The CQ: The Next Wave of Game-Changing Companies Will be Life-Changing Companies
Our $250M commitment to supporting the traditional needs of non-traditional consumers
The CQ is Forerunner’s weekly newsletter covering the most pressing consumer trends. Subscribe now to get the latest edition in your inbox every Saturday.
By Kirsten Green, Founder and Managing Director
Hi everyone, Kirsten here. Today I’m sharing something that we’ve been formulating for months — our 2023 investment thesis that will inspire our focus this year and in the years to come, amid a time of mounting complexities for consumers, the tech industry, and society at-large.
You might have read a recent Wall Street Journal article about The Decline of the Nice-to-Have Economy, which points to the increasingly fraught business dynamics of companies providing seemingly superfluous offerings (read: businesses up-charging consumers for convenience vs. value, and that were propped up by the free-money market where venture subsidies were abundant). It’s something I read closely, nodding, murmuring “yep.” But in my opinion, it’s missing the point that these growth challenges and market failures are lagging indicators — they are symptoms of consumer shifts that have been underway for a few years, which are now boiling over into business financials, product demands, and new tailwinds.
At Forerunner, we’ve been tracking these ongoing shifts that have led to the rise of the new kind of consumer we’re seeing today — the pragmatic consumer. It’s a response to the mounting fatigue with the traditional elements of hyper consumerism, and the emptiness, guilt, and even disgust with the social media fueled exuberance and envy-driven commerce that have defined the past 5+ years — and that ultimately delivered menial long-term value to us in the end.
In its place, consumers today are turning new, refreshed energy to the traditionally old-fashioned, pure parts of life, which are increasingly seen as the modern — and even exotic — consumer aspirations in today’s world (think: a painstaking focus on a good night's sleep, walking 10k+ steps, and countless other facets of our health and wellness, a rise in DIY activities and hobbies of all kinds, greater attention personal and financial stability, stronger local communities, and true contentment across foundational life tenants). It’s the ultimate what’s-old-is-new-again, born out of times that are non-linear and taxing for consumers and prompting a deep craving to reorient to the basics. Because in periods marked by so much change and complexity, traditional life fundamentals become increasingly fragile and uniquely coveted — they become luxuries in and of themselves.
This week, we at Forerunner announced our $250 million commitment to addressing the traditional needs of non-traditional consumers, helping reimagine and rebuild the life foundations for today’s world. We think it’s the most obvious, profound billions–dollar opportunity hiding in plain sight. In 2023 (and beyond), we’re committed to exploring all the new, unique, and enduring ways that we can address the core foundational life needs of an increasingly diverse, dynamic society — and we welcome all builders, entrepreneurs and thinkers dedicated to this to reach out to us.
Let us know what you think of our perspective by responding to this note.
What the team is talking about on Slack
While other tech companies are experiencing headwinds and workforce reductions, start-ups focused on climate change appear to be a bright spot — attracting laid-off talent looking for purposeful work and surfacing as more “recession resistant” overall.
More and more people are getting enticed by the prospect of passive income in search of ways to catch up financially, build retirement savings, and think (and earn) outside the traditional 9-5. But many are finding out the hard way that “passive” isn’t exactly the best word to describe it.
Chasing the never-ending TikTok trend cycle has culminated into “de-influencing.” Driven by a weariness of overconsumption and a craving for trustworthiness in a world where influencers’ opinions are so often bought for spon con, several beauty content creators are telling people what not to buy.
Dupes are having a moment. Knock-offs used to be tacky, but these days they are driving TikTok searches (#dupe has 2.4 billion views). Gen Z’ers in particular are considering getting the look for less as a smart way to “game the system,” especially in a tough economy (classic).
Amid rampant layoffs, full-time employment is losing its luster. A recent Fast Company poll discovered that nearly 75% of knowledge workers said freelance work is more appealing, with over 60% feeling less eager to commit to a single employer.
A Pew survey reveals that two-thirds of parents say that parenting is harder than they predicted. And research shows that raising kids is much more demanding than it was decades prior, with modern parents expected to be more hands-on and emotionally involved — not to mention, the increased pressures on the outside-the-home responsibilities. Today’s working mothers, for instance, spend the same amount of time with their kids as stay-at-home moms did in the 1970s. “ Pressure to invest more in children may be one driver of the declining fertility rate.”
And there’s more: The lack of adequate childcare is estimated to cost the U.S. $122 billion annually in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue, according to new research. (That’s double what was estimated back in 2018.) From another perspective: There’s about 12.3 million children in the U.S. who have working parents, but there’s only 8.7 million licensed childcare slots available.
It’s not about lack of willpower. The newest weight loss drugs are revealing just how much the brain and genes play into obesity.
Even high-income earners are feeling the crunch. Over 50% of Americans making over $100k live paycheck to paycheck.
Some therapists are turning their clients’ private lives into meme-able content—videos range from encouraging people to self-diagnose their own conditions to dramatized skits of patient interactions and (yikes) lip-synced TikTok dances. And people are eating it up with #therapist gaining 2.9 billion views on TikTok. There’s a real curiosity around pop psychology among, maybe because therapy can be cost-prohibitive for many.
Richard Cheong, CFO of Attabotics, spoke to PYMNTS about scaling the company in a challenging economy.
Alchemy 43 is included in WWD’s story on the trend of beauty service bars.
PYMNTS covers Balance’s partnership with ecommerce platform BigCommerce, which will provide merchants with access to digital and self-serve B2B payments.
Yasi Baiani, SVP of Product Strategy and Innovation at Cleo, talked to Forbes about the importance of supporting caregivers and parents in order to retain talent.
Jonathan Morav, head of Product and Strategy at Fabric, writes about the next phase of retail in Retail TouchPoints.
The Cut includes Nécessaire’s body lotion in her list of “beauty products my boyfriend won’t stop stealing from me.”
Jenna Lyons, one of the most sought-after designers on The Expert, shares her design do’s and don’ts with Domino.
Work at a Portfolio Company
Product Marketing Lead, Catch | Catch is on a mission to unlock more rewarding relationships between merchants and their customers, starting with changing the way we pay for things online. As the first Product Marketing Lead, this role will own and execute Catch’s go-to-market strategies, and build Catch’s product marketing function from the ground up.
Senior Product Manager, Sunday | Sunday’s mission to empower consumers to take better care of their land. This role will be responsible for understanding the customer experience from first touch through annual renewal and guiding your team to deliver products that increase conversion and drive meaningful business growth.
Accounting & Finance Project Manager, Curated | Curated humanizes online shopping by connecting customers with passionate experts who can answer their needs faster. This role you will plan and manage the workflow of the accounting and accounts payable assistants.
There are ~566 other openings on our jobs site. Check ‘em out.