From inception to massive growth: A look at our journey with Jewlr

Posted by Sophie Forest on Feb 17, 2022

We are happy to announce a significant milestone for one of our portfolio companies: Kensington Private Equity has invested in Jewlr, the leader in personalized online jewelry.

After more than 10 years of impressive growth, the time had come for Jewlr to move to another level and for Brightspark to sell a significant portion of its holding. We have been part of Jewlr’s story since its inception as a Seed investor and partner, and with this investment, we realized a 35X return on our investment. We are very proud of what the team at Jewlr has accomplished over the years and want to take some time to look back on our journey together.

Lab-grown: How it began

Jewlr’s journey began in the early 2010s, when Brightspark launched an Innovation lab. This lab was created to capitalize on Brightspark’s extensive network of top talent to invest and participate right from a company’s inception stage. Innovation labs are common these days but at the time, it was a unique model in Canada where Brightspark both funded and worked at the core of the company’s creation. It was also the start of our new model of investment where the capital was raised completely from private sources as we diversified from our traditional institutional-based capital.

Identifying market opportunities in e-commerce

In 2011, e-commerce was growing in market share, and we saw the potential in creating an e-commerce business that would use unique technology and guerilla-style marketing strategies. We looked for e-commerce opportunities with three main characteristics: high margins, easy logistics, and differentiation. We landed on personalized jewelry – we were still in the early days of at-scale 3D printing, and figured that experimenting with 3D printing to mass-produce personalized rings, bracelets and necklaces could create a key differentiator for the business.

As with most of our Innovation Lab companies, Jewlr started as a few employees working out of Brightspark’s offices. In its early days, the team was focused on experimentation, learning the ropes of jewelry manufacturing, and strategizing with online advertising. From the beginning, there was a laser focus on making sure that the business was profitable, and that growth could be fueled organically. This discipline, at the core of Jewlr from the start, became a key strength. They learned that with e-commerce, a constant focus on metrics and performance balanced with an agile approach to marketing is a recipe for success. Ten years later, Jewlr had over a million customers, 1.3 million products sold across two brands – all of this without raising capital beyond the Brightspark’s initial investment.

One pivotal moment for Jewlr was when the team optimized its design and manufacturing process by building a fully vertically-integrated business. Jewlr built an end-to-end software platform to manage its e-commerce solution, customer service, manufacturing and logistics. This allowed the company to offer on-demand personalization with an exceptional shopping experience including 3D interactive personalization technology. It positioned Jewlr as a leader in the market, something that the company has since capitalized on every year. This technology platform also created a moat that allowed the company to stay in front of the competition year after year.

From our perspective

I have been involved in Jewlr’s journey since the beginning as an investor, advisor, and Board member. I worked with the management team to navigate through every major milestone, from proving out the model to employing more than 300 people today. I felt like I was part of the Jewlr family, and stayed involved on multiple fronts from partnering to recruiting – the Brightspark team even helped out with production during the busy holiday season.

As VCs, we don’t get our “hands dirty” that often. Most of our businesses are all about software and code. Jewlr is a tech company at its core, but it also deals with the manufacturing aspect which is a completely different world. I learned a lot from my few days spent in the shipping and QA departments at Jewlr. It gave me a global view of an e-commerce company’s unique challenges and opportunities.

Jewlr was one of our first VC investments in a direct to consumer business, but the learnings from this investment carved Brightspark’s path to other successful investments in B2C businesses such as Hopper, Callia and Vetster. We understand the challenges and opportunities in this space very well, and we are ready to support the best B2C opportunities in Canada.

With Kensington’s investment, Jewlr is moving to a new stage characterized by operational excellence, growth and leadership. We feel that the combination of a PE firm and a VC in a company like Jewlr is a formula for success.

I am very proud of the team at Jewlr. We are also happy to be celebrating this great milestone for the company and for Brightspark!

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