Meet the investors: Sari Azout Bakalarz, Level Ventures

We asked Sari Azout Bakalarz, a Miami-based early stage consumer investor at Level Ventures, what’s currently piquing her interest – and what’s turning her off.
Meet the Investors hero graphic_Sari Azout Bakalarz, Level Ventures
What business models are interesting you currently?

‘Many sustainable businesses have innovated on materials; I’m interested in businesses that combine that with business model innovation. Horizontal “as a service” models that allow any business to tap into sustainability, like Repack, or aggregators that reduce the burden of choice, like Package Free.’ 

What sectors are hot for ethically minded brands right now?

‘Apparel and food are two obvious ones, but consumer packaged goods stands to be reorganised. I’m particularly interested in household and personal care such as Blueland and Cleancult.’

More: Read Sari's insights on investing post-Covid here.

What do you want to hear from a sustainable founder?

‘I want to see a product that actually works. Perhaps there’s some margin, but to ultimately replace incumbents, products need to be better and accessible. The bottom line is: consumers are willing to go green, but don’t want to sacrifice.’

When you get a pitch, how do you judge it?

‘It’s important they pass the “villain test”: if the customer was motivated by pure self-interest would they still buy it? It has to be better, more affordable, more delightful. Proof of efficacy is also key. With so many direct-to-consumer brands making dubious sustainability claims in the last few years, consumers have become a little jaded.’

What buzzwords are you tired of hearing?

‘I’m a little tired of hearing the term “science-backed” in pitches. The term “sustainable” as a catch-all I also think does a disservice, as sustainability is a wide spectrum. I want to see more closed-loop products: businesses being responsible for a product’s end of life.’

How do you assess the trade-off between profit and doing good?

‘Maximising shareholder value can’t be the only filter companies use when making decisions. Incorporating metrics around community, employee happiness, social value and environmental footprint will be a critical step towards acknowledging the broader social responsibilities that business has.’ 

More: Meet other investors interested in sustainability here

This article was first published in Courier Issue 35, June/July 2020. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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