Read the 12-page pitch deck that creator merch startup Warren James used to raise $6 million...
Read the 12-page pitch deck that creator merch startup Warren James used to raise $6 million, as it eyes food and beverage.
Geoff Weiss Sep 1, 2022, 7:00 AM
Warren James cofounders Ben Wiedner and Kevin Ramsey. Warren James
Warren James makes merch for creators including Hasan Piker, Safiya Nygaard, and DeeStroying.
The company has raised $6 million, following a $125,000 seed round four years ago.
A new division will cofound companies with creators in the CPG space, including 'better-for-you' snack items.
Warren James, the merch partner to a choice roster of creators including Hasan Piker and Safiya Nygaard, has raised $6 million in Series A funding. It will use the funds to build a new unit at the company dedicated to CPG products – namely food and beverage brands, cofounder and CEO Kevin Ramsey told Insider.
The company will also hire to fuel its existing merch business, which includes apparel, plush toys, jewelry, and more. Warren James plans to add staff in the US as well as China, where it has offices with 30 employees on the ground.
The funding round, led by Crossbeam Venture Partners with participation from FJ Labs, follows a $125,000 seed round from an undisclosed angel investor at launch four years ago, Ramsey said.
In its pitch deck, Warren James sought to underscore its profitability since day one, as well as its evolving relationships with influencers.
Today, it mostly sets multi-year licensing deals with end dates (a standard format in the merch business), Ramsey said. But as it eyes new categories – including CPG and publishing – Warren James will take an equity stake in ensuing businesses.
Ramsey, who formerly oversaw merch for Roblox, declined to share specifics, but said new brands could roll out as soon as this year.
Ramsey said that in food, a category that has a kind of "built-in subscription" given that people tend to consume the same items regularly, Warren James is looking beyond well-trod categories like energy drinks and coffee in favor of snacks and dried food with an emphasis on "better-for-you" items. Products also need to have good shelf life and be easy to ship.
"We're investing significant capital … to really grow and create equity in those businesses so that five years from now maybe it does get acquired from a massive conglomerate," he said.
Warren James is selective about its roster – which also includes Deestroying, DrDisRespect, KREW, and MoistCritikal. Ramsey said this is because of its bespoke approach, which comprises in-house product development, marketing, production, fulfillment, and retail services. He said creator partners typically drive seven figures in annual sales.
The company also recently began offering partners minimum guarantees and advances, another undertaking that the investment will support.
And while it's looking to expand its roster, Warren James will continue its "hands-on, closed door" approach.
"The amount of creators that still don't have even one piece of merchandise is crazy – let alone that are dialing it in to the highest degree possible," Ramsey said. "We're pretty stoked."
Here's the 12-page pitch deck it uses to get investment:
Warren James says it's "incubating the strongest creator co-founded brands in the creator economy."
The leadership team: its CEO and COO
Cofounder and CEO Kevin Ramsey formerly worked at toy company Jazwares, and joined Roblox in 2018 to lead its licensing program. He currently oversees Warren James' product development, operations, and PR.
Cofounder Ben Weidner serves as COO, leading creative, business development, and brand management.
'Few providers offer anything more than print-on-demand tees and coffee mugs'
Warren James says that, unlike competitors, it offers a "polished end-to-end product." And given that influencers are the next generation of A-list celebrities, it has its sights set on incubating the next Casamigos, Skims, or Kylie Cosmetics, it says.
Warren James outlines its end-to-end merch services.
The company develops products specifically tailored to creator partners, handling product design, web development, digital marketing, and content creation.
In addition to merch, it is incubating CPG brands.
Warren James also operates a fulfillment center in China for speedy shipping, and says its relationships in the retail distribution space can facilitate the transition from D2c to brick and mortar.
Warren James says less than 10% of YouTubers are selling anything other than tees, hoodies, mugs, and stickers.
In terms of the greater opportunity across the creator space, Warren James notes that creator economy startups raised a collective $5 billion in 2021.
And competitors in the merch sector are raking in serious cash. In 2019, children's content and product purveyor Pocket.watch projected that Ryan's World sales would reach $150 million, while Logan Paul and KSI's Prime hydration brand sold 10 million bottles in less than six months.
College football player turned YouTuber Deestroying's 'The Eleven' merch brand sold out its first two releases in under 24 hours.
Other products and website functionalities are on the horizon.
Twitch star Hasan Piker's 'Ideologie' brand transacted seven figures in sales during its first 24 hours.
The sales enabled Piker, a left-wing Twitch streamer, to donate $180,000 to national strike funds.
Warren James shares its press coverage to date, including features in Business Insider and Toybook.
Warren James sees itself at the top of the creator merch pyramid, offering 'total customization' in a 'limitless number of product categories.'
At the bottom are plug-and-play providers creating low-quality, print-on-demand apparel, according to the company.
Above that are players offering slightly broader product categories, like apparel, mugs, and posters – though quality control is challenging given the print-on-demand model.
And the runners up, per Warren James, offer some cut and sew apparel with custom packaging, but still host stores on an aggregated page.
How Warren James plans to spend the money.
The company is launching a new department, and will invest in four to six new joint brands with creators.
It also plans to hire to fuel its existing merch business — including key leaders and core team members in its marketing, sales, and creative departments.