Antler VC Cast Episode 18 — Understanding Consumer Behaviour in a Hybrid World with Nicole Quinn

We speak to Nicole Quinn, GP at Lightspeed Venture Partners. Tune in as we discuss consumer behaviour post COVID, the value of Influencer Marketing & more.


April 7, 2021
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In Episode 18, we speak to Nicole Quinn, General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. Lightspeed Ventures is an iconic Silicon Valley fund that has 10 billion dollars in assets under management. Nicole's focus is on early-stage consumer internet and fintech companies, with a portfolio that includes mental wellness app Calm, Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop, Lady Gaga's Haus Laboratories, cult shoe brand Rothy's, Zola and Girl Boss.Nicole talks about consumer behaviour that is going to stick post COVID, the incredible value of Influencer Marketing for customer acquisition, and shares her predictions for the next big trend in the consumer world.

Highlights From Transcript

[15:32] What consumer behaviour changes that we saw in 2020 will remain post-COVID?

Nicole Quinn: I do believe that the behaviours that are built up during Covid will be sticky afterwards. We will probably go to a hybrid world. And what does that look like? We'll go back to the supermarkets again, but perhaps on the margin, we'll stay, customers of InstaCart or Deliveroo - more than we used to. The way that these companies are able to lock in the behaviour now to ensure that it's sticky, that's when it gets special. Let me give you an example. InstaCart. You're thinking: OK, fine, I'll use it now because I don't want to go into the supermarkets. They say: hey, why don't you sign up for a year subscription? So then you're a subscriber, you get free delivery for the next year. So even after you've had the vaccine, you're thinking, oh, well, I should have the year subscription now, so why don't I stay using InstaCart? And then because you've used it for a year, you probably will for the next ten years because that behaviour is really ingrained in you. So there's really smart things like that the companies are doing to ensure that these behaviours are naturally sticky and then also a little bit of enhanced stickiness.

[9:26] Balancing the art and science of branding

Nicole Quinn: To quote Emily Weiss, branding is part science and part magic. It's that special something. In some ways, branding is consistency. You have to make sure that there is that consistency of consumer experience. In some ways, branding is becoming a household name - that consumer awareness. But we really like to think about it like that special something that makes you stand out, that makes you unique. It really has to be authentic to the founder, to the culture, and to the product. My main piece of advice to founders is to think big. A lot of founders will focus on what's right in front of them. And sometimes, I think the best board members will help you sort of pull up so that you can see the bigger picture so you can realize what your North Star is and what you're really walking towards. When you're in execution mode, sometimes you can't see the woods for the trees. It's really important to think big, know what your North Star is, and just make sure that you are driving towards the bigger goal.

[14:00] Acquiring customers through influencer marketing the authentic way

Nicole Quinn: Influencer marketing for us is a really special way of marketing, especially if it's done in an authentic way, so it's far easier and far cheaper to acquire a customer through them- turning a fan into a customer vs acquiring a brand new customer. So, if you're welcoming Lady Gaga and she has, say, 100 million followers, then even if you convert one percent of those to be customers, you've got a million users. You compare that to Facebook acquiring a million users on Facebook when the algorithms are changing for you and your CAC (customer acquisition cost) is going up. I feel it's hard to get that consistency of customer acquisition costs when you're working with those platforms sometimes. So we really lean into celebrity and influencers, but only when it's done in an authentic way. So Calm partnering with Matthew McConaughey, that feels like it's definitely done in an authentic way.

[17:15] What are you excited about that you think will be the next big thing in the consumer space?

Nicole Quinn: I do believe that we're at the brink of a new social revolution. I think that the last generation was about looking good through Instagram, the next generation will be about sounding good. And sounding good can mean so many things, which is why we're seeing social versions of fintech companies emerge, because people want to sound good when they're talking about their stock recommendations. You can see this through the Wall Street community and everything happening with GameStop.

Another thing is adding social angles to the travel businesses. Hey Go has done a tremendous job of exactly that. It's a cool product where you can take a tour of anywhere in the world from the comfort of your home. So you can literally sit at home and be like, "I want to go to Brazil today" and there'll be a tour guide that will take you around Brazil. And it's all live. It's just tip supported. So it's a free product to use. And you can sound good because you can tell your friends all about the piece of information you picked up from that tour guide in Brazil.  There's also social mental health companies or social health care companies. There's a great company called Real, and it's bringing you group therapy. Group therapy has been applied to Alcoholics Anonymous, but it hasn't been applied to other areas of mental health. And so we're now bringing that to a wider group of people. And it is social good. People are messaging and people are talking with one another about it. It's great that we really can talk about mental health in this way today. So I am definitely excited about more areas of social companies.

Apps & startups that Nicole mentioned in this episode

Calm - a science-based mindfulness app for sleep and meditation.

Hey Go - See, discover and learn through the eyes of a local. Join a live-streamed tour today.

LunchClub - an AI super-connector that makes introductions for 1:1 video meetings to advance your career.

Real - a mental health and wellness startup that focuses on making group therapy accessible for all.

About the author


The investor backing the world's most driven founders, from day zero to greatness. Enabling thousands of founders every year to launch and scale companies that move the world forward.

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