After successfully building Kind Snacks into a multibillion-dollar company, Daniel Lubetzky and his team, including former Kind executive Elle Lanning, have unveiled Camino Partners, a startup incubator and investment platform.
Lubetzky, founder and chairman of Camino Partners, built Kind up from just $5 million in initial investment and told TechCrunch he wants to help other companies do the same thing. He intends to deploy $350 million — funds he already has — into the next generation of transformative companies over the next five years, initially beginning with consumer brands.
His own journey started 25 years ago with Peaceworks, a company bringing together neighbors in conflict regions, like the Middle East, around collaborative ventures. It was a classic startup story where it took 10 years of lessons — two steps forward, two steps back kind of things — while building the company that prepared Lubetzky to launch Kind.
“I was making so many mistakes, but I drew lessons from those, and then the first 10 years of Kind were just like soaring,” he said.
With Camino Partners, formerly known as Equilibra, Lubetzky and his team want to help other startups avoid needing 10 years of mistake-making before they have a successful company.
Camino, which means “journey” in Spanish, is throwing out the traditional startup playbooks and instead will be guiding entrepreneurs on values, including integrity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. It will also take a “meaningful stake” in brands with proven market versatility and customer following, Lubetzky said.
“We want to help people not have to go 10 years through the desert and get there faster, but with a dose of humility,” he added. “Today, you have to think about the circumstances and adapt to the changing circumstances, and what I love about my team is that that's who they are.”
Elle Lanning is leading Camino as managing partner after spending 13 years at Kind, most recently holding the role of chief of staff. She said the company isn’t exclusively focused on consumer packaged goods, but is also looking at startups that have culture creation: a culture of ownership, a shared set of values and financially sustainable structure.
“We did not have a single sales channel when building Kind, and so understanding the interconnectivity of those and how to think about them in relation is what we've seen, in this past year, a lot of brands have started to do,” Lanning told TechCrunch. “They recognize one channel is probably not the path forward. That's where we also see the unique advantage in our skill set — being able to lay out that kind of broader ecosystem.”
Meanwhile, the organization has already incubated Mexican better-for-you food brand Somos, a company Lubetzky co-founded, and invested in companies, including European breakfast and snack brand Belgian Boys, gimMe seaweed and Cava fast-casual Mediterranean grill.
Camino Partners will work with partners to select a small number of companies to build from scratch, Lubetzky said.
“We will also invest in existing ventures, but where we have a meaningful role,” he added. “We don't need to have a controlling stake, but it has to be a very meaningful stake. In some cases, we will launch things and be the majority shareholders and in other cases we won't. In all cases, it has to be very meaningful and it has to be of much greater significance to our partners and to us.”