Exclusive: Glamsquad Founder Alexandra Wilkis Wilson Joins Investor Lisa Myers To Debut Clerisy, A $100 Million Growth Equity Fund
Mar 10, 2021
D uring a 2019 conversation at an Upper East Side cafe, entrepreneur Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and investor Lisa Myers had an idea: what if they merged their complementary skill sets to create an investment firm? Wilson had founded Gilt Groupe in 2007—which sold for $250 million to Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson Bay in 2o16—and started on-demand beauty service Glamsquad in 2013, but at the time, was leading digital ventures at pharmaceutical company Allergan and thinking about her next career step. Myers, who’d spent 19 years at Franklin Templeton and was then a partner on L Catterton’s flagship buyout fund, was in a similar position, having noticed her firm writing bigger and bigger checks but wondering if there was an opportunity to have more hands-on partnerships with the companies she was funding. On Wednesday, the fruits of this conversation are making their public debut: Wilson and Myers are unveiling Clerisy, a $100 million growth equity fund that will focus on taking stakes in tech and consumer-focused companies. With the public revealing of the fund the duo is also announcing its inaugural investment in Dormify, the dorm room e-commerce platform founded by Forbes Under 30 alumna Amanda Zuckerman . (Specific terms of the deal were not disclosed.) “We've both spent our entire careers trying to identify long term secular and structural trends in consumer,” Myers said during a video interview with Forbes. “For me, it was identifying those trends and investing in them globally. For Alexandra, it was always about building businesses.”
“I think one thing that has proven itself helpful is that because I've really been there and done that as a founder and an operator, I think that so many of the founders that we speak with are comfortable being vulnerable with with both me as well as with Lisa,” added Wilson, noting that she’s aware of founder tendencies to sugarcoat updates if the business is not operating according to plan. “We’ve already seen that we’re the first phone call when there’s good news and we’re the first phone call when there’s bad news, and that’s the type of investor we want to be.”
The pair stresses that while they are two women founding and co-managing an investment fund, this is not venture capital, as some parts of their circles have incorrectly assumed. It’s private equity. Clerisy will not invest at pre-seed or seed stages, either; it’s focused on growth equity. Myers and Wilson also note that while it’s a $100 million fund, $70 million has closed (which means $30 million is still open to buy). When they do make investments, Clerisy will lead rounds and will always take one board seat and one observer seat, Wilson says. They don’t want to take up two seats on a company’s board, but the observer’s seat is important because it will allow both partners to participate in their investments, which feeds into the original thesis behind Clerisy. “The definition of ‘clerisy’ is a group of learned, collaborative people,” Myers explains. “I really wanted to encapsulate the idea that more is really more when it comes to people and ideas.” (Though it’s a relatively esoteric word, Clerisy.com was not as readily available as Wilson and Myers would have expected. Someone had owned the domain for 22 years and wanted “an obscene” amount of money to give it up. Members of Myers’ inner circle advised paying what they wanted, but she held firm. “I’m a value investor,” she laughs. “You gotta fight a little harder!”)
While Clerisy’s inaugural investment in Dormify does happen to involve a female-founded firm investing in a female-founded business, the fund does not have a gender lens. Instead, Dormify a company that embraces the trends that Wilson and Myers hope to capitalize on through Clerisy: it’s tech-enabled, consumer-focused and sitting within a growing category. After all, everyone may be sitting at home and making upgrades to their homes now, but even when the pandemic dissipates, the college dorm market gets a new cohort of students every year. “We really want Clerisy to be forward-thinking in terms of creating a platform where people could bring together their continuous learning about areas of consumer,” Myers says. With their first investment now closed, Myers and Wilson are moving full speed ahead, both working with Dormify and looking for the target of their next check. “We're both rolling up our sleeves and having so much fun because our brains work differently, and our networks are different,” Wilson says. “So how we're adding value—and how we already have been adding value now for several months to this company—is coming together.”
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