Notably, the vendors in the Foundry build ad or marketing tech. Think Ahalogy, recently named a Pinterest Marketing Development Partner, or Adludio, a mobile ad targeter.
By contrast, many of the companies funded by Unilever Ventures, the CPG’s venture capital and equity arm, build products to promote environmental sustainability. There are, however, a few marketing tech platforms working with Unilever Ventures, such as Brandtone, a “provider of mobile marketing solutions to consumer goods companies.”
And earlier this month, Olapic, which finds the best social media images that can be used for marketing purposes, received $15 million in Series B funding.
“This is the first year for the Foundry, but we’ve been investing for 15 years in businesses,” said Ian Lane, principal at Unilever Ventures.
Certainly the 50 companies in the Foundry have more opportunities to develop a structured pilot that solves a genuine business pain point – making them more visible and attractive to the investment arm.
But that doesn’t guarantee a windfall from Unilever Ventures.
“I’m looking for scalable businesses that can be massive, with fantastic management teams and a good business model,” Lane said.
Programmatic companies are notable absences from Unilever Ventures’ portfolio, even though its parent is heavily interested in it and even takes leading positions on hot-button issues like viewability. But investment from the brand side doesn’t mean Unilever Ventures will follow suit.
“We haven’t invested in programmatic, actually,” said Lane, noting that the practice is mostly handled by its media agency, Mindshare (though that account, like many others servicing large brands, is up for review). “It changes quickly so it’s an area we haven’t really invested in.”
Additionally, the chilling effect that seems to have swept the investor community could make it difficult for Unilever Ventures to get other partners on board. Even if it’s interested in a programmatic company, it doesn’t want to be the only one.
“We don’t want to invest in it alone,” Lane said.