Maveron has helped jumpstart some well known retail brands, from sandwich maker Potbelly to flash sales site Zulily to online marketplace eBay to cosmetics startup Julep.
Now, the Seattle venture capital firm, founded by former investment banker Dan Levitan and Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, is making one of its boldest bets yet. The firm is leading a $5 million investment in San Francisco-based Dolls Kill, an edgy San Francisco online retailer designed for girls and young women to “experiment with their individual style and encourage them to let their freak flags fly.”
The brand — which combines a bit of punk, glam rock and goth style — certainly is irreverent. The company’s models, dubbed dolls, often hold signs or wear clothing with sexually explicit references. For example, the lead image on the company’s Facebook page features a tattooed women holding a sign that says: “If yer gunna ride my ass, at least pull my hair.”
In another image, a woman holds a purse with the words “fuck you” on it. Middle fingers, pink hair and bare midriffs are commonplace from the models, most of whom are chosen via the company’s social media channels.
The company built its brand around “four iconic Dolls” — described as festival fashion; haute Goth; frilly Kawaii; and punk rocker chic. A fifth “Doll” with a new personality is in the works.
Here’s how the company describes itself:
A leading fixture in the society of praised rebellion, Dolls Kill is an active subversion of the fashion industry’s “norm.” We want our kult members to experiment with their individual style and encourage them to let their freak flags fly.
The company was co-founded three years ago by Shuadi Lynn, a former electronic music DJ and her husband Bobby Farahi. And since then it has been growing its following via social channels, with nearly half a million followers on Facebook.
Jason Stoffer, a button-down venture capitalist at Maveron, said they were “wowed” at how fast the brand grew and noted the incredible enthusiasm of the community. Re/code reports that the profitable company is on track to double sales to more than $15 million this year.
“Reading through the thousands and thousands of comments and posts across Instagram and Facebook, it was impossible to not see that cauldron of consumer passion we look for,“ said Stoffer in a press release. He’s joining the board as a result of the deal.
Meanwhile, Farahi tells Re/code that they looked at other venture capital firms, but most wanted Dolls Kill to tone down its approach. That was not the case at Maveron.
“If it makes 50 white guys uncomfortable, it usually means you’re onto something,” Stofer told Re/code. “If you want to invest on the edge, you have to be comfortable with that.”
You can get a better idea of the company’s edgy style in these videos, featuring models Katie Rae and Brandi Howe.