Money makers: How Isabella Löwengrip turned a beauty blog into cash
Though the media sneered, Isabella Löwengrip turned her blog into a thriving fashion and beauty business empire.
"I remember the Swedish media laughing at us and saying, look at those young women trying to do business with blogs'," Isabella Lwengrip, the 27-year-old Swedish blogger behind Blondinbella, tells the BBC's Maddy Savage. "We didn't give up though, and I'm very proud of it." Today, some 1.5 million people visit her fashion and beauty site which she started when she was 14 every week, and it has been now translated into English, German, French and Arabic.
Using revenue from advertising, Lwengrip launched beauty brand Lwengrip Care & Color (LCC) in 2012, ranked as one of Sweden's fastest-growing companies last year, with sales of 35 million kronor (£3.2m). Her other businesses include a shoe brand, a clothing label, an investment company and personal-finance workshops all expected to bring group sales of 75 million kronor this year (£6.8m). Glossy magazine Egoboost and Bellme, an online shop, failed to take off, but she has no regrets. "I learned so much during those years," she says. "You have to just jump on the horse again and not be so afraid of what people are thinking."
Vegan egg hatches a unicorn
One shouldn't think of Hampton Creek, makers of brands such as Just Mayo, as just a vegan-food producer. It is a "tech company that happens to be working with food", Josh Tetrick, its 37-year-old CEO and co-founder, tells Bianca Bosker in The Atlantic. We're like Amazon, he says.
Using the "full monty of Silicon Valley's trendiest technologies", Hampton Creek is attempting to analyse the world's 300,000-plus plant species to find sustainable, animal-free alternatives to ingredients in processed foods, says Bosker. It's a pitch that has attracted $247m in investment, including from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, and a host of celebrity fans. Last autumn, the company was valued at $1.1bn "surely the first time a vegan egg has hatched a unicorn".
Founded in 2011 with childhood friend Josh Balk, who was then working on food policy for the Humane Society of the United States, they approached Samir Kaul, a partner at Khosla Ventures, to raise money. "I went in to him," says Tetrick, "and I said, Food's f***ed up, man. Here's why. Here's an example. Here's what we're thinking about doing.'" The pitch netted them their first $500,000.
A risky cupcake venture that came good
Rachael Halstead, now 35, was in her mid-20s when she decided to quit her job in the City to start her own cupcake business, Rachael's Kitchen. Her family and friends, while supportive, thought she was "crazy", says Stephanie Linning on MailOnline.
"It is a big ask of people close to you to believe you will become the largest cupcake delivery company in the UK," Halstead admits. But having almost lost her savings when the Icelandic banks collapsed, it was "now or never".
It was 2009, and baking fever was starting to sweep the nation, though the first episode of The Great British Bake Off was still a year off. Halstead (pictured) began baking at home, tested courier companies, and sought outside help with marketing and a website before travelling to markets across Britain to drum up some "much needed cashflow".
"The process was invaluable and a great way to start any cottage industry", she says, and you learn about how to run a company along the way. She set up shop in a small farm outside Brighton. Two shops followed, which she closed early last year to focus on the online delivery business, which today turns over around £1m a year.
The giants are crushing the saplings of Silicon Valley
This has been a bad year for Silicon Valley start-ups, says Cromwell Schubarth in the Silicon Valley Business Journal. The latest casualty is Teforia, whose $1,000-plus internet-enabled tea infuser failed to find a market. It announced it was shutting up shop a fortnight ago, taking with it $17m in seed capital. Juicero, the San Francisco-based start-up behind a high-end juice-making machine, hit the skids earlier this year, dispensing with $120m of investors' money, after a Bloomberg journalist discovered its juice packs could be squeezed by hand.
A bigger flop still was Jawbone. It was founded 20 years ago, backed by investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures and Sequoia Capital, which together pumped $984m into the tech firm. But its fitness trackers could not compete with the likes of Fitbit and it folded in June.
It's a massacre that hasn't escaped the notice of Evan Hynes, a former start-up employee, who created a fake graveyard in a San Francisco public park for Halloween, with polystyrene headstones bearing the names of deceased start-ups. "I asked myself, what's the scariest thing that can happen to an employee at a start-up," the 26-year-old told news website SFGate. "Finding out that your 2% stake in a blockchain-based smart juice company is actually worthless." The despondency is spreading.
There's a feeling in Silicon Valley that the age of the start-up is already over, says Jon Evans on TechCrunch. The internet and the smartphone made us think the next big thing was just round the corner. Yet the next wave of technologies artificial intelligence, virtual reality, the internet of things are far more complex and require huge amounts of scale and capital that only Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft can provide. No wonder seed funding is down this year. The future belongs to the giants.