Rachel Ten Brink is a Partner with Five Four Ventures. A firm believer in being open to new opportunities and taking chances, she gleans a lot of wisdom from her mother and her daughter (who says that “a mistake-less life is no life”). What does she look for in investment? Clear scalable model, a space that is not over-crowded and ripe for innovation. “Unfair” advantages and unique channels that will allow you to scale without being completely dependent of paid acquisition.
Tell us about the professional journey that took you where you are today. What major lessons did you learn along the way?
I started my career in classic brand management working for Gillette, then came to NY to get my MBA at Columbia, then spent the next 20 years in beauty and luxury marketing. At some point, I grew restless. I wanted to understand how to use technology to sell beauty better, so I started Scentbird, a fragrance subscription. Just recently, I joined as a Partner at Five Four Ventures. The major lesson is just that you need to be open to opportunity and take chances.
What motivates you?
Being a role model to my son and daughter, building something I am proud of. Being happy.
Who are your role models and why?
My mom and my daughter. My mom has incredible empathy and emotional IQ. She has an ability to connect with anyone in the room and understand what drives them. My 7-year old daughter just has innate grit – last night we were playing with Snap Circuits and she said: “I don’t like instructions- they limit creativity. It’s OK to make mistakes – a mistake-less life is no life”
What does a typical day look like for you?
Busy! Wake up early to fit in some exercise, prepare lunches and breakfast with the kids, drop off at school, run to work- an entire day of meetings and work, then back home to cook (which I love to do) and spend time with the kids. This was written when I was at Scentbird, but it’s still essentially the same routine.
What do you wish founders knew about before meeting you? What about female founders specifically?
Be ready and be focused. Be focused and understand your space and exactly how you will succeed- but also what is the bigger vision. For Female Founders- know you have to be extra ready and frame your answers in terms of size of opportunity, specially if your startup is female-focused. For example, we struggled at the beginning with Scentbird because most of the (male) investors didn’t think Fragrance was a large enough category, but when we explained Fragrance was 2x the size of the Shaving category- they started to pay attention.
What are the major trends you are seeing in your space?
The strength of omni channel and the role of DTC as a launch channel. Continued growth on wellness in terms of supplements, understanding how skincare and supplements are related.
What do you look for in a potential investment?
Clear scalable model, a space that is not over-crowded and ripe for innovation. “Unfair” advantages and unique channels that will allow you to scale without being completely dependent of paid acquisition. That said, investing is only a small part of what we do at Five Four Ventures – we make passive investments in the early stages. We’re much more focused on incubating and launching our own ideas.