If you’ve ever had a sip of Chamberlain Coffee or worked out in Fabletics, you know that celebrity-founded brands have a magnetic power. And when the product satisfies you, nothing stops you from buying it again and again.
With his rich background in the world of celebrities and influencers, Scott van den Berg recognized the potential of celebrity-founded companies early on. In fact, he believes the successful brands of the future belong to celebrities and online creators.
In this interview, you’ll learn why – and how you can invest in these brands as soon as today through CELEB, van den Berg’s newly-launched angel syndicate.
The entrepreneur also talks about what it takes to be successful in business and the simple habits that help him regain energy after an 80-hour work week.
Scott, you run a successful business – Influencer Capital – and have just started another one, CELEB. What does it take to have this kind of momentum?
Entrepreneurs always have to ask themselves why they are the right person to start a specific business. Do they have a certain expertise? Do they have an unfair advantage? Do they know something that other people in the industry don’t know?
I believe that I’m the right person to operate both Influencer Capital as well as CELEB today. But that hasn’t always been the case – and that is where momentum comes in.
Investment propositions in celebrity-founded brands are very competitive. Everyone wants in, but not many people get the opportunity to invest. If I had launched CELEB two years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into deals. Why? Because I was not the right person to launch CELEB. I didn’t have a network, expertise, or a unique advantage. But today, things are different.
For the last two years, I have been working with celebrities, creators, and their managers through Influencer Capital. I have proven to them that I can create value. That’s why they trust me today.
In addition, I have spent thousands of hours studying celebrity-founded brands to understand what works and what doesn’t. And now I can leverage that expertise and credibility to get into deals.
Building a business can be so taxing. How do you maintain a high quality of work while also guarding your health? Is there anything in your life you don’t compromise on?
I’d be lying if I said that I have everything under control because I’m still figuring out what best works for me. I work about 80 hours a week and have been doing so for a couple of years now.
Previously I’d sacrifice working out, seeing my friends and family, and doing fun things to be able to squeeze in more work. But I had to find out the hard way that this is not healthy or sustainable. It’s really important to prioritize your health because your company is only as good as you are.
That’s why, for the last couple of months, I’ve implemented structures that help me focus on my health and sanity. I work out about four times a week, schedule blocks in my agenda for fun activities, and make sure to meet my friends once every two weeks.
What has also helped me is to say “no” at work more often.
Plus, I stop working at 10 p.m. and take an hour for myself before going to bed. It helps me sleep better.
These are the things I don’t compromise on today. What works for me probably doesn’t work for someone else. I guess everyone has to experiment and fail along the way to find out what works best.
Many people are embarrassed to say that celebrity fascinates them. But it drives the culture, and we’ve always been drawn to famous people. How did you get tangled up in the world of celebrity business?
Well, it’s quite funny because my background has nothing to do with the celebrity business world or the creator economy. I am an entrepreneur and am always looking for the next big thing.
I saw the rise of celebrity-backed and celebrity-founded brands and started to learn more about them.
That’s when I began to believe that the next iconic brands were going to be built and backed by celebrities, and wanted to get involved.
So I started to educate myself, talked to people in the space, and brainstormed about how I could create value. And within a couple of weeks, I landed on Influencer Capital. Ever since, I’ve been learning continuously about the industry and expanding my knowledge and network. Now, that effort is starting to pay off.
Most celebrities have satellite figures around them – like agents, publicists, managers, and lawyers. How do you navigate these gatekeepers to build business relationships?
The mistake that most people make when trying to work with celebrities is that they try to bypass these gatekeepers. It’s actually really important to involve them in the process. These gatekeepers are the people that influence the celebrity. If they’re on board, they can convince the celebrity to also get on board.
Celebrities rarely make decisions without involving their agents and managers, so by trying to bypass them, you make them feel overlooked and underappreciated.
That’s why for the last two years, I’ve been building relationships with these gatekeepers. They’ve seen what type of value I can create and therefore trust me. I can now leverage those relationships for new opportunities.
What has also helped me is that I have a business model in which the incentives are aligned. It’s a model in which I don’t profit if they don’t profit first. So they know that if I reach out, then it’s an opportunity I truly believe in myself. I wouldn’t gain anything from it if I didn’t succeed. This has created trust.
What was the eureka moment that sparked CELEB? Also, can anyone invest on the platform?
My eureka moment was when I realized I had an unfair advantage. I’m in contact with creators and celebrities daily via Influencer Capital. They often reach out to me to ask me if I could also invest in their companies and help them connect to other investors. That was when I realized I had an advantage and should use it.
I am the first person who has the opportunity to invest. That’s why I launched CELEB, which is basically an investment fund that invests in celebrity-founded brands.
What is unique about us is that we allow other accredited investors to participate with us.
As you mentioned before, many people are fascinated by celebrities. By allowing other individuals to co-invest with us, they can get closer to their favorite celebrities and potentially benefit financially as well. And it allows CELEB to make larger investments in celebrity-founded brands we strongly believe in. So a win-win.
Why would a celebrity allow angel investors to get involved in their companies and share the profits? Don’t they already have large amounts of capital to invest? And wouldn’t they rather have full control of their businesses?
First, when it comes to funding a business, we’re talking about millions. Yes, they could finance it themselves, but why should they? It would be an additional risk they would take on when they can just give away an equity stake and still benefit greatly from an exit. And more capital allows these brands to scale faster.
But you’re right. Some celebrities just finance their own companies because they want to have full control. We definitely won’t be able to participate in all celebrity-founded brands.
To further answer your question, celebrities are often a partner rather than an owner. Some of them own a certain percentage of the company. They’re in charge of the marketing but not financing.
Beyond capital, celebrity-founded brands get expertise, experience, and network on board when they allow other investors to participate. Many of these investors have been involved with similar brands that are now worth billions of dollars. Those investors can share their expertise with the celebrity-founded brand and help them achieve the same.
In our case, some angels are influential people themselves – they’re creators and celebrities. We understand the creator economy best because we come from this space.
How do you know that a celebrity-founded startup is a good investment opportunity? Are there any good indications or is it more of a guess? A hunch?
Similar to investing in traditional startups, investing in celebrity-founded brands is also risky. There is still a high chance a celebrity-founded brand does not work out, even though the celebrity has millions of followers. So to some extent, there’s always an amount of risk involved.
However, we like to take calculated risks. That’s why we look at several criteria before we decide to invest in a specific celebrity-founded brand.
Here are the four most important criteria.
Does the celebrity have a large enough stake in the business to care?
Celebrities get multi-million dollar opportunities every single day. They probably won’t feel incentivized to really get behind a brand with all their star power if they only have a couple of percentage points of equity. If they have a large enough stake, they’re willing to go the extra mile and make it an even bigger success.
Does the brand fit with the personality and audience of the celebrity?
A great example of this is Divi Hair, founded by Dani Austin. She was experiencing hair loss due to stress and couldn’t find a helpful product. That’s why she created it herself and is now helping tens of thousands of women experiencing hair loss as well. Also, financially it has been a big success – the brand did about $95M in revenue in its first two years in business.
A bad example of this is Delola, a ready-to-drink cocktail line founded by Jennifer Lopez. Why is this a bad example? Well, because JLo has often stated that she doesn’t drink alcohol and her husband Ben Affleck is in recovery from alcohol addiction. It shows that simply letting a celebrity back a product isn’t the blueprint for success. The product needs to fit the celebrity’s lifestyle. Otherwise, it doesn’t feel authentic at all.
Could the brand exist as an independent brand and still be successful?
That includes a product that is on par or exceeding the quality of competitors’ products as well as other marketing strategies that do not include the celebrity. The brand should operate as a sustainable, independent brand that is supported by a celebrity, but not dependent on it.
Who is behind the company?
Having a celebrity onboard is not enough. You need experienced operators to run the company to make it a success. That’s why we always check who else is involved, what their expertise is, and why they are the right person to make the specific celebrity-founded brand a success.
Where do you see CELEB in five years? What is your dream vision for the business?
In five years, we will have just raised our second fund of $100M to invest in more celebrity-founded brands. I’m a big believer that many traditional brands will get destroyed in 30 years. They’ll get destroyed by the creators and celebrities that have built an audience through content creation and are now creating businesses on top of that.
Due to their direct relationship with millions of fans, celebrities can drive near-instant traction to their businesses via social media. It’s something traditional brands have to pay millions of dollars for. It has resulted in companies like PRIME, Feastables, Fenty, SKIMS, Chamberlain Coffee, Teremana Tequila, and many more reaching growth traditional consumer brands have never seen.
These won’t be the last successful celebrity-founded brands. After seeing the successes of their peers, many celebrities and creators are now thinking about starting their own companies as well. We can capitalize on that opportunity because we have the expertise in-house, as well as access to these opportunities.
My dream vision? Creating value. I know it is vague, but I want to be at the forefront of companies that are going to disrupt the industry.
Right now, you see many celebrities launching very similar products such as liquor, make-up, coffee, or drinks. Although they’re very successful, I believe that is also going to change. The next generation of celebrity-founded brands will consist of truly innovative companies offering a product/service that is good for both human and planetary health. And my dream vision for CELEB is that we can contribute to those successes by providing financial resources.
Entrepreneurs are notoriously prone to burnout. What are your top three most reliable ways to decompress and re-energize? What always works for you?
The number one thing that works for me is doing something fun with my friends and family. It always helps me to get out of my bubble and be reminded of just how important these relationships are. I always feel much better after spending time with them.
Secondly, working out helps me decompress and re-energize. It’s just one or two hours in which I don’t have to think about work and can focus on something else.
And lastly, watching sports. I LOVE watching sports. Often on Sunday, I first watch my club Ajax play (soccer). Meanwhile, I’ll have a second screen open to watch an English soccer match. Then I can tune into Formula 1, cheering on the Dutch superstar Max Verstappen, and I’ll end the day watching the NFL Redzone. Don’t ask me why, but those days really help me to decompress.
About Scott van den Berg
CELEB founder Scott van den Berg has been an entrepreneur for eight years. He is a creator economy and celebrity business expert and thought leader, with posts that garner millions of views on LinkedIn.
As the founder of Influencer Capital, he structures equity deals between startups and celebrities/creators. Influencer Capital allows startups to partner with the web’s most recognizable faces to generate visibility without spending cash. Celebrities/creators earn equity in the companies they help grow and participate in the upside typically reserved for founders, investors, and employees.
Prior to Influencer Capital, van den Berg led an investment banking firm specializing in aiding European startups in securing vital capital. Throughout his career, he facilitated the raising of more than $25 million in funding.
Connect with Scott and learn about CELEB Syndicate investment opportunities by visiting https://www.celebsyndicate.com/.