December 15, 2020
Finding an investment partner, at any time, is no easy task. It’s not unlike soccer or football. The greater the number of shots on goal, the more likely to score a goal. But for young entrepreneurial brands, many entering business ownership for the first time, a capital raise can be a complicated and grueling task that can make or break a business owner's dreams.
In this episode, I had the privilege of chatting with Ashley Hartman, Senior Principal at Bluestein Ventures, a family-backed venture capital fund that invests in the future of food. Ready to provide insights into a new way of seeing the capital raise. Ashely shares how investment and venture capital firms have taken the opportunity of the 2020 events to re-evaluate how, where, and with who they do business with. She shares how this year has become an opportunity to get better and stronger, meeting not only business but personal goals. Along the way we learn the importance of being a good community partner and how investing beyond a financial commitment has become a cornerstone in her firms’ success.
“People need to be utilizing their network a little bit more and asking a little bit more." - Ashley Hartman
In this episode we learn:
- The reason why Ashley and Bluestein Venture focuses on helping brands in Seed to Series A stage funding.
- The ways investment firms are finding and supporting brands during this time.
- The criteria and evaluation tools that Bluestein uses when courting brand opportunities.
- The key differences in communicating with serial entrepreneur’s vs the home-grown "Hatchery" style entrepreneur.
- About diversity initiatives in business and how Bluestein is able to outreach to those communities that traditionally haven’t had accessibility to capital investment.
- Where Ashley derives her energy to keep on pushing hard to meet her goals and those of Bluestein’s brands.
About Ashley Hartman:
Ashley is Senior Principal at Bluestein Ventures, a family-backed venture capital fund that invests in the future of food. Bluestein looks for game-changing, early-stage ventures across the food industry that redefine how consumers achieve their health and wellness. Our investments span the entire value chain – both B2C and B2B – with a focus on four areas: high-growth consumer brands, proprietary foodtech, next-gen commerce, and value-add digital technology. At Bluestein, we’re active investors, going beyond capital to help its portfolio companies develop, iterate, and implement their go-to-market strategy to achieve product-market fit and set the foundation for scale.
Ashley is involved in all areas of Bluestein, including screening, due diligence, portfolio company support, as well as firm development and strategy. She has extensive experience leading growth strategy and establishing scalable infrastructure necessary to build sustainable ventures, honing these skills throughout her time running and scaling her family’s business, working on new ventures at Coinstar, and her experience in financial consulting. Active in the Chicago food community, Ashley serves on the Selection Committee and Associate’s Board of the Good Food Accelerator and is a mentor at Food Foundry and The Hatchery. Ashley received an MBA with honors from Harvard Business School and a BA in Political Economy, summa cum laude, from Williams College.
Outside of Bluestein, you’ll find Ashley on her yoga mat, exploring Chicago on foot, hiking up a storm when she can escape to the mountains, or at a contemporary art museum. A health & wellness nut, she’s been vegan for nearly eight years, but doesn’t preach!
Guests Social Media Links:
Bluestein Ventures - We invest in the future of food. We’re looking for game-chaigne, early-stage ventures across the food industry that redefine how consumers achieve their health and wellness. Our investments span the entire value chain - both B2C and B2B - with a focus on four areas.
Chicago Food Community - A united community effort working to bring food, dignity and hope to Cook County neighbors. They act as the hub for a network of more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs which provide food where it’s most needed.
Good Food Accelerator - The Good Food Accelerator gets emerging Good Food CPG brands ready for prime time, giving them the skills to scale up
Food Foundry - A Chicago-based growth accelerator program by Relish Works built in partnership with Gordon Food Service and 1871. It supports, connects, and propels innovative startups who are reimagining the food industry.
The Hatchery - A non-profit and beverage incubator dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs build and grow successful businesses.
Yerbae - A line of zero calorie sparkling waters that are enhanced with a blend of yerba mate, white tea extract, and guarana seed extract.
Coinstar - An American company operating coin-cashing machines
Episode Sponsor - Retail Voodoo:
A brand development firm that builds, grows and evolves brands in the food, beverage, wellness, and fitness industry. If your brand is in need of positioning, package design, or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com
- 0:00 Intro
- 2:18 Ashley shares a little background of Bluestein Ventures, who they are and what they do
- 5:17 Ashley gives reasons why their company focuses on companies between Seed to Series A stage to fund and the importance of helping them at this stage
- 7:58 Ashley explains the three things Bluestein Venture thinks about when they think about strategy and getting their portfolio companies to product market fit
- 11:34 Ashley talks about ways in which their firm is finding brands that they can support especially in this time of the pandemic
- 13:57 Ashley shares the advantages that has come up due to companies doing their businesses virtually and the importance of a good network
- 16:55 Ashley also talks about the impact COVID has made to the opportunities that their firm gets and if they are different from earlier opportunities before the pandemic
- 19:26 Ashley speaks about partnership and the process their firm use to partner with their portfolio companies
- 20:29 Ashley talks of how their firm know that a particular portfolio company is a good fit for them and the different criteria they look at to evaluate those companies
- 24:40 Ashley also talks about coachability and if they use it as a criteria to choose who they want to work with or support
- 26:30 Ashley shares a set of questions or concerns that they normally get from their portfolio companies and if they are consistent
- 28:15 Ashley also explains that it’s not a must for a business to have everything for them to invest in them, but what is their go to market strategy and how unique is it
- 32:56 Ashley also talks about the confusion that comes with brands copying other brands and why brands should focus on their own success
- 34:23 Ashley gives key differences in communicating with serial entrepreneurs and the home-grown Hatchery style entrepreneur, and how they choose between them who to work with
- 39:08 Ashley talks of diversity in businesses and how Bluestein is able to outreach to these communities that traditionally haven't had visibility
- 43:37 Ashley elaborates o where she derives her energy to keep on pushing harder to achieve her goals
- 44:58 Ashley and Diana talk about things that really excites them the most in the industries that they both work in