Julia Collins is the first Black woman to co-found a venture-backed unicorn. So it should come as no surprise that investors lined up to bet on her latest venture, Planet FWD.
Investor Sarah Kunst says Collins’ branding skills are on par with Supreme, the ubiquitous lifestyle brand.
“The thing that Supreme has done incredibly well is the same thing I think some very exceptional founders like Julia can do very well, which is to build a brand that stands for something,” said Kunst. “Smart people know that the best time to get aligned with a great brand is at the drop. A Supreme shirt that costs $100 bucks in the store will cost $1,000 online. So, as an investor, I am just a kid on the street corner flipping sportswear.”
Kunst and Collins met well before Collins even had a clear idea for Planet FWD, but the duo knew they wanted to work together in the future. Kunst essentially told Collins that, whatever she was planning to do next, Kunst wanted to invest in it, sight unseen.
Kunst said Collins’ ability to “see around the corner” with Zume gave her the confidence to proceed. When Zume launched, there were a lot of naysayers, recalls Kunst.
“Now, you look at where the world is and there are multibillion dollar companies in the space,” she said. “Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, like Travis Kalanick, are leaning into ghost kitchens, which are just less efficiently delivered versions of Zume Pizza robots. To quote Wayne Gretzky, because I’m from the Midwest and therefore care about hockey a tiny bit, you want to skate to where the puck is going.”
The two formed a friendship and eventually, Collins started building out Planet FWD and prepping to raise. By then, the foundation was there. Kunst got in on Planet FWD’s seed round.
Fundraising is a process
Collins says one of the biggest lessons she learned from her time at Zume was to limit distractions and focus on one thing at a time.
“I felt this disorientation at times, and it was hard to navigate,” she said, noting that she not only was starting a company but also settling into the Bay Area. “Now, it’s much easier for me to cut through a lot of noise and focus on a single conversation, a single product’s development, a single thing that I need to get done.”
In that same vein, Collins has learned to be incredibly deliberate when it comes to fundraising. It’s also worth noting that she’s raised some $400 million+ in the last five years.