Unilever to Fund NPD Venture Capital Outfit

18 February 2002

Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant Unilever plans to take a substantial holding (although not necessarily a majority stake) in a new business that will marry new product development with venture capital enterprise.

The intention is to bring outside business and marketing knowhow to internal projects – in effect a product and brand development unit that will apply to new concepts the same rigorous scrutiny as would an external venture capital outfit.

The fledgling unit is currently seeking formal recognition by Britain's Financial Services Authority – a prerequisite for any business intending to trade as a venture capitalist. Meantime, several new Unilever projects are queuing to go under the new unit’s microscope.

The group’s recent track record with off-the-wall new projects has not been of world-beating status, witness two now defunct UK ventures: My Home, a domestic cleaning business aimed at exploiting its Cif and Domestos brands; and Lynx barber shops, intended to capitalize on the Lynx deodorant range.

The new venture won’t necessarily confine itself to projects that fall within Unilever’s core activities. An entertainment concept, for example, would not be rejected out of hand. Of the start-up’s ethos, senior vp corporate development Iain Ferguson says: “It’s brave.”

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff