Paltrow refuses to be pushed around by venture capitalists

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow at a special screening of The Goop Lab in Los Angeles.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow at a special screening of The Goop Lab in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Even if you are Gwyneth Paltrow, venture capitalists (VCs) do not necessarily cut you a break.

But it is a good problem to have for the Oscar-winning actress turned chief executive of lifestyle brand Goop.

Instead of selling the company she founded in 2009, Paltrow, 47, is tightening her grip and pushing further into retail.

Two years after hitting a US$250 million (S$347 million) valuation, Paltrow says Goop has all the ingredients to expand its offerings, which could start with food products.

The online brand already uses pop-up stores to support a handful of brick-and-mortar locations in California, New York and London, and marketing is the least of her worries.

There is no shortage of scrutiny around the brand behind vagina-scented candles.

A six-episode Netflix series has both raised its profile and fuelled criticism.

In an interview with Bloomberg at the opening of a cyber-security centre in New York, Paltrow spoke about why she does not want more venture money, what is next for Goop and how to save retail from the "apocalypse".

Are you pushing for more funding this year?

We are at the point where we do not need other people's money. Hopefully, we will stay that way.

We are focused on profitability right now and watching some interesting corrections in the market. We just want to focus on getting the business in a really sustainable and healthy place. Luckily, everything is going in the right direction.

Does that mean you are not preparing for a sale?

I always say I am open to any outcome, but I am focused on getting it to scale.

We have so much addressable market and more people to reach. We are a few years away from that, though my VCs would probably like some kind of exit quicker.

Part of the value of Goop is that we have built it slowly and with a lot of care, so I do think they understand we are on a longer trajectory than other brands.

Would you open more physical stores?

We are open to one more retail location this year.

Obviously, we are reading about the retail apocalypse all the time and that has not been our experience.

A lot of digitally native brands are experiencing positive outcomes in retail because people are making those connections online and they want the experience of touching the brand. But in certain instances, you have to keep them few and far between.

How would you save struggling retailers?

If you look at stores like Nordstrom, for example, who have that pop-in model and are driving foot traffic in different activations - that is really going to be the saviour - by bringing experiential elements into retail and getting that throughput by giving people a reason to go somewhere (to do something) they cannot do online.

Sephora is just starting an integration with OrangeTwist, so if you want to have a quick facial or laser, that is an integration. So you would go and there would be all kinds of cross-selling.

But things like that are going to be really necessary in the future because e-commerce has become so easy.

What categories will Goop pursue next?

We are doing a lot of research in the food space. I am very excited about that because food is one of my main passions in life and it would be amazing to bring good clean food to people at a great price.

How will Goop build on the Netflix series?

We have been thrilled with how much attention the Netflix show has gotten.

We are always trying to find new channels to bring our content - we are pushing what a lot of people think are boundary-pushing ideas into the cultural conversation.

They are really not that radical, especially the Netflix subjects, but I love that we are creating those conversations. We really like being that kind of provocateur because we are doing it for good.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'Paltrow refuses to be pushed around by venture capitalists'. Subscribe