Influencer-led brands are on the rise, but building a company requires more than just social media fame. That’s where FounderSix comes in. Co-founded in 2020 by Oli Goulden and Pieter Wittgen, FounderSix works with influencer entrepreneurs to provide the infrastructure and expertise needed to create sustainable brands.
As Goulden explains, “We saw the influencers were starting to launch a lot of their own brands, but some were done really, really badly, and others were done really, really well.” The difference, he realized, was having an expert team supporting the influencer. With backgrounds spanning advertising, e-commerce, and venture capital, Goulden and Wittgen felt they had the ideal skillset.
“We have a brilliant offering to bring to creators and influencers to support them in that entrepreneurial journey,” says Goulden. Unlike other incubators focused solely on funding or manufacturing, FounderSix provides guidance across branding, digital marketing, operations, and product development.
Goulden spent 11 years working for the advertising giant Ogilvy before becoming head of marketing for fast fashion startup Grana. There, he built a 22-person marketing team running everything from photoshoots to performance marketing in-house.
The experience provided an “eye opener to the data centric world of e-commerce” that shaped FounderSix’s data-driven approach. Meanwhile, Wittgen brought financial and operational expertise from his founding role at Grana and background in investment banking.
Together, they’ve built an end-to-end team. On the product side, executives from L’Oreal, Shiseido and Johnson and Johnson ensure quality and regulatory standards. On the business side, Goulden and Wittgen draw on their startup and agency backgrounds to support branding, digital marketing, and e-commerce.
“It’s the perfect complement to any influencer looking to become an entrepreneur,” says Goulden. “We love the things they hate.” While creators focus on content, FounderSix tackles supply chain logistics, accounting, legal frameworks, and other unglamorous backend work required to build a company.
The phenomenon of influencers launching brands is still young, traces Goulden, with Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics often cited as a breakthrough success story. But he believes this is just the beginning.
“More and more we see influencers wanting to have a go at that and wanting to try it,” says Goulden. “I think there’s only going to be more and more of that.”
However, he notes the importance of passion and authenticity in cutting through an increasingly crowded space. “Customers and followers are not stupid, they can feel authenticity and passion immediately,” explains Goulden. The most successful brands are those where the founder remains actively involved, shaping a brand vision that genuinely reflects their interests and values.
Goulden points to Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty and Hailey Bieber’s Rhode as examples where “the founder’s are very, very involved and haven’t just slapped their name on a product.” This contrasts with “the old celebrity model” of simply licensing one’s name and image to a product.
At FounderSix, cultivating this kind of authentic founder-led brand is central to their mission. “This is your brand. You’re there to drive it forward,” says Goulden about their collaboration with influencer partners. “We’re here to support your vision, give you advice, and work behind the scenes.”
Meet The Beauty Brand Execs Betting Big On The Next Wave Influencer Entrepreneurs
Early Success with Ravie Beauty
This dynamic fueled the runaway success of their latest brand launch, Ravie Beauty, created in partnership with influencer Allie Glines. Goulden attributes the overwhelming customer response to the two years spent rigorously developing products true to Glines’ personal brand identity.
“Allie personally visited the factory in Italy for a three day workshop very early on in the process we have weekly calls with the manufacturing partner for over a year before launch,” describes Goulden. “It’s a really, really big investment of time, energy and passion.”
He adds that Glines has likely tested more products than any R&D team through years of reviewing items on her YouTube channel. This gave her unmatched insight into creating something unique for Ravie Beauty, which Goulden explains means “delightful” in French.
Ultimately, though, Goulden stresses that the demand stems from the community Glines has built through seven years of posting videos consistently three times a week. “If you look at the comments on her YouTube channel, it is literally the most positive place on the internet,” he says.
Ravie Beauty aims to spread some of that delight through high-quality, uplifting products designed to reflect Glines’ sunny persona. “We worked really, really hard to make sure that Ravie reflected all of her values and everything that has made her so popular, and taking all of her insights into creating the perfect lip product that they call Effortless Lips” notes Goulden.
This sincere connection with her highly engaged audience drove what Goulden describes as an overwhelming response at launch, with over 350 heartfelt 5 star reviews.
Preserving Authenticity Core to FounderSix’s Brand Building
Authenticity is paramount to success in the influencer brand space, stresses Goulden. “Any hint of inauthenticity is going to get sniffed out immediately,” he cautions.
He credits his 11 years of leading branding projects at Ogilvy for instilling an expertise in translating authentic values into coherent brand identities. “Our job is to guide our founders to ensure their vision is both true to themselves and commercially appealing,” says Goulden about FounderSix’s role.
The process starts with an immersive brand workshop to uncover the founder’s passions and perspectives. Goulden’s team then builds this out into brand strategy and visual assets, while ensuring the founder remains at the center.
“We tell all of our brands that we recommend not putting their name on the product,” he explains, wanting brands to stand independently. “At the same time be a veryclose kind of mirror of all those things that make them so popular in the first place.”
Ultimately, influencers have cultivated followings by putting “their hearts out to the world,” muses Goulden. Maintaining that authentic self as the core of any brand launched is what drives connection and sales.
So what makes an ideal founder to partner with? Goulden stresses subject matter expertise and trust as paramount. He points to skincare influencer Susan Yara, who recently sold her brand Naturium to e.l.f. cosmetics for $350 million. Her extensive product testing and recommendations built authority that allowed her own curated line to thrive.
However, Goulden notes it is possible to create compelling brands even without category expertise. The key is tapping into audience perceptions and owning a niche.
He uses client Hailey Bieber’s skincare line Rhode as an example. While not a skincare expert per se, Bieber’s public image was already associated with glazed skin and glossy lips. Rhode’s products leverage that existing brand identity.
“I think owning part of, or being known for, certain things within that category is needed to be able to really take off,” advises Goulden. Without that pre-established relevance, the path to success likely requires paid advertising instead of leveraging existing organic followers.
In either case, Goulden stresses that the most effective influencer brands feature products connecting to the founder’s identity and interests. By ensuring offerings align authentically with audience expectations, FounderSix helps convert social media credibility into sales.
New Capital to Fuel Expansion of FounderSix’s Budding Brand Empire
With several successful brand launches already under its belt, Founder Six closed a $12 million from investment firm KD Capital in fall of 2023. According to Goulden, the funds will support some of their current portfolio of brands while enabling further expansion.
He explains that each brand functions as its own entity, so the investments remain separate. For fast-growing brands like Ravie Beauty, the capital will help scale operations to meet demand.
Remarkably, Goulden notes that the combination of lean startup principles and built-in influencer distribution channels means their brands can turn profitable incredibly quickly.
“Ravie, for example, was profitable from day one of launch,” he says, whereas major brands might invest millions just to get off the ground.
Still, new funding will be crucial to ambitions of extending into retail and other growth goals. Meanwhile, FounderSix plans to be highly selective in launching 3-4 additional brands over the next 18 months.
As for the future, Goulden believes live streaming commerce pioneered by Douyin (TikTok) in China points to an inevitable shift in Western markets. He envisions a massively scaled version of TV shopping, powered by the intimate trust between fans and their favorite internet personalities.
“I think linking live shopping to influencers is a smart space to get into,” advises Goulden for aspiring creators. While the path is still unclear, he predicts creators adept at experimenting with emerging formats like TikTok Shop or YouTube Shopping may find success.
Ultimately, Goulden stresses that the influencer economy remains wide open. “There are plenty of creators that have become millionaires and are doing really well, while others struggle to land any form of income from their efforts” he notes.
By providing both financing and expertise to translate popularity into products, FounderSix aims to smooth the path for more influencers to capture that entrepreneurial opportunity.
With their portfolio continuing to expand, 2024 promises to be a breakout year. And to influencers dreaming of launching their own brands, Goulden stresses: “If there’s anyone reading this article that has got an idea, or has got a dream, or feels like they fit into what we’re looking for as a co-founder, then we’re very open to hearing from them.”