Natalie Massenet and Nick Brown.
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Special Issue
Digital Daily issue 03/07/2017

Natalie Massenet sparked a guessing game in fall 2015 when she parted ways with Net-a-porter and registered a new company, Imaginary Ventures, with Companies House in the U.K. that October.

The Net-a-porter founder, and chairman of the British Fashion Council, has been tight lipped about exactly what type of project Imaginary Ventures would be since the original filing. She’s identified as the sole director and shareholder of the company, with her occupation listed as “none” on the form — but WWD has learned from a source that Massenet is gearing up to take on her next role: venture capitalist.

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Massenet is partnering with Nick Brown, a partner at venture capital firm 14W, to launch Imaginary Ventures later this spring, the source said. The firm will invest across different categories in the e-commerce space, including retail, fashion, lifestyle and beauty.

“There has been a lot of speculation about what Natalie may be planning in her post-Net-a-porter life, and she is keen not to be drawn into responding to any of it,” a spokesman for Massenet said.

When reached for comment, Brown said he “can’t speak about any activities at this time.”

Last week, Massenet took to her 170,000 followers on Instagram to reveal she was joining the board of the Farfetch Group as non-executive cochairman, working closely with Farfetch founder and co-executive chairman José Neves. But what Massenet didn’t say is that she’s reportedly readying to invest in the luxury online marketplace.

That would be among the first investments for Imaginary Ventures, which will — with the exception of Farfetch — focus on early stage e-commerce companies. It’s rumored that Daily Harvest, an organic ready-to-blend “superfood” soup and smoothie delivery service, as well as Dirty Lemon, the trendy beverage company whose products are only available for purchase via text message, are among the first companies Massenet and Brown will fund.

“They will invest across different categories, [even though] the first two speculative investments just happen to not be in the fashion space,” said an individual with knowledge of the start-up scene.

They added that an initial alignment with Farfetch is a powerful first step in solidifying Imaginary’s positioning as a viable player in the venture capital space.

Though in its very early stages, Massenet and Brown’s union appears to be a symbiotic one. Brown, who is known for his eye for spotting up-and-comers in the retail space online, is expected to part ways with 14W to focus on Imaginary Ventures, the source said.

Thirty-one-year-old Brown, also the longtime partner of Derek Blasberg, has made several high-profile investments in the e-commerce space with an emphasis on retail, fashion, beauty and more recently, food services. The 14W fund does seed, early and later stage venture investments, boasting a string of buzzy — and diverse — portfolio companies that include Everlane, Glossier, Reformation, Moda Operandi, Goop, The RealReal, Maple, Lola, Outdoor Voices and Daily Harvest. Brown was also an early investor in Warby Parker.

According to a source in the venture space, Massenet and Brown are actively talking to investors, and have met with 40 to 50 already. The amount of the fund they’re looking to raise is unknown, but it is said to be “sizable.” Whether the firm will be based in London, where Massenet lives, or New York, where Brown resides, is also unknown at this time.

It’s been reported that Massenet is turning her eye to startups, including her investment in Flowerbx, a wholesale and retail flower delivery web site founded by Tom Ford veterans Adam Wilkie and Whitney Bromberg Hawkings. However, this is said to be a personal investment of Massenet’s, unrelated to Imaginary Ventures.