Tin Shed Ventures Puts Patagonia’s Money Where Its Mouth Is

Podcast Season 5 Episode 12

Adam (01:14.946)
And we’re rolling on the Gear Junkie podcast. Asha, thank you for joining me.

Asha Agrawal (01:19.988)
Thank you for having me, excited to chat.

Adam (01:22.734)
Full disclosure, I know so little about venture capital, so I’ve given myself full license to ask stupid questions. So I just bear, bear with me. Let’s start at the beginning. What is Tinshed Ventures and what does it do?

Asha Agrawal (01:43.06)
So Tinshed Ventures is a part of Patagonia. And it started about 10 years ago, around 2013. And it’s one of the many business tools that we’ve created in-house in order to advance our mission statement, which is using business to save our home planet. And so in the kind of field of venture capital, but Tinshed Ventures in particular, we take a portion of the profits that we make every year from selling our sustainable apparel.

And we put some of it towards what we call TINCH adventures. And through that, we invest in early stage companies that are all private, that are trying to address systemic and persistent challenges in our supply chains. So you may know that in addition to our apparel business, we also have an emerging food business called Patagonia Provisions. And so we invest in those sectors to try to address things that we can’t solve ourselves, but that others might be better situated to do. And so,

We give out money every year to those young companies, and we hope that we can work together to find a solution.

Adam (02:49.378)
So one of those potentially stupid questions I warned you about is why does there have to be a Tinshed Ventures and why can’t Patagonia just directly pull from its pockets and say, hey, I want to give money to this or that.

Asha Agrawal (03:05.332)
Well, I think Tinch Adventures is just a way for people to understand the how in which we give money. So Patagonia overall gives money in a multitude of ways, in a way to kind of have a unified front against the climate crisis. So we give grant money every year, both through 1% for the planet and through our retail stores to local grassroots organizations, kind of to just address some of the most vulnerable communities that are affected by the climate crisis. And then how…

How do we articulate then that we have different types of ways we can send money other than trying to kind of sub-brand it? And Tin Shed Ventures is just one of those sub-brands to say, okay, another capital tool that we have at our disposal is actually investing in equity of emerging businesses and having an ownership stake in that. And so that’s the purpose of having that in particular, because we just feel that there’s not just one way that we can interact with.

the innovation that’s around us or the problems that are around us. And so in addition to Tinge Adventures and our grant money, we also have our R&D teams that are doing development agreements with young companies that are trying to commercialize different things. And that’s a more step by step handholding kind of relationship that they have in order to kind of inspire change.

Adam (04:26.014)
Does this ownership stake does this mean that Patagonia has a seat at the table and they’re generally actively helping nudge and steer these younger companies Or is it more of a just keep us up to date on what’s going on We want to make sure that you know, you’re on track to benefit X Y and Z

Asha Agrawal (04:46.452)
Yeah, I think we have both types of relationships within TinShed Ventures. Sometimes we say, you know, you’re the experts. We’re just gonna be here if you need us, call us. We’re always available. And then there are others where we really lean in and we say, wow, like you’re trying to take on a huge problem and we think we’re uniquely positioned to help you do that. So let’s meet every month. Let’s talk about your challenges. Let’s introduce you to people in the industry that we think are really.

going to be a great leverage point for you to kind of get it to your next stage of growth and scale. And so it varies. It varies with the relationship. And it also varies with the stage of the company. Sometimes they need us a lot in their early days, just kind of like a young human. And then when they’re on their feet and running on their own, they need us less. And I think that that’s okay too, because we don’t want them to rely on us forever. We want them to be much bigger than…

than even we are. So I think that’s a great evolution in kind of our partnership too that happens.

Adam (05:48.502)
Can you give me an idea of the scope of what we’re talking about? I mean, are these, you know, hundreds and hundreds of companies, or is it more of a handful of companies that Tinshed Ventures is focused on?

Asha Agrawal (05:59.172)
Over the last 10 years of investing, we probably have around 20 companies in our portfolio. So we’re pretty judicious about just doing a few investments a year and making sure that they really kind of fit some of our key investment criteria.

Adam (06:15.054)
And when you talk about the investment criteria and the systemic issues that Patagonia and Patagonia provisions are working on, what are those? Like what are the big issues and challenges that the brand is wanting to address?

Asha Agrawal (06:31.88)
Yeah, so on the food side, it’s really, we’re early innings in kind of this food system revolution that we’re trying to inspire, which is the regenerative organic food system. And so why we use those two words together is that organic alone really means just kind of the absence of toxic chemicals, but it doesn’t mean that you’re doing management practices on farms that are regenerative to the soil, regenerative to the ocean.

and therefore ecosystems from which we need to be in balance with to have food. And so it’s really been important for us to try to inspire and catalyze that particular movement. The company of Patagonia Preservisions is only 10 years old. And so we have a lot of work cut out for us. So as they’re trying to develop skews of products like crackers and pasta and seafood and tins that all have a regenerative organic story,

Tinsha Adventures is trying to wrap around all the other things that can help catalyze it into its biggest state. So we’re trying to, recently we just invested in a nutrient density company called Adatius. And basically unless we can really measure the nutrient density of food at scale and be able to prove that regenerative practices gives you more nutrient dense food, which is better for human health.

people might not buy it at a premium to the other cracker that’s on the shelf or the other pasta that’s on the shelf. And so we need partners who are uniquely skilled to find out those kind of breakthroughs to be able to partner with in order to kind of scale our businesses. On the apparel side, we really need alternatives to some of the virgin materials we’ve been using to extract. So now…

We’re so happy to say we’re 99.9% using what we call preferred materials, which have kind of a recycled element to it in terms of what we create Patagonia gear out of. But we weren’t there five years ago. And part of getting there was actually one of our investments too called Borreo where we source fishing nets from the ocean. We have put them through our supply chain in order to create this recycled nylon that now goes into some of our most flagship.

Asha Agrawal (08:47.508)
lines of gear. And so that’s really exciting too. And so we think Tinch Adventures has a really important role to play in terms of kind of pushing the envelope about how we can deliver products to the market in these two areas of food and apparel with the least amount of environmental harm possible.

Adam (09:06.646)
I think about organic and I think about recycled ocean plastic. There are initiatives that have become pretty widely adopted, right? The public now gets the message and the shift has happened and organic is not fringe, right? It’s not the co-op, the small weird co-op on the corner. It’s like every major grocery outlet has organic. People know what to expect from that. You mentioned regenerative. I’m wondering if…

Do you have an inside track on what the next big sort of shift is? Whether it’s the marketing terms that people know what to look for, or if it’s a larger move, do you know what the next thing you think is going to be where we modify how we consume?

Asha Agrawal (09:52.716)
You know, I wish I knew that. I think that would make me an even more shrewd investor, to be honest. But I think that education around these terms is going to be hard to achieve, to be honest. Because I think if we survey tons of people around what does organic mean to you, they might think, oh, it’s better for the soil. Well, that’s partly true. It’s better to not have any toxins in the soil.

But it doesn’t mean that it’s actually allowing you to have nutritious food. It’s just the absence of toxins. So are you getting your vitamins and minerals? So I think as we see this narrative of food as medicine or food as health kind of emerge, we know a lot of people want to buy products and services in that area, but really don’t know how to, that I think the movement is connecting the dots for them. And I think…

I think regenerative is a way to do that. Do I think we need to have a perfectly defined term that everyone understands to do that? No, I don’t think so. I think people make decisions with probably 20% knowledge. And I think if the word gets out, which I think that’s one of the privileges of Patagonia is we have a very, just very captive audience of people who wanna follow, you know, the things that we’re trying to espouse. And I think my hope is we have a good,

Adam (11:12.63)

Asha Agrawal (11:19.134)
a good role to play in making sure that people are choosing regenerative practices versus just non-toxic ones.

Adam (11:26.938)
How common is this? I’m wondering, you know, if we’re just talking about the outdoors, is it common for larger outdoor brands to say, hey, I have a venture capital arm and I invest in things that, you know, align with what our corporate mission is? Is that common?

Asha Agrawal (11:45.)
It is fairly experimented on, I would say. I think other brands that I know of have had a venture capital team. Maybe they’ve had what they call entrepreneurs in residence that they bring in and make them aware of all the different teams that are needed to make a brand succeed or an early startup succeed. I would say that given a corporate structure of the brand.

Adam (11:50.35)

Asha Agrawal (12:13.196)
the longevity of that experiment changes. So when there’s a public company, and there’s recessionary behaviors in the market, people really don’t like to see you doing exploratory things. And so there might be pressure to close a venture capital arm, for example, to say, is that volatile return something you really should be thinking about right now? I think the privilege of being a private company is that-

we don’t have to make that choice to borrow from the future to make decisions today. You know, when you don’t invest in innovation in the future, you’re really not going to be able to create the change that the planet needs and the time scale that it does. So you always have to have a bucket of money that’s moving towards long-term horizons. And so, you know, it kind of ebbs and flows whether our competitors or peers have venture capital arms and…

I will say I think it’s a very deeply important part of what Patagonia continues to stay true to.

Adam (13:13.662)
Are these younger companies typically bending over backward to try and get Patagonia to buy in? Like, do you have the problem of too many to choose from? Or sometimes is there pushback? Do they need convincing about why should Patagonia invest and have a seat at this table with us, et cetera? How does that look?

Asha Agrawal (13:34.74)
It is more of the former. So we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of startups wanting to come to us and partner with us. And that makes the job hard. I’m not someone who really loves saying no the majority of the day, but that’s the reality of what it is. But that’s true for all venture investors. I just think that we have a unique amount of deal flow given the platform.

from which we get to invest, which is the apparel brand that has so much recognition. And so I think the unique value add, because it’s why Patagonia versus any other brand that could invest, I think many are coming to us to virtue signal that their solution is stamped by another environmental company that’s very much trusted. So it’s really not necessarily our dollars that they’re looking for. It’s…

the story of being able to say, hey, we’re a young company and we’re building in the right way because Patagonia said so. And so it means that they are thinking about a responsible supply chain, the downstream impacts of their business. We take a pretty wide aperture with our own business and we demand that of our partners too. And so I think those thoughtful founders that really would love to have that stamp of approval come.

come to Patagonia and Tinche Adventures in particular to say, hey, look, like, you know, we’re doing it the way that, you know, we read from Yvonne Schnard and can you give us some money so we can talk about that? And so the truth is so many people are working on the climate crisis in really important ways, but we have to choose the ones where we have unique value to add not just our stamp of approval from a responsible supply chain perspective. And so…

we really only focus on the ones where it’s apparel innovation and where it’s catalyzing regenerative organic food.

Adam (15:33.074)
Even with within regenerative organic food and apparel and supply chain, when you say no, typically, why do you say no? And when you say yes, why do you say yes?

Asha Agrawal (15:44.96)
Well, we can say no for a lot of reasons. I mean, we try to be really descriptive so that it’s education for not only them, but also the market. And so, you know, there’s traditional VC criteria that can eliminate a startup from our funding. But then the strategic relevance is also a reason. So let me give an example. I’ll start with the latter. So on strategic relevance, you know, if someone has a solution for…

deconstructible shoes. They have like everything is a biodegradable material. And then after they’ve used it, we can pull it apart, recycle it, do something else. It’s like, okay, that’s so rad. I can’t wait to try it. And also, Patagonia doesn’t really sell shoes. So we don’t even know how to help you. I mean, we could figure it out, but we’re just not in that market. And so we don’t invest in shoe invasion or

something like about the dye that goes in jeans. Jeans are a very small part of our apparel line. And so it has to have like deep, deep salience into the ways that we have environmental impact so that we can help drive down our footprint along with others. So those are some of the strategic relevance reasons we might say no, in terms of some of the traditional investing reasons we might say no is that they may not have a sustainable business model.

where that’s come into play is in the offset market actually. So carbon offsets, I think in the last five years, have been an area where a lot of startups have come to create innovation. And they say, great, we’re going to plant X trees and sell people offsets, and that’s our business model. Well, we say, well, what happens when the forest burns down? Or what happens when disease comes through the forest? What happens to the integrity of the

carbon offset that you just sold. Now there are market things that protect against that, like insurance pools and things like that, but we haven’t really wanted to get into the business of speculative new markets. We really want to say, what products and service are you giving to the world? Is there inherent value in that? And price it within the norms of what’s in existence now. And we can get behind that. So I would say like risky business models, ones that aren’t verified in environmental impact or the science.

Asha Agrawal (18:11.945)
are ones where we’ve steered clear of, which is a big category to say no to in the climate space.

Adam (18:18.595)
How prevalent is the issue of greenwashing specifically as it comes to the brands and people you’re evaluating? Because from the media side…

in the 10 years I’ve been a gear junkie, I’ve seen some of the buzzwords go from a handful of brands use them to now everybody with a Kickstarter campaign knows exactly what to say because it quickly resonates and it’s a way to quickly identify, hey, this is environmentally responsible, right? It’s got eight plastic bottles, whatever.

But at the same time, you weigh that against this is just more stuff you’re making to be consumed that will have waste, et cetera. So I’m just curious, have you seen that, you know, you have, when you, when you dive in, you’re having to really press some of these companies to justify and explain all these claims that they make.

Asha Agrawal (19:18.108)
Yeah, I would say that we do try to investigate, interrogate, validate on what is true and what is not. I think what’s difficult at the stage in which we’re investing is a lot of them are in an idea stage and they haven’t gotten the chance to practice. And I think this is where we are only good partners if we understand that perfect can’t be the enemy of good.

Okay, so you don’t have a renewable energy source yet. So it’s operating on coal for right now or whatever grid that you’re next to. But we’re not gonna penalize that like at this moment in time. As long as we’re having a conversation of at scale, how do you think about your footprint? Are you gonna be able to co-locate with a renewable source? Like, do you have the right environmental heart at the helm to be thinking systemically and in a holistic way about the way that you’re contributing?

And I think when those answers are yes, we can validate that it’s not greenwashing, at least for the product or service that might be relevant to us and that it’s really, it has a chance to be a financially and environmentally sustainable business. I think we could probably sniff out the greenwashing pretty fast though. So I think those conversations are less in depth, to be honest. And I think I

have the benefit of being able to tap a lot of colleagues in our space. So if someone is coming up with a new material innovation, for example, I just call someone down the building and just say like, hey, does this make sense to you? And they’re just like, absolutely not. That would never work chemically. So like pass on that one. So I think I don’t have to be the expert on all things, but I feel lucky that so many of those people exist at Patagonia.

Adam (21:11.714)
You mentioned Borreo, I had David Stover on the podcast a few weeks ago. What are some other success stories? What are some of the bigger brands that we might recognize that Tinshed Ventures has contributed to?

Asha Agrawal (21:24.116)
Yeah, I think one of the more mature ones might be Trove. Trove is a re-commerce platform that they’ve been a software platform partner to be able to allow apparel brands to.

Adam (21:39.918)
Thanks for watching!

We welcome guests on the podcast, by the way. Yeah.

Asha Agrawal (21:46.432)
Well, that’s Sadie, my seven year old. Um, so, um, so Trove Sadie cup. Sorry. Hopefully that can be edited out. Um, Oh my.

Adam (21:56.894)
No, we’re going to keep all that. It has to be authentic. We’re all about authenticity.

Asha Agrawal (22:03.744)
So Trove is not only in our portfolio company, but they’re also a commercial partner and they are really providing the backend for brands to be able to allow resale. And what was really exciting about that story, much like Borreo being a long-term project for us too, was that we found them when they were a completely different company. It was called Yertle at the time.

And in fact, the other fund VC fund that I was at the time also invested. So I’ve been in this story for a really long time. It was called Yertle. It was a peer to peer sharing platform for any type of good. So I remember I used to sell like lemon squeezers and a blender and get like, you know, I don’t know, like a, like a

microwave back. It was just wild and it was supposed to be Burning Man-esque where there was no monetary exchange. You just got yurtle points. So there was just, it’s come a long way in a very different way, but Patagonia came in early because it was trying to find ways to actually resell its gear because they thought, hey, we can’t proliferate the planet with puffy jackets. We make durable puffy jackets. A lot of them sit in your closet.

you barely wear them. So let’s figure out a way to recirculate them. So we did early partnerships with eBay and others, and then we were looking at this sharing platform. Now, over time, we just thought, okay, we can’t really be drowned out by these other goods. We need to be able to have a captive audience of people looking for apparel or our gear in particular. And so through the evolution of the investment partnership, started the commercial partnership. And it was several years later, in fact, and then they rebranded as Trove, but it became a white labeled.

platform provider for us and has powered our business ever since. And so that’s probably been seven years of having an e-commerce site with them. They still run that. That’s called warnware.com. And, and we’re really proud of the work that we’ve done together. And I think what’s really exciting is maybe four years ago, there was a handful of brands doing it and now there’s over 150 brands doing resale. And so in terms of like betting on someone who’s a first mover,

Asha Agrawal (24:12.033)
can really create like widespread change in terms of how the industry approaches what they’re able to provide on an environmental service. So we’re really happy about that one too.

Adam (24:24.81)
Again, because I come from a non-venture capital finance background, I am curious, is there a standard operating procedure here that is there a term where we invest and we are a part of this company in perpetuity? Or is there a term where, hey, after

this amount of time we’ve matured, your investment has matured and we part ways. Thank you for your help so long, goodbye. What does that relationship look like generally?

Asha Agrawal (24:57.476)
Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question whether you’re an expert in venture capital or not, the way that we’re kind of situated in the market versus others. So a lot of independent venture capital firms will have a seven-year fund traditionally, and maybe they’ll extend it for a couple years for one reason or another. But they’re really under a lot of pressure based on their investors to get their capital back in seven years. And so…

those investors are often around the table with us when we invest in a company. So we know that they have pressure to find what we call liquidity within that amount of time, which is just, they need to get bought, they need to IPO, or they need to find another buyer of our shares to then take on the rest of the risk going forward and not being a place where the investment can provide a meaningful return. So those are really the three options to kind of like.

and the relationship from an investment perspective, I think what’s really nice is Patagonia doesn’t have to have that forcing function of a timeframe because we are an operating company ourselves. And so we don’t have this investor that’s looking for a return. I do answer to our CFO who’s just saying, how’s the portfolio going? But I think what matters most to her is that we’re patient capital in the way that we’re looking for a financial return.

a time scale that the innovation needs, not that we need. And so sometimes when you’re talking about systemic transformational breakthroughs that have a hardware component or a deep tech component, you know, we have a couple of recycling companies in our portfolio. That’s hard stuff. That’s hard to figure out how to recycle all of our gear that has so many different materials in it. So we can’t expect them to go public in seven years. It’s just not reasonable. And so…

I think what’s really exciting is that we have the privilege to say, take your time, make a great business, make it a durable business, make it a business that returns capital to the people that you borrowed money from, whether it’s debt or equity, and we’ll be here for you for that. And then other investors have other pressures that they demand a shorter timeframe, but we certainly don’t have that, which is a nice privilege.

Adam (27:11.33)
From my vantage point, so I’m in media, but I also consider myself a contributing member of the public. I generally try to stay on this side of how everything works, how do people see it. Patagonia, there’s this, generally very well liked. It seems if Patagonia does something, it’s going to be received very well by the audience that gear junkie courts. But what are the challenges? What are the…

Where do you run into roadblocks and what is difficult for you to overcome? Because it looks like success stories and positive change from my vantage point, but I’m assuming it can’t just be, hey, everything we do is a home run.

Asha Agrawal (27:57.248)
Everything we do is a home run. What do you mean?

Adam (27:58.946)
That’s my thought. That’s how I knew it.

Asha Agrawal (28:03.416)
I mean, no, I think, oh, it’s so messy behind the scenes. It’s so messy. I mean, doing things that you’ve never seen before, breaking trail in places that have never been adventured in is hard. It’s hard. And you come out with like, you know, scrapes and bruises and all the things. And that happens in our business too. And certainly our mainline business has made mistakes that they’ve learned from that Yvonne Chouinard has written about several times. I think when it comes to Tinch Adventures, places where we find challenges,

Um, I think, I think sometimes people want us to trailblaze in so many ways that we have to pick and choose the way that we do that. And the way that comes to, uh, light and Tinch Adventures is some of those early partnerships that we have with our startups, they say, okay, we just got the first X like as an output from this recycling thing, like, do you want to

make a t-shirt out of it? Do you want to like do some sort of capsule project and like be the first to market with this waste stream as an example? And I think what’s hard is often the answer is no. And it’s not because that we don’t want to be first to market, of course, that would give us a competitive advantage. It’s more that quality is so central to what we put out into the world that we just have a lot of tests that we have to go through to be able to validate that something that we put our brand on.

that we have a lifetime ironclad guarantee to have you return or that we’ll repair it, we really need to know that it’s so, so durable. And sometimes that’s just not able to be known in the first innings of a startup and what they’re trying to produce. And so what’s hard is that they’re saying, but if Patagonia doesn’t do it, people won’t believe that it works. And we just have to say, you know.

another brand doing it is also a win for you. And we together as an industry need to help these startups. And so other brands that might be more open to a capsule project or just kind of a thought piece, I think they’re the ones that end up commercializing those. But then we’re the ones that kind of pull it through our entire suite of products when it meets our quality standards, which sometimes takes three, five, sometimes seven years. You know, and that’s not.

Asha Agrawal (30:22.428)
a timeframe any startup likes to hear candidly. So I think those are some of the challenges with this brand integrity that we have comes almost impossibly high standards sometimes, which doesn’t mean that we don’t support the startup. It’s just saying, it’s not now, it’s just not now. So let’s just keep working together and see if we can get there. But it creates some friction and hard discussions and change always comes with hard discussions. So I don’t think that that’s a bad thing, but it’s…

It makes for the less easier days for sure.

Adam (30:55.75)
I promise I will stop apologizing for my ignorance after this question. Why investment and not just charitable donation? Why not just cut a check and say hey love what you’re doing hope it works out.

Asha Agrawal (31:12.841)
Because our founder deeply believes that business is a vehicle for change. And I think it was really intentional on his part to say that we’re in the business of saving our home planet, not we’re here to save our home planet or some other alternative. And that’s because unless you can have profit and planetary impact, you’re not going to

increase in lockstep, you’re not going to have the systems change that we need in the time scale we need it. And so if we gave philanthropic capital without expectation, which we do as well, and in many of our other tools, but if we only did that, I don’t think that we’re inspiring young businesses to be as thoughtful and holistic as we have been. And we can’t, we can’t…

do this change alone. We need so many other people to be doing it too. And so there’s a role for nonprofits. There’s a role for private companies. There’s a role then for the philanthropic capital and the private capital that goes alongside those. But I think they just wanted the business financial tool as well to be in our toolkit so that we could really inspire catalytic systemic change at global scale. And so I think…

It’s not the only way, it’s one of many. So yeah, I think we’re proud of having that kind of diversified approach.

Adam (32:40.563)
Let’s assume that someone listening now has a nation brand and they firmly believe they’re an excellent candidate for Tin Shed Ventures. What would you tell them to set them up for success for having a conversation with you?

Asha Agrawal (33:01.968)
That’s a really good question for two reasons. One, because we love good deal flow, so I do want to give our investment criteria. But two, because one of the things that is often disappointing is we don’t invest in other direct-to-consumer brands. So if they are trying to be an emerging brand, we just happen to only invest in kind of things that we can commercially partner with and can be in our supply chain, but not necessarily a brand that’s trying to follow in our footsteps.

So that’s the first thing, if you’re direct to consumer, I’m so sorry, we’re not the funders for you, but we’d be happy to set you up with some others we know. But I think in terms of other innovators that are looking for our funding, I think the first thing is start the conversation with, if everything went right, what’s the environmental impact that you’re gonna be able to realize?

Because unless we can see that, we’re just talking at different altitudes of change. And so we’re not looking for incremental innovation, even if they’re important. We’re not looking for something that’s non-replicable. So it’s great this happens in the Northeast or in this pocket of the world. But we need it to be able to be nimble enough to solve global needs. And so I think…

its environmental impact at scale, and then tell us how your product or service is deeply needed now. And so we know that there’s a business model that’s there, even if you don’t know what it is yet, and we can partner with you to think through it, just like we did with Trove. But I think that those are the two pieces. It’s really that planet plus profit. Tell us both of those big stories, and we’re likely to get behind you.

Adam (34:50.426)
Is you were gracious enough to join us on the podcast. I’m curious if the insight and information is best tailored to businesses and business minded people or the average listener who’s familiar with Patagonia has never heard of Tinshed Ventures, like myself going into it. Is there a place and a contribution that, or is there value for

folks who don’t own a brand who just like Patagonia are equally, likewise minded on climate change and regenerative agriculture. Is there a place for where those people, those listeners, they have value in understanding what Tinshed Ventures does in your mind?

Asha Agrawal (35:36.584)
Yeah, and I think because what it can do is infuse everyone in whatever kind of walk of life that they pursue to think about the ripple effect of their choices. So I think Yvonne Chouinard created a company that pivoted multiple times. You know, it used to be climbing gear, then became rugby shirts. Now it’s all the things. And I think throughout…

his journey of the last 50 years, he kept interrogating his own products for deep quality, therefore like making quality and environmental issues. So whatever type of business that they have or service, having quality at the center, I think brings loyalty in their customers. So therefore that’s a way to kind of imbue their own work with that kind of concept. And I also think about,

you know, whatever again, pursuit they might have, having a wide aperture of how you’re impacting the communities and the environment around you. And so I think everyone has a contribution to play in the work that Patagonia is doing in their own life, whether or not they work at a company or a brand that’s doing something similar. And I think those that are trying to build big companies, think about at what point you wanna…

create your own venture capital firm at your company. You know, what point will you put a buck of money aside for innovation for 10 years out? And make sure that you’re staying ahead of the game. And so I think Patagonia has designed a lot of interesting tools to review and mimic if relevant for your own business to say, when I grow up, I wanna have these types of tools. You know, of course, the latest that was really quite interesting is that

we changed our corporate structure such that our founder no longer gets the dividends of our profits. We created a trust. So now all of our profits go to the Holdfast Collective, which is just here for conservation and lobbying for leaders who are going to evangelize some of the deep needs of the planet. And so I think what’s really cool is that, there’s a lot of different tools to pick and choose from the Patagonia story. And

Asha Agrawal (37:56.813)
If you’re building a business, I think there could be some inspiration there for you.

Adam (38:01.666)
Well, let’s close out with this. You mentioned earlier that one of the hardest parts of your job is having to say no so many times because there are a number of people that are vying and pitching you for why Patagonia should invest in them, but let’s flip the script. What is the unique value that Tinshed Ventures can offer companies?

Asha Agrawal (38:24.692)
Yeah, I think the unique value is based in the experts that are around me at work all day, every day, which is we have these material scientists, we have these product creators, we have nutrition scientists on the food side and people thinking deeply about how to put us into better balance with the planet for what we need as humans. And I think what we can uniquely serve

any of these startups is around how to frame the question that you’re trying to answer and maybe even have the answer for you if we’ve encountered it before. And so we’re basically trying to allow you to see around corners as you grow your company with industry experience. And so we can connect you with all of that wealth of knowledge. And it’s not just internally in the four walls of Patagonia and provisions. It’s also…

We have unique relationships out in the globe as well in terms of industry partners. So I think we come with actually our values and so much more than our capital. It’s really around the how we do business and the what we’ve learned along the way that I think that we can give to the company to help them move faster and with less mistakes than maybe we made along the way.

Adam (39:43.798)
Patagonia’s venture capital arm is called Tinshed Ventures. If you want to check it out, it’s tinshedventures.com. See who they partnered with. Asha, thank you for your time. That was awesome. It’s the Gear Junkie Podcast and we are out.

Recorded: April 4, 2024

Did you know that Patagonia – yes, that Patagonia – has a venture capital arm? If you didn’t, now you do.

Tin Shed Ventures is the VC arm of Patagonia, and it invests in startups that provide, or aim to provide, systemic and globally scalable solutions for the land, water, air, and biodiversity. The fund is behind companies you may know, such as Trove, a popular e-commerce platform that many brands (including Patagonia) use for resale, and BUREO, the company that converts plastic fishnets into consumer products (like the brims of all Patagonia’s hats).

The focus of Tin Shed Ventures is to support companies that can reduce the environmental impacts of Patagonia’s core apparel business. It invests a portion of Patagonia’s profits, so the fund has no outside investors, and it provides patient capital to give the businesses the time they need to grow.

In this podcast, Asha Asha Agrawal, Managing Director of Tin Shed Ventures, provides background on the fund, including investment criteria and how it seeks to generate returns that benefit both the planet and Patagonia’s business.




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