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Former Kind execs launch incubation and investment firm Camino Partners


Kind has had a unique business journey.

Daniel Lubetzky started Kind in 2004. Its whole ingredient, clean label bars in clear wrappers became ubiquitous on convenience store and grocery shelves. The company aligned itself with its philanthropic-sounding name, spearheading projects and foundations to work with people in need and promote education, peace and understanding. Kind has always strived to stay close to its values in all things, remaining true to the core principles of the food as a health and wellness solution, and as a corporate citizen that strives to do good.

This strategy paid off, ending with a $5 billion acquisition by Mars, Incorporated in 2020. Although it’s now a part of Big Food, Kind is still known as a brand with strong values and principles.

While the company’s trajectory from an idea to a successful international brand that stands for health, wellness and kindness is unconventional, Lubetzky and many of Kind’s former executives want to help young brands find their own similar path. They’re using Camino Partners, named after the Spanish word for journey, as a business building and investment platform to do that.

Elle Lanning, a managing partner at Camino and former Kind executive, said that at its core, Camino Partners is an incubation and investment platform. It takes Kind’s experience in building and scaling, and helps other values-aligned businesses that are early in their journey.

Headshot of Elle Lanning

Elle Lanning

Permission granted by Camino Partners

 

“For us, that means value in what’s delivered to the consumer,” she said. “We want to back products and services that we think deliver an actual benefit. And then value creation at the organization or individual level in terms of the values we imbue; the how. …How do you use an organization such that you’re putting a stronger set of values out into the world?

“And then ultimately, value creation in the economic sense,” she continued. “We are operators turned investors, but we are still investors. Ensuring that our capital is backing things that we believe in, with people that share beliefs, [and] that then turns it into more capital, that’s like the holy grail.”

A deep portfolio of values-aligned brands

Camino Partners is a new name and a newer mission for Equilibra Partners Management, the venture capital firm run by Lubetzky and other Kind alumni.

Lanning said that Camino Partners will focus on incubating and hands-on work with newer companies. Camino Partners will also team up with like-minded entrepreneurs, helping them start and build new ventures.

Camino Partners’ portfolio includes several companies in food and beverage, as well as other spaces. As Equilibra, it invested in Greek yogurt brand Ellenos, breakfast and baked snack maker Belgian Boys, organic seaweed brand gimMe Snacks, and insect protein maker Chapul. Egg white chip brand Quevos is part of the portfolio, winning an investment from Lubetzky on “Shark Tank,” as is Lubetzky’s own newest launch, plant-based Mexican food brand Somos, which he started with former Kind colleagues Miguel Leal and Rodrigo Zuloaga.

Lanning said the team at Equilibra had spent about a year looking at how they could best target their efforts.

Somos co-founders stand together in white branded t-shirts, holding several packages of their brand's products

Somos co-founders and former Kind executives (from left) Rodrigo Zuloaga, Daniel Lubetzky and Miguel Leal.

Permission granted by Camino Partners

 

“We’re now prepared to commit the capital to, commit the time to, build the capabilities and [get a] deeper bench of team and partner companies,” Lanning said.

Much like Equilibra before it, Camino Partners is looking at the core leadership of companies to work with, as well as their values, Lanning said. After all, she said, the one thing guaranteed for any sort of business is that things are not going to go as planned.

“The most important thing is that we are values-aligned because, I think, value-aligned people can get through anything together,” Lanning said.

They are looking for consumer businesses — though not just those in the food and beverage space, Lanning said. It’s important that these businesses are born out of passions from the founding team, and are different from other offerings in their space, she said. They’re also looking for authenticity from both the company and its products, as well as a category and culture-shifting edge that can give the brand a boost in marketing and positioning.

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