Every day each of us hopes for inspiration. That is, we hope to come up with some new creative method, product or idea that inspires change. In other words, we hope to innovate. I'm always looking for innovation--innovative products, disruptive business models, and more efficient ways of doing things. At CircleUp, an online private equity marketplace, I aim to find and fund these trailblazing companies. Part of that search entails talking with bright entrepreneurs and investors across the country, many innovators themselves.
Having spoken to many of these great minds, two industries stand out as ripe for disruption: consumer products and financial services. The similarities are striking between these two large pieces of the economy. As big and important as they are to our daily lives, however, innovation lags. This, in my mind, means one thing: Disruption is past due.
Consumer goods, excluding retail, in the US is nearly a $1-trillion market, or about 6% of GDP. At $1.3 trillion, Finance and Insurance, meanwhile, is slightly larger, claiming about 8% of GDP.
Both industries are ruled by household-brand behemoths. Consider banking, where regulators hold players to no more than a 10% market share: a third of all deposits are held by just three banks- Bank of America, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo. The 10 largest banks hold half of all deposits.
Similarly, the consumer packaged goods market is dominated by a few giants, such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever and L'Oreal. Size and market dominance seems to breed inefficiency and a lack of innovation. In the consumer goods industry, only one out of every two product ideas actually moves from development to launch, and only two-thirds of those generate the projected revenues, according to a study in 2008 by AMR Research entitled Innovation in Consumer Products: New products from concept to launch.
This low rate of innovation makes these industries primed for disruption. Time and time again, we've seen big dominant incumbent overtaken by scrappy startups. It's why Amazon has gained a ~30% market share in book sales while Borders is gone; why Netflix is thriving and Blockbuster is history; and why LendingClub is facilitating more than $1 billion in consumer and business loans each quarter while big banks struggle to hit loan growth projections.
You would think a pair of trillion-dollar market opportunities would attract angel investors and venture capitalists. But what I see is that despite the inefficiencies and lack of innovation in both of these industries, venture capital is not rushing in. Venture capital continues to pour into software and Internet businesses. Venture capitalists invested $48.3 billion in 2014, according to the MoneyTree Report. Three industries received about 75% of all VC funding last year. The Software industry received $19.8 billion in VC funding, about 40% of the pie; Internet-specific companies captured $11.9 billion, about 25% of the total; biotech investing totaled $6 billion; and media and entertainment received $5.7 billion.
Meanwhile, Consumer products captured only $2.2 billion, less than 5% of 2014 venture capital. And Financial Services, only 2% at $1.1 billion. In fact, of the more than 4,300 deals in 2014, only 202 were in consumer products and services, and a miniscule 62 deals were done in financial services.
Corporate venture groups to the rescue?
A lot of attention has been given lately to corporate venture capital, including the venture arms of large financial services companies, but the data suggests that corporate players also have little appetite for consumer or financial services deals. Software received the highest level of funding of all industries in 2014 with corporate venture groups deploying $2.5 billion in 339 software company deals. While corporate venture groups deployed more capital in 2014 than in any other year, just 2% went to consumer products and services while less than 1% went to financial services.
What does this all mean? These industries are in the early stages of disruption, in which smaller, more creative businesses, such as LendingClub in finance or Google's Nest in consumer, are chipping away at market share. We are seeing the beginning of a shakeup in both these industries. New consumer products companies are moving in rapidly to meet changing consumer preferences--for healthier foods or more convenient packaging or direct delivery of products like razors and coffee. In the past five years, large brands lost market share to small brands in more than 75% of the most important food categories, according to investment banking firm Jefferies' research report "Food: The Curse of the Large Brand."
Large consumer companies are also having their marketshare chipped away by mid-size and small upstarts. Boston Consulting Group estimates that between 2009 and 2013, large CPG companies lost 2.3% in market share--amounting to $14 billion in sales.
As CEO of an online marketplace that's connecting investors with private companies in the consumer and retail space, I have the privilege of witnessing the emergence and rapid growth of a new breed of consumer products companies. All in real time. Examples are endless. Look around and you'll find companies that offer portable solar power, wirefree earbuds, lighting innovations, "think drinks" developed by Neuroscientists, and countless others--all businesses that have taken past products and ideas and improved upon them.
Of course, all early stage private investments are high risk, illiquid and only suitable for some investors. Investors should investigate each opportunity carefully. However, today, I believe there is a great opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs, and investors, to come together to drive a new future for both consumer products and financial services.