Being somewhat of an outdoor enthusiast, I've come across three lines of clothing which have reminded me of technology start-ups: Aether Apparel, Nau and Rapha. They are taking an approach to clothing that is a combination of technology, design and marketing which bears a ton of similarity to lots of familiar start-ups we usually talk about 'round here. Most similar start-ups though are also focussed on the consumer.
What I'm realizing is that the start-up world has already transitioned into other segments of industry. There have been clothing makers and designers forever. Yet, the companies such as The North Face or Patagonia simply aren't as innovative and forward-thinking as the up-and-comers. They also haven't as effectively used social media to market themselves having long become corporate giants. This is not to say their clothing isn't as good as the new entrants to the market but the public wants the newest and shiniest when making their purchasing decisions. They are online and want to "discover" new brands for themselves instead of being marketed to. I think we're deep in to a major shift in the clothing segment where just making good clothes no longer matters. You have to be ecological! Your customers have to be priority number one and you have to communicate with them and even more importantly, listen to them. You need to be hard-core business yet at the same time friendly with your surroundings. This stuff matters to the consumer and especially in outdoor clothing, you have to incorporate technological innovation wherever you can.
Along these lines, it's interesting to see where new players are emerging. We're somehow always looking forward and with blinders on to an extent. Especially as a VC, you surround yourself with mostly technology start-ups. At the same time, you can easily disrupt in other verticals. Clothing is being disrupted now. I personally believe education and government are more than ripe for disruption. Ultimately, every industry is at risk and the pace of change is hyper-fast. I know for a fact that a prominent VC in the Valley is invested in one of the above businesses. I was surprised when I found this out. Yet, it's almost a "duh" moment if you think about. Of course it would make sense to invest in a company disrupting the incumbents. That's where VC style returns can be delivered.
I think we are on the cusp of so many changes to companies we interact with on a day-to-day basis. The pace of change is mind-boggling. I'm definitely making a point to look left and right more often to see what's going on at the fringe of other industries. Not surprisingly, there is a ton of cool stuff there.