Carlton Fowler, the co-founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Goat Rodeo Capital, doesn’t like to take himself too seriously.
A photo of Fowler dressed in a Hugh Hefner-style smoking robe and holding a bottle of Miller High Life was my introduction to the marketer turned money manager. But don’t let the cozy comfort wear fool you: He doesn’t mess around when it comes to placing bets on up-and-coming beverage and cannabis ventures.
Fowler and business partner James Pelligrini worked together at E. & J. Gallo Winery before launching the first Goat Rodeo fund in mid-2019. Since, the pair has made more than a half-dozen investments into early-stage companies.
“Our hard and fast rule is that you won’t see us investing in brand only,” Fowler said of Goat Rodeo’s thesis. “There needs to be something in there. Ideally that’s a piece of true IP, either liquid or package, or a unique go-to-market model that bypasses one of the tiers.”
Goat Rodeo’s portfolio includes investments in emerging beverages such as DRNXMYTH, which makes cold-pressed RTD craft cocktails that are sold directly to consumers, and One Hope Wine, a Napa Valley winery that has a multilevel marketing twist to its business model.
Meanwhile, in the cannabis space, Goat Rodeo has backed Vertosa, a leading cannabis technology company that is helping pioneer an emerging category of THC and CBD-infused drinks.
I recently caught up with Fowler and Pelligrini to learn more about their investment strategy, and to understand what they look for in potential partners. We also discussed what’s on the horizon for Goat Rodeo in 2021.
Our conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Chris Furnari: How did you go from working at a wine and spirits company to investing in them?
Carlton Fowler: We were working in the spirits division for E. & J. Gallo and were largely responsible for building out their new brands. Over the course of like five years, we put out a bunch of successful products, and as we were going through that process, we realized we were building a team to maximize value for a large supplier. So we started thinking about what would happen if you had a blank sheet of paper. What kind of systems would you build and how would you go to market if there weren’t any legacy aspects of a major supplier. That drove us to start a consultancy and eventually raise a fund to start putting a lot of the things that we’d learned and dreamed up into practice.
Furnari: Where are you guys sourcing capital for your investments?
Fowler: There are a lot of high-net-worth individuals who are interested in this space. We provide diversification as well as industry insider insights. We understand how stuff should go to…