Last month, Commerce Ventures turned five and…well, a lot changes in five years: Our team has grown from 1 to 5 to help invest the two funds we’ve raised since getting started. We’ve made over 40 initial investments in that time — some of which have already seen early exits — most of which are maturing into leading platforms in their categories.
But even as we’re evolving as a firm, our investment focus has remained constant: we see unique challenges with industry-level transformation at the intersection of retail and financial services, and we believe this creates fantastic opportunities to invest in technology startups that address these challenges.
The Commerce Continuum: The intersection of Retail, Payments, Banking, Investing and Insurance
We used to describe our focus as tech for retail and financial services, but that gave the impression of two distinct industries, when in fact we see these sectors as inextricably linked. You have only to look at leading incumbents (e.g. Amex, BofA, Citi, Intuit, JPMC, Mastercard, Nordstrom, Visa, Walmart) and at-scale pioneers (e.g. Alibaba, Amazon, PayPal, Shopify, Square, Stripe) in these categories to see how tightly linked these sectors are. So recently, we settled on a new way to talk about our investment focus, which we are now calling the Commerce Continuum.
The Continuum is not designed to distinguish between investments in one category or another, but the illustrate the natural connections between them:
Consumers discover, engage and evaluate new products, services and experiences through SHOPPING. They SPEND on the purchases that matter to them using saved or borrowed money. Consumers also SAVE money to spend in the future, buy bigger assets (e.g. cars, home), protect against the unforeseen (sudden unemployment or medical bills) and to build wealth over time (e.g. for retirement). Once accumulated, consumers SECURE their assets and provide for their loved ones through insurance.
Exploring Opportunities that Span the Continuum
Some of the most exciting opportunities we’ve seen lately are offerings which span multiple segments of the Continuum: whether it be an Amazon Prime bank account, Shopify’s explosive payments business, Acorn’s “spend and invest” subscribers or the acquisition of SquareTrade by Allstate to exploit embedded insurance distribution at the point of sale. Startups, incumbents, or investors that ignore adjacent segments on the Continuum may face an unexpected threat or miss out on a major growth opportunity.
Going forward, you should expect to see us not only continuing to invest with this focus in mind, but to use this language as we discuss the opportunities which interest us. We look forward to partnering with startups, corporates and like-minded VCs to help discover and define what the future of Commerce will be. Stay tuned as we work together to figure it out.