The millennial generation — people born between 1981 and 1996 — are on the cusp of becoming America’s largest generation, according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. What else we know about this demographic: millennials are increasingly choosing to live at home with their parents, put off marriage and children, and not buy stuff like cars and luxury goods but instead access those goods through sharing services.
What they can’t do without: wellness. It’s one area where they’re willing to spend money on compelling brands and experiences, even when they cost an arm and a leg. And that’s something that Soraya Darabi, Will Nathan, and Marina Hadjipateras inherently appreciate as millennials themselves, as well as, more newly, investors.
In fact, after embroiling themselves in startups — Nathan started an interior design startup called Homepolish; Darabi’s last startup was a (now-shuttered) fashion marketplace called Zady; Hadjipateras worked as VP of investor relations for her family’s shipping company, Dorian LPG, which went public in 2014 — the three friends decided to try funding companies that make their peers feel good.
Enter Trail Mix Ventures, a New York-based outfit that invests in the “future of living well.”
It’s a broad mandate, but the trio apparently sold the idea, securing enough capital — $3 million — from founder friends in January of last year to get started. Some of the then-nascent companies they have backed since include The Wing, a 2.5-year-old women’s-only work and community that has now raised $42 million altogether; Parsley Health, a two-year-old, membership-based wellness practice with locations in on both coasts that has raised more than $10 million; and Henry the Dentist, a two-year-old mobile dental clinic whose seed investors also include the early-stage, New York-based venture firm Brand Foundry.
Asked where the three get their deal flow, Nathan points to the many entrepreneurs who Trail Mix counts as investors, including cofounder Neil Parikh of the sleep company Casper; cofounder Nick Taranto of the meal kit company Plated; and Warby Parker cofounder Neil Blumenthal, who is also CEO of the eyewear company.
Nathan says the broader network in New York that the friends have built over the years also “opens doors for us and connections that help founders get to their next level.”
Meanwhile, Darabi notes that while a lot of investors talk about being former founders, having so recent a memory as the three do of being in the trenches adds meaningful value. She calls it “founder-to-founder intimacy.”
Whatever the case, things have gone well enough that the outfit — which is officially closing its debut fund today with $11 million — has now funded 16 companies altogether, typically via first checks that are roughly $300,000 in size.
It’s too soon to say how any of bets will fare longer term, of course. But one is doing sufficiently well that Trail Mix is right assembling a special purpose vehicle (essentially a pop-up fund designed to invest in one startup) to enable its backers to invest more in the company.
Asked if more of these SPVs are in the firm’s future, she says, “Absolutely. We receive a lot of inbound interest from our [investors] in doing these.”
Given that kind of traction, along with the opportunity the group is chasing — new startups are cropping up every day focused on broadening access to wellness — we’d guess a new fundraising effort can’t be too far off for Trail Mix, either. Stay tuned.