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Contxto – Mexico’s DILA Capital has been on a roll of late. Halfway through last December it took off the mask and revealed itself to be the unnamed investor in a US$10 million round for the US-based identity recognition startup, Incode. Back then the story was Mexican money going to a US venture.
Now, the glove is on the other hand and money is coming back home, with the recent announcement that the fund led an investment round for Mexican startup, Someone Somewhere.
- Related article: Surprise! Mexico’s DILA Capital revealed as lead in Incode’s, an identity recognition startup, US$10 million investment round
This is the company’s second round after reviewing US$2 million a while back from Promotora, GBM, Unreasonable Capital, and Inadem. Though we don’t know exactly how much went into the company, we can assume the sum will be larger this time around.
The who, what, when, and where of handmade embroidery
Don’t be fooled by the English-language name. This sustainable and ethical fashion startup is just up the road from DILA in its native Mexico City. The name is rather an answer to the company’s raison d’être. This startup marks each piece of clothing with the answer to both ambiguous statements:
Someone — The name of one of the 200-ish Mexican rural artisans that supply the company.
Somewhere — The specific township or village from which the item came from, chiefly form the Mexican states of Puebla, Chiapas, Estado de México, Oaxaca, and Hidalgo.
That is the idea behind this company: fair-trade commerce for usually indigenous Mexican’s beautiful wears. And, well, DILA, along with investors from PSM, GBM Ventures, Soldiers Field Angels, Unreasonable Capital, and Kalei Ventures, all seem to buy it and now want more.
The purpose of the undisclosed sum is to provide Someone Somewhere with enough oomph to venture into the United States market.
Up until now, the startup had focused on its Mexican operations. It currently does its business through an e-commerce platform, as well as four Mexico City-based boutique shops of the old-school, brick and mortar type, and a presence in select department stores across the rest of the country.
However, in 2018, it did set up a pop-up shop at Los Angeles to test the American waters.
From food-to-mouth to money where your mouth is
The ethical facet of Someone Somewhere was something that attracted DILA Capital’s Director, Alejandro Diez Barroso. In a press release he said:
“The company’s focus on social impact, combined with the excellent quality of its products and designs will be a great success.”
I won’t lie. I was initially slightly triggered when I read “its products” without much reference to the actual source of the embroidery. I was taken back to stores where big fashion brands go into the rural heartlands of developing countries, befriend local craftswomen, pay them a pittance, and go off to make millions from their designs.
The Mexican government even got into a whole kerfuffle with fashion giant Carolina Herrera about this.
However, Someone Somewhere does seem to be different. However, I’m not taking their word for it (their site is full of the usual feel-good platitudes about “good living”), but rather trusting the fact that the company is a Certified B Corporation, attesting to its commitment to fair-trade and the environment.
Let’s not fool ourselves about the meaning of this recent investment success. Venture capitalists are out to make some hard cash. However, as a new decade arises, the trend towards linking profitability to sustainability and ethical causes has only intensified.
It seems like we are having our cake and eating it too. If ethical is trendy, and trendy sells, let’s go for it. Let’s just always keep an eye out for the inevitable wave of “ethics as marketing.”
Founders and investors: don’t just pay lip service to these causes, put your money where your mouth is and truly stick to them. We’ll be watching.