on an opportunity and not feel pressured to deploy capital if I had a fund. If I am not able to take on a startup, either because I do not have available time or my capital is tied up elsewhere, I may share potential prospects with my network of investors. The category of investor where I might best fit is as a boststrap fund.
- Prove out the opportunity. I like to test before I seek investment, which means that at the start, I will apply my expertise to help the startup prove out their product and marketing, and get a baseline for the customer acquisition metrics. I am looking to take out as much risk as possible so that if/when I need to secure funding, I can do so at a more favorable valuation.
- Overhead. Jeff Bezos is famous for saying that “your margin is my opportunity”. I’ve modified this principle a bit and believe that “your overhead is my opportunity”, which means that I am hyper focused on operating and growing as cheap as possible. I know from experience that being vigilant with keeping costs in check can dramatically increase the flexibility, staying power and patience to win out in the long-term, not to mention helping deliver on EBIDTA goals. Given my experience building companies and the tools, technology and processes that I have built, I think I am pretty good at knowing how to effectively manage costs and look to apply this expertise to every opportunity I take on.
- Maximum raise of $3 million. I like opportunities that require less than $3 million or so in growth capital to achieve success based on my top line fundamentals. When I say growth capital I mean cash to scale the company, not necessarily cash required to develop product or cash that could be raised as debt. Some products require quite a bit of capital to develop and push through R&D, but when it comes down to scaling the business, I like opportunities that can do that with less than $3 million. Anything more and the opportunity may contain more risk than I like to take on.
- Niche markets. I like opportunities that realistically cap out their revenue at around $50 mm in annual revenue. I have found that smaller opportunities serving niche markets might have more potential to achieve my top-line fundamentals, especially a strong EBITDA. I have also found that when a consumer goods company exceeds $50 million in annual revenue, another layer of management and systems have to be added which increases complexity and costs. If I can stay under the $50 million number, operations are much easier to manage. I am not opposed to opportunities that have potential to exceed $50 million in annual revenue, but I want to be smart and careful that growth does not add a disproportionate amount of risk versus the potential return. In my experience as well as research, I have found that it often does not pay off.
- EBITDA. My goal is to help grow and operate businesses that throw off a good net income to the owners. A distant second goal is to realize a liquidity event through a sale of the company. I like businesses I can be a part of and earn net income from over the long-term.
Understanding and taking advantage of technology trends is crucial because it can reveal opportunities that might enhance success and conversely, manifest threats that might lead to failure. I especially like opportunities that leverage technology, which I have grouped as follows for consumer goods:
- Data. Information and analytics is already a part of business but emerging applications for it lie in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I look at the collection of internal company data and external datasets coupled with AI to leverage towards growth and success. Blockchain is underlying transactional technology that increases trust and transparency at reduced costs.
- Automation. Underlying technology is software that helps automate and reduce friction to getting something done, and robotics, including autonomous transportation and drones. How can I take advantage of automation to make me more productive or reduce friction for interacting with my customers, like using chatbots or automated attendants or frictionless e-commerce carts? How can I use automation in product production and delivery? There is also robotics for consumer use. The time is approaching when we will have exosuits and robotic assistants. How does that impact the products on which I work?
- Push to the edge. Think of centralization: product manufacturing via giant factories halfway around the world; purchasing products in brick/mortar locations; going to locations to obtain services, like malls, movie theaters or doctors offices. Centralization is giving way to the edges where things are closer to consumers so that they can get what they want, more efficiently and faster. Underlying technologies include 3D printing/additive manufacturing, personalization, hyperlocal manufacturing, virtual reality, edge computing, real-time tracking and monitoring, product delivery, in-home healthcare, healthcare implantables and personalized medicine.
- Materials science. Advances in base materials, ingredients or inputs that make products better in some way, which can include making them cheaper, higher quality, with improved performance and recyclable/reusable/renewable.
The funding application is only available to incubator members.
I want to see consumer goods startups become viable businesses that are profitable, sustainable and potentially fundable, if they want to or need to raise money.
It makes no sense to withhold valuable education content, which is typically the approach of existing incubators and accelerators who only accept a small percentage into their programs.
A startup can hire consultants but that burns precious cash.
I think it is better to give everyone the education to help them get oriented and running in the right direction, which thereby increases the chances that they become a business that can hire consultants, if they need them, or raise funding if they need to or want to go in that direction.
More about why I started Basecamp InQb8r and my no cost approach can be found on the About page.
I know that time is your greatest and most valued asset, so I built Basecamp InQb8r to give you want you need and quickly. You don’t have to pop in to constantly monitor information feeds and remember what you already reviewed.
I send out emails twice per month with new content updates so you do not have to always be checking. I build the updates in a blog post and then at the end of two-week period, I copy and paste that into an email (which you can unsubscribe from at any time). If something in the email looks helpful to you, you can pop in to access the content. Platform updates are located here: https://basecampinqb8r.com/category/updates/
I also include filtering of information and data on the platform by date added/updated so you do not have to remember if you reviewed something already or not.
I have an orientation for new members further down this page.
I will look at provisional and awarded patents from inventors and will consider licensing. The IP must be about a consumer good.
Orientation for new members: PLEASE START HERE
This is the main account dashboard page. Please bookmark it as the login page.
I suggest the following to help you get started quickly:
- Start with a quick review of the University Section and how it is organized.
- Following that, jump into the Growth Stack, because it is a powerful growth approach and might give orientation on where to go with your company.
- From there, you can access the University Sections in the sequence laid out (which mirrors the Growth Stack roadmap) or access specific sections as you need.
- I post content to the Knowledge Boards constantly based on what I see going on in the marketplace and what is working that you might be able to apply to your company. It is organized by section that mirrors how University is organized.
- The Calendar includes online events that I hold for members.
You will be subscribed to our newsletter that goes out twice per month with content and platform updates.
Please whitelist [email protected] in your email account.
I designed my emails to be quick reads so you can easily grasp what has been added or changed in the platform to see if it is relevant for you.
My emails are blog posts first, which I build through the course of two-week period, then copy and paste that into an email which goes out at the end of the period. See those update posts here.
Data Platform Use Instructions
To scroll left/right, click into any cell and use the left/right arrow keys.
To view details on each resource on one screen, click “view”.
You can filter the table in this view or export the entire table and work with it in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
I suggest checking the dataset monthly and filtering by date added/updated so you only see what has been added/updated and you do not have to review the entire dataset again.
If you cannot scroll down to the bottom of the page (where you see the footer), try resizing your browser window by selecting the Maximize/Restore down button on the top right of the browser window. Doing this once should correct the view and then you can resize your browser as you desire. Sometimes the embedded table distorts formatting that should fix itself with this action.
The Company Dataset includes companies I submit based on our research. They could be category leaders or are doing something interesting that I want to make note of and follow.
But just because they are on this list does not mean they are profitable or succeeding. But they have captured mindshare so are important to potentially follow for your product category.
This list will also include Basecamp InQb8r members, with the names of the companies and identifying information removed. If you see the company field blank, then it is a member company. I attempt to actively communicate with members from time to time and ask them for information about their performance and what is working for them so that I can post this information for the benefit of all members, but I keep their names and and identifying information confidential. Look for those notes primarily in the field labeled “Basecamp InQb8r Analysis/Summary/Results/Performance” But not all members respond to my inquiries or are willing to submit information.
You can use this list to research companies in your category that might give you ideas to model in your own company (such as how they market their products). Even if a company on this list is not in your category, you might still consider tracking them as ideas can easily cross-pollinate from one category to another.
I curate this list even further by summarizing strategies and tactics that I find interesting from selected companies in my dataset. View my Strategy Teardown posts on the Data Platform Overview & Reports Page.
Not all records are complete. Some have significant information while others do not. The information may depend on what I can obtain, what assumptions I can make and what level of research I am doing into a particular company or category.
The qualitative and quantitative data points on each company that I track are included in this document.
External Datasets are data sources or specific datasets either publicly available or for purchase that may be useful for a consumer goods company. The purpose of this dataset is to serve as a directory of potentially useful data sources that consumer goods companies can use to help grow.
The Hierarchy field categorizes a dataset by its scope of data, starting with global down to companies/competitors. There is also a value to indicate if the dataset is a directory of datasets.
If applicable, I include data under product category, product sub-category, distribution category and distributions for each record.
The Workflows Dataset includes examples of or actual workflows used in data science projects for a consumer goods company. The purpose of this dataset is to give examples of data analysis and data science workflows that a consumer goods company can model to use in their company.
If applicable, I include data under companies, vendors, operational focus, product category and product sub-category for each record.
The following dataset includes data science use cases for data in a CPG or consumer goods company. There are 2 ways to use it:
- Include generic data sets and their business use by department or company division so you can see if they apply to your company and include them in your data strategy.
- Track more specific data use cases practiced by other companies, with emphasis on what they are doing with more advanced data analysis, like using machine learning.
Division: company department
Data: data sources
Business Need: description of the use of the data as it relates to the business need or problem our outcome desired
- Basic: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, averages
- Intermediate: utilizing more advanced statistics to analyze past data
- Advanced: utilize modeling (AI and machine learning)
- Internal: data produced by the company
- External: data produced external to the company, either by other vendors and available for sales or in the public domain
Note that these fields are also included in the Company Dataset, where I may have more information on each company.
Parent/Supporting Organization: If any
Product Category: If blank then the resource works in all consumer goods categories
Resources Offered: The specific resources offered, including
- Education/Knowledge Base
- Seed/Angel Investor
- Venture Capital/Private Equity Investor
This dataset includes vendors with offerings that may be helpful for growing consumer goods companies. Those on this list have more unique and differentiated offerings. This list is skewed towards vendors with data science related products and services.
Records with Data Science Methodologies identified lists the specific functions the vendor provides with respect to data science. Please see the University Data Science section to learn more.
Those labeled as Tools/Resource offer free resources that I have found useful.
There are two datasets available.
Distribution Categories Dataset
This is a list of distribution categories I use to categorize distribution companies. You can use this list to think about where your product might be distributed.
This dataset includes distribution companies.
This data is by no means comprehensive. I am not able to include every potential company that is eligible for inclusion in this dataset, but I do our best to include all that I can.
The quantitative data is a rule of thumb. Each specific category and/or vendor may be different. Information fields are as follows.
Distribution Channel Type: identified based on the distribution categories dataset (above).
Distribution Points: number of locations.
States with Locations: which states with locations.
Markup/Margin Range: most retailers operate in a range, expressed here.
Markup/Margin Percentage: some retailers operate with one markup/margin number across all products, expressed here.
Tradespend Percentage: an average for this retailer across all products.
Distribution Notes: if any.