Discover more from Consumer VC Club
Natalie Sportelli, Director, Bullish
After spending time in journalism, VC, and startups, Natalie decided to pivot back to VC while leveraging her experience in journalism and brand marketing.
“I grew up in Syracuse, New York. I went to college to study biology with the intention of going into medicine but as soon as I took an English literature course, I immediately fell in love with being an English major.
My fascination with journalism and writing stems from my love of meeting people and understanding why they devote their lives to pursuing their passions. Throughout my college years, I interned in Colgate’s communications office, gaining valuable real-world experience. I also did two internships in journalism, one at CNBC and one at Forbes. After graduating college, I joined Forbes full-time where I helped build the 30 Under 30 franchise.
At Forbes, I engaged with many startup founders, and it was there that I was first exposed to the venture ecosystem. After my time at Forbes, I moved on to Lerer Hippeau, where I worked on the brand and content side, helping founders and the fund position themselves to their audiences and the media.
It was a great experience working in venture but I wanted to gain some operating experience after speaking with founders as a reporter, and then supporting them on the platform team at Lerer Hippeau. This led me to join Thingtesting, a direct-to-consumer brand directory focused on authentic user reviews, where I served as the Head of Content and was employee number four.
After taking a sabbatical to recenter myself, I knew I wanted to go back into venture and be at a firm where I could sit on the investment side while leveraging my background in and love of brand building. Bullish stood out to me because it’s both a consumer fund and creative agency — it understands the value of marketing and consumer needs better than anyone.
Bullish is an early-stage consumer fund that invests from pre-seed to series A in B2C business models. Some of our early portfolio successes were Warby Parker, Bubble, Sunday Lawn, Harry’s, and so forth.
In general, we want to work with founders who understand brand and the end consumer so we can work together to design these remarkable brands. Since joining Bullish, it's so clear how special our model is and how much value it offers.”
What are some trends that you are excited about?
“If you look at any news headline on a given day, you'll find reports that people are spending less money or that they're spending more. Despite all the conflicting reports, the macro environment still indicates that consumers are willing to spend. Given that, I believe investors who do want to see consumer deals should be vocal about their interest, even if it doesn’t fit into the current hype cycle or narrative. There will always be consumers, and consumers will always be spending. Ideally, investors being more vocal would offer consumer founders reassurance so they feel more confident to go out and pitch them. I, for example, would love to see your company.”
What are some components of building a great brand?
"I believe that understanding who your consumer is, is really important. Is there a need for this product? Also, understanding who will be buying it – are you talking to and marketing to the right psychographic? It's crucial to gauge, as a founder, whether you have a strong sense of your brand. Do you know how to nurture the brand and communicate effectively? This is key to building a community and driving growth. Creating a community and fostering a cult-like obsession with your brand is important to being successful.
Companies need to know how to connect with their customers and provide an unparalleled experience. You need to know how your brand resonates with customers and how it establishes a connection with them. It's not just about having a brand idea; it's about knowing how you're serving your customers."
What are some key areas you look at when evaluating consumer brands?
“One metric I really value is: Would you buy this again? This contributes to the repeat purchase rate, which in turn affects lifetime value.
Another one I find intriguing is: Would you recommend this to a friend? I might try something and find that it's not for me, but I would still recommend it to someone else to try. Every consumer's relationship with what they buy is highly individual, and there are many questions about loyalty and the attachment to the things we buy. It can vary widely, but ultimately, it's a very personal decision. We are influenced by others, but our choice to continue a relationship with a product is highly individualistic.”
What do you like to do for fun?
“I really enjoy not using my phone. Given my background in journalism, I always feel the need to stay informed about what's going on. I'm constantly reading and absorbing a lot of information throughout the day, so what I like to do is put my phone out of reach (this means I'm pretty bad at texting.)
One hobby that gets me off my phone is cooking. I like to challenge myself to cook through a cookbook, do Whole30, try out meal prep, and generally use cooking as a competitive and creative outlet. It always makes me feel accomplished if it comes out well. It’s a great way for me to be off my phone and zone out and, at the end of the process, end up with a lasagna."